Educators can be climate leaders


By Kayla Bergman

Reducing their carbon footprint in the classroom doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming for educators. By taking small steps, such as recycling and reusing materials, teachers can create a climate-smart classroom that makes a lasting impact.

To encourage recycling, teachers can create containers to collect snack packaging and other materials. As the school year goes on, teachers can also collect dried up markers for recycling and, instead of throwing them away, melt broken crayons to form new ones.

Another way to reduce carbon footprint in the classroom is to replace single-use items, such as paper towels, plates, and cups, with reusable ones, and use paper folders instead of plastic.

Teachers can also replace their traditional dry erase markers with refillable versions and, instead of using paper just one time, reuse it, and then recycle. For projects, use cardboard as an alternative to paper, and wet glue and sponges in place of glue sticks.

If available, teachers should also consider using an outdoor classroom for science and conservation lessons.

While they can serve as a leader in establishing a climate-smart classroom, teachers should also get their students involved to ensure success. Make it fun, encourage creativity, and develop a rewards system for good conservation behaviors, such as recycling plastic, glass, and paper, composting food scraps, and bringing their lunch and snacks in reusable food storage containers. Additionally, students should be encouraged to take the lessons they learn in the classroom and adopt them at home.

By taking these small, but important steps in the classrooms, educators can not only become leaders in building resiliency in the face of our changing climate, but also in which I could, and would, have supported.

However, as with many things in the State Capitol, the devil is in the details. And that’s where we found the secret electricity rate hike authorization and the scheme to let PG&E avoid paying back the taxpayers’ $1.4 billion loan.

Funny thing is this all sounds eerily familiar to Assembly Bill 1890 back in 1996 that was a so-called “deregulation” measure. It was supposed to stabilize the energy market and lead to lower rates. This complex bill was thrown together at the last minute, and voted on the last night of a legislative session, with almost every Democrat and Republican legislator supporting it.

Unfortunately, a few years later the complicated scheme unraveled, caused massive electricity hikes across the state, and led to the historic recall of Governor Gray Davis.

It’s a shame when people fail to learn the lessons from history. Expecting some of the know-it-alls in the California Legislature to get last-minute energy legislation right is like looking for fool’s gold – you’re bound to be disappointed in the end.

Educators can be climate leaders.

Bergman is policy manager, Center for Rural Affairs