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Why greener schools can make a difference in kids' lives

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(BPT) - As awareness about the environment continues to grow, it’s becoming more apparent that “going green” not only benefits the planet – it benefits the entire population, especially its youngest segment. When children learn in safe, comfortable, toxin-free school environments, their futures are that much brighter.

"Green schools improve student test scores, lower energy bills, and promote a more ecologically sound atmosphere,” explains Matt Petersen, president and CEO of Global Green USA. “We call it the three R's of green schools: Rise in student performance levels and teacher retention; Reduction in carbon emissions and toxins; and Renewed hope in education and the future."

Unfortunately, right now, many schools across the national earn poor marks for “greenness.” This is not from a lack of initiative; many schools simply don’t have the funds necessary for making renovations and repairs.

To help schools get on track toward becoming better, greener learning environments, Pureology Serious Colour Care is teaming up with Global Green USA to present the 2nd Global Green USA Green School Makeover Competition.

From Jan. 1 through March 31, 2013, any parent, student, teacher or individual can nominate a K -12 public, private or charter school for a well-deserved green school makeover.

Students and parents can work with school administrators to complete an application that details the green improvements their school needs. The winning school will receive a green makeover valued at $140,000, and finalist schools will receive awards for sustainable upgrades. For more information, visit Pureology.com/GreenSchools or www.globalgreen.org/greenschoolmakeover.

Here are a just a few ways schools can be greener, with benefits for both the earth and students:

Start a recycling program

* Green benefit: A recycling program can greatly reduce the amount of recyclable waste that is created in schools every day which would otherwise end up in landfills. Schools could also take it one step further and launch a composting program, which provides fertilizer for gardens.

* Learning benefit: Children can learn about what items can be recycled and take those lessons home to their families. Composting provides a great platform for biology lessons.

Conducting energy audits

* Green benefit: Many older schools aren’t equipped to be energy efficient, which can lead to lots of wasted dollars. When cold air leaks in and warm air seeps out, it’s not only uncomfortable but costly as well.

* Learning benefit: Have teachers show students how and where energy leaks happen and explain what the effects are. It’s also a great source for a science lesson. Increasing energy efficiency also saves schools money on utility bills, which can instead be used for books or other school supplies.

Use green design elements

* Green benefit: Plain and simple, schools that use green materials and design elements, from window awnings and solar panels to non-toxic flooring and low-VOC paint, don't use nearly as much energy and provide a healthier learning environment.

* Learning benefits: Green buildings use non-toxic compounds that decrease the chances that students will be exposed to something that will make them sick and keep them out of school. Natural lighting and proper ventilation also help students stay healthy and maintain the proper mindset for learning.

When schools go green, there are short- and long-term benefits to enjoy. A better school environment today can teach kids how to lead the way toward a more sustainable tomorrow.

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