Eliminating Toxic Products From Your School
Many everyday products you find in schools actually contain toxic (poison) chemicals and are unhealthy for people, especially kids and pollute the environment. These can include certain cleaning and maintenance products that are frequently used at your school. Green Flag helps you investigate whether the products in your school are toxic, and will help you to find replacements that are effective, non-toxic and do not damage the environment.
Level One: Assess your school and form a Green Flag Team
The Green Flag School Program for Environmental Leadership
The Green Flag School assists communities improve the health of their school in four areas: Non-Toxic Products, Integrated Pest Management, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Indoor Air Quality.
To begin the Green Flag School program, every school must complete Level 1.
Complete the following five steps to create the foundation for a strong working group, and begin to establish lines of communication among students, staff, community members and administrators, and receive the Level 1 Award, the Green Flag!
Step 1:Build Your Green Flag Team
Form a group of dedicated students, staff, faculty, parents, PTA/O chapters and/or community members. The Green Flag Team (GFT) should include a number of students and at least one adult member, but it is better if a whole team of adults is involved. If the team is adult-based, it should include at least one faculty member, one parent and one school staff member (school nurse, librarian, maintenance person, etc.).
To form your group, make a list of people you think might be interested, and contact them or speak to them at a school event. Collect their contact information so you can invite them to an initial meeting. If your school already has an environmental group or club, they can become a Green Flag team.
If necessary, once you have a few committed people, meet with your principal and decide what school groups you want to work with, such as an after or in -school environmental club, individual classes, grades, or the entire school.
Step 2: Conduct the Green Flag School Environmental Survey
Complete the Green Flag School Environment Survey, designed to help you and your team evaluate your school’s environmental status. The information gathered will help you to choose an area to focus on. Students should engage in filling out the survey, as they will be more engaged in working to improve their environment if they see firsthand what it is that needs to be improved (and why!).
Be sure to incorporate the facilities department in your survey research. Their knowledge of the inner-workings of the building, its history, and its needs will prove invaluable in your work.
Step 3: Hold a Meeting
Invite the members of school community, including students, parents, teachers, and school staff and administrators to attend a first meeting through email, phone, flyers, and community newsletters. The meeting goal can be to form the Green Flag team, or it can be part of a larger gathering, such as a PTA meeting. Make an agenda, and give several people roles in the meeting, such as facilitator, note taker, greeter, attendance taker, and timekeeper. This meeting will allow you to spread the work about your goals, clue in the general public to your efforts, and connect you with community people who may serve as resources.
Step 4: Review your Progress with the Green Flags Coordinator
E-mail, submit through our website, or fax your Level 1 Survey, complete with your Green Flag Team members names. Also submit a short write-up of your informational meeting. Include who was invited, who attended, and when and where the meeting occurred.
Green Flags Coordinator
The Center for Health, Environment and Justice
PO Box 6806
Falls Church, Virginia 22040 – 6806
Phone: (703) 237 – 2249
Fax: (703) 237 – 8389
Step 5: Rewards for Level One
At the end of level one, you will receive the Green Flag, which will have four empty boxes corresponding to the four program areas to fill in as you go through the program and your school will be listed on the Green Flag website as a Green Flag school.
Level Two: Finding and Sharing Information
To receive the Level Two award for Non-Toxic Products, your Green Flag Team must:
1. Learn about the issue:
Complete the Level II Non-Toxic Products Survey to get an in-depth look at the cleaning products and practices in use at your school. Be sure to work with the maintenance and facilities staff, school administration and any environmental committees or organizations.
Research your school or districts cleaning supplies purchasing policy, if there is one.
2. Share what you’ve learned
Make presentations to educate and motivate the community. Good places to have a presentation are classes, assemblies, and after-school events. See Presentation Examples for more ideas.
3. Complete one Classroom Activity
Use our list of Classroom Activities to choose one, or come up with your own!
4. Send all documentation to the Green Flag Coordinator
Send the Level II survey and documentation or a brief description of the presentations and classroom activity to the CHEJ Green Flag School coordinator.
5. Promote and Celebrate your Non-Toxic Products Policy!
Promote and Celebrate your new policy, and spread information regarding non-toxic products throughout the school community:
6. Rewards for Level Two:
Four free Green Flag T-shirts (more can be ordered for $13.50 each).
A description of the activities of your Green Flag team will be posted on the Green Flag website .
Level Three: Creating or Improving Policies
To receive the Level Three award for Non-Toxic Products, your Green Flag Team must:
(If you have an existing IAQ program in your school, skip to #4)
1. Find out what needs to be done:
Talk with the Green Flag Program Coordinator to review your level two survey and discuss how you can implement a NTP Policy.
Research Non-Toxic Products policies already in place in some schools.
Create a detailed plan, with the help of school administrators and custodial staff to propose and create a NTP policy.
Working with your school’s facility and maintenance people, identify safe products your school can purchase.
Write a letter to your school’s current cleaning product supplier asking if they carry environmentally preferable products and, if not, whether they will consider carrying them. (See sample letter in NTP resource packet.)
2. Present your ideas to decision makers
Make written recommendations to school decision makers, based on the health risks of toxic products, successful NTP policies in other schools, the proposed cost comparisons, etc.
Prepare to make a presentation to decision makers. Research non-toxic alternatives. Make notes to help you clearly explain your points and the alternatives you’ve found. Prepare materials to give to decision makers, and a letter explaining the changes that you want to see in school policy and purchasing to improve the situation.
Make a presentation to decision makers, such as the principal, school board, or PTA. In order to make sure your case is well heard, bring along many people that support you and your team. At the end of the meeting, present your policy change request letter, and thank the decision-makers for meeting with you.
3. Implement an NTP program or policy at your school and document the changes
Your school must have implemented a program of policy for at least three months before you can apply for the Green Flag level three award.
You must also perform one Classroom Activity to support the program.
Submit documentation to show that your policy is being carried out, such as purchasing orders and invoices for new products etc.
4. Rewards for Level Three:
The patch for Non-Toxic Produts to add to your Flag.
A certificate of acheivement from the CHEJ Green Flag School Program.
A description of the activities of your Green Flag team will be posted on the Green Flag website.