Here are 5 tips for a humane start to school.
- Supply sustainably & humanely.
Millions of kids times the number of years they go to school equals a
lot of school-related supplies. While it feels nice to get something
shiny and new at the start of each year, the true toll can be quite
high. Start by reusing and revamping whatever you can from previous
years. Get creative in giving things like the old backpack and lunchbag a
new look (dye, paint, decorate, etc.). Look for fun DIY options, such
as a duct tape pencil case.
If something must be new, invest in eco-friendly, healthy, humane products. There are numerous online stores for purchasing recycled or eco-friendly paper, pens and pencils, backpacks, crayons, lunch bags, etc. If you don’t know where to start looking, there are a slew of blogs and news outlets that cover green products and supplies each fall. Try a web search for “eco-friendly school supplies” or “green back to school,” being sure to also think about the impact of those school supply choices on people and animals. (Many “big box” stores are also starting to carry more eco-friendly supplies.)
And when it comes to clothes, back-to-school doesn't have to mean supporting sweatshops. Thrift stores, clothing swaps, and sweatshop-free products all offer alternative choices.
- Build a positive relationship with teachers from the start.
Get to know your child’s teachers and other members of the school so
that you can learn to know them as people and develop a positive
relationship. Find out what their needs and goals are and how you can
support them in meaningful ways. If there's something teachers need to
know about your child (such as that she's vegan), don't wait weeks into
the year until a conflict arises; tell them at the start and let them
know how you'll help address the situation (such as keeping the teacher
stocked with plenty of vegan snacks for your child).
- Get creative with transportation.
Shuttling all those children to school usually means lots of cars on
the road, contributing to air pollution, greenhouse gases, and more.
Consider what you're options are. Can you set up a carpool with trusted
neighbors? Is school close enough for your child to bike (with you along
if you're concerned about safety -- plus you both get exercise!)? Is it
possible to start a Walking School Bus program? What about public transit and/or the school bus? Look for solutions that best fit your needs.
- Plug in using your passion.
A school needs its community, and parent participation is essential.
It's important to find a way to contribute, but you want to serve in a
way that helps the school AND fulfills you. As IHE president, Zoe Weil,
relates in her book, Most Good, Least Harm, when her child's
school asked her to bake cookies, it always felt like an obligation; but
when the school asked her to teach a humane education lesson, she felt
invigorated and joyful doing so. Find out what the school needs, and
then find the best way for you to plug in.
- Establish a reputation as a reliable, humane resource. Once teachers and administrators discover that you're responsible, reliable, compassionate, and credible, they'll be more open to your positive ideas to help and enhance the class: from integrating humane lessons, to starting recycling programs, to reducing waste, to promoting healthier and more sustainable snacks, to reducing various “prints” --carbon footprints, foodprints, waterprints -- to starting a gardening program or fair trade fair, and so on. They may even come to you for suggestions.
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