As August slips away, so too do the warm, carefree days of playing in the surf and sand, splashing in waters along the shores of lakes, and staying up late stargazing. A new school year is right around the corner, and as parents, kids, teachers and administrators prepare to get back into the rhythm of another school year, EPA has tips for starting off on the right path to ensuring a clean, healthy environment for school communities.

When traveling to and from school, students and teachers can walk or use bicycles in areas where it is safe to do so, and parents can join or form carpools to help reduce air pollution. EPA’s Clean School Bus program emphasizes ways to reduce public school bus emissions, and you can help spearhead a clean school bus campaign in your community.

Students and teachers can pack a waste-free lunch by placing sandwiches, leftovers, fruits, veggies, juice, or anything you think is healthy and waste-free in BPA-free reusable containers. Make sure to pack only what you can eat, reuse, recycle, or compost. Reusable or compostable bags can be a good choice to carry or cover your lunch items.

When shopping for back-to-school supplies, teachers and parents can look for EPA’s Safer Choice label. Products earning this label have been carefully evaluated by EPA scientists to ensure ingredients that are safer for human health and the environment. Nearly 2,400 products carry the logo, including cleaners for use at home and in schools. You can find products with a Safer Choice label in many local grocery stores and hardware stores.

Remember to practice sun-safety! Children spend lots of time outdoors during recess, physical education classes, after-school activities, and sports programs. Children can protect against too much sun exposure by applying sunscreen with SPF of at least 30, and wearing protective clothing, hats and sunglasses when possible.

Coaches of youth sports can keep kids in the game by using EPA’s checklist of what to look for and do to help protect young athletes (PDF)(1 pg, 353 K, About PDF).

By: Alexandra Dunn, Regional Administrator
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, New England Region