Clear Out The Clutter

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We don’t always think about it, but dust is not just gray clouds that magically appear. It comes from our clothes, skin, and other items we use during the day. It also contains dust mites and cockroach dander (yes, it’s true!) that can be very harmful to breathe, especially to kids with asthma or other respiratory problems.

Nearly one in every 13 school-age kids has asthma (Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America). The Environmental Protection Agency’s Tools for Schools Indoor Air Quality program gives tips for keeping a healthy classroom, and one of the simplest and most crucial steps is to clean out the clutter. Those corner piles of paper, decorations, and science experiments serve as great collection areas for dust—not to mention their tendency to block daylight from windows and get in the way of air conditioning and heating vents. Clean them out, and your classroom will be automatically easier to keep clean and healthy.

Get started

  • Interview your school’s custodial and maintenance staff to understand what green cleaning and health and safety practices are in place.
  • The school district may want to form a specific team focused on green cleaning, due to its health and safety benefits.
    • Key participants to consider for this team are nurses, Environmental Health & Safety staff, custodians, and community health experts.
    • The Healthy Schools Campaign has published tips for forming a team as part of their Green Clean Schools program.
  • Host a “Classroom Green Cleaning Day” to organize and clean classrooms.
    • Remove unused papers, books, supplies, stuffed animals, cloth pillows, and fabric (don’t forget to consider the most sustainable ways to dispose of these items!).
    • Clean carpets thoroughly to remove all dust and dirt build-up.
    • Ensure that heating and cooling units, windows, and vents supplying air to your classroom are free from obstructions.
    • Ensure that animal cages and fish tanks are regularly cleaned.
  • Educate school staff on what supports or impedes healthy, resource-efficient,and environmentally sustainable learning spaces.
    • The Green Classroom Professional Course breaks down the different aspects of building sustainability, including indoor environmental and green cleaning, and identifies the effects they have on school occupants and the environment.

Additional resources