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Green Schools-Recycling and More

a class at a 5 Rivers Earth Day eventAt schools across New York students, teachers and staff are making a difference in their communities with programs to recycle, reduce waste, save energy and conserve resources. Besides the long-range benefits of good environmental stewardship, green policies help schools and universities provide healthier surroundings for their students and staff.

This website will help you on your journey to become a Green School!

The focus of this webpage is a comprehensive solid waste management program; however, here are areas to consider that will help further your transformation to a Green School.

Benefits to Being a Green School:

  • Prepare students to understand and act on the current and future environmental challenges that face all New Yorkers.
  • Model environmental and conservation best management practices in their building and in landscape design and maintenance can reduce costs.
  • Build partnerships with the local community to design and implement projects and programs that will result in a healthier environment and safer school.

Recycling Programs:

Public and private schools, institutions of higher education and any other educational institutions in New York State are required to recycle materials collected in their local recycling program.

Each municipality was required by Chapter 70, Laws of New York 1988, to have a recycling law or ordinance requiring source separation of recyclables by September 1, 1992. The municipalities developed a recycling program that fit their needs and met the goals established by the State. Each municipality has their own penalties or fines for those people who do not recycle.

Recycling is required for everyone who generates solid waste in New York State. Recycling is one part of a total solid waste management program; waste reduction and reuse take precedence in a comprehensive solid waste management program.

According to our latest numbers, New Yorkers generate over 5.0 pounds of solid waste each day. There is a tremendous cost to both society and the environment to collect and dispose of this waste material. In addition, if we are landfilling or incinerating our wastes, the resources contained in those waste materials are no longer available to us in a useful form. The advent of widespread recycling has changed the way many of us view our solid waste. Instead of a useless "waste", we have come to realize that much of what we once threw away can be used again many times over.

Develop a Recycling Program. Start a waste reduction, reuse, recycling and composting program. Check these two links for more information:

A School Waste Reduction, Reuse, Recycling, Composting and Buy Recycled Resource Book (PDF, 1089 KB)
STOP - Save That Office Paper (PDF, 47 KB)

Evaluate Your Current Recycling Program. Review your current recycling program. Make certain that you are recycling all of the items required by your local law. If you are not, meet with your hauler and custodial staff to get your school in compliance.

Contact Your Municipal Recycling Coordinator. Your city/town probably collects many recyclable items. Your local recycling coordinator may be able to provide you with information on what is mandated in your community and how to prepare these items. Check out this website for your recycling coordinator.

Green School Topics:

Caveat - The website list below is by no means complete. Inclusion of a service or website in this list does not constitute approval or endorsement of that company or organization by the NYSDEC, or provide any assurances with regard to the quality of services or correctness of website information. Business environmental compliance has not been authenticated. Please contact the vendor to find out all pertinent information, including costs. Please note that some of the links listed below leave the DEC site.

a NY Recycles winning poster

Don't let the list scare you! The items indicated mandatory, are mandated by either Federal or State law. The other items are just good stewardship.


Earth Day - is celebrated on April 22--see our 50 Earth Day Tips

Kids Recycle - pages from Oregon Green Schools.
Foundation for Environmental Education
- an international program for environmental education for sustainability

Energy Use

  • Conservation
  • Use of renewable energy source

New York State Energy Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) - if you are looking to make energy efficiency improvements to your school, or thinking of building a new energy-efficient school, NYSERDA can help.

The Alliance's PowerSave Schools Program - engages students in creating energy-saving activities in their schools, using hands-on, real-world projects.

New York State Office of General Services (OGS) - OGS Environmentally Preferable Purchasing, Energy Efficient Purchasing (Executive Order No. 111), Green Purchasing (Executive Order No. 134), Recycled and Remanufactured Purchasing (Executive Order No. 142)

Air Quality (Mandatory)

New York's Clean School Bus Program - Governor Announces Expansion of Clean School Bus Program

IAQ Tools for Schools - The Environmental Protection Agency "IAQ Tools for Schools" program to help schools improve their indoor air quality.

Solid Waste

  • Waste Reduction
  • Reuse
  • Recycling (Mandatory)

Solid Waste - Recycling - The reuse and recycling of solid waste in New York State is second in the order of preference in managing waste materials under our State Solid Waste Management Policy.

Recycle City - As a regular part of the school day, Recycle City students learn about the three R's reduce, reuse, and recycle from Miss Redux.

Hazardous Wastes

  • Lab Waste (Mandatory)
  • Mercury (Mandatory)

Mercury management in New York State - information on mercury in consumer products, novelty products, fluorescent lamps, household batteries and packaging.

Fluorescent and HID Lamp Management - Standard mercury-containing fluorescent and HID lamps MUST be managed as a hazardous waste.

Identify Mercury Sources - A New York State Department of Health packet of nine new brochures has been developed to help school personnel identify mercury sources and reduce or remove the risk of a mercury spill.

EPA's Mercury Page - Mercury is used in many items found in schools, such as thermometers, barometers, switches, thermostats, flowmeters, lamps, shoes, and laboratory reagents in the science department. Accidental exposures to mercury can have a number of negative effects on children's health.

Water Conservation

EPA's WAVE Program (Water Alliances for Voluntary Efficiency) - The WAVE Program is an EPA program designed to focus attention on the value of water and the need for efficient use of this important natural resource. Water Conservation.

Pest Management

To help promote green and healthy communities and a toxic-free future, schools and daycare centers should consider all pest management alternatives and options. NYSDEC's web pages on pest management for schools provide resources for information on pest management alternatives and on pesticide use notification requirements for schools and day cares.

Building Construction/Renovations

  • Sustainable site planning
  • Environmentally preferable building materials

NYS Green Ribbon Schools Design Program - New York Collaborative for High Performance Schools prepared by the New York State Education Department New York State Education Department.

Chromated copper arsenate (CCA) - Chromated copper arsenate (CCA) has been used extensively in this country as a wood preservative. Legislation now requires that public picnic tables and existing public playground structures made with lumber pressure treated with CCA be maintained in a manner that minimizes leaching of CCA.

U.S. Department of Energy - The site for the Department of Energy's Center of Excellence for Sustainable Development.

The National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities - a list of journal articles here on Green Schools.

The Rocky Mountain Institute - The Rocky Mountain Institute is an "entrepreneurial, nonprofit organization hat fosters the efficient and restorative use of resources to create a more secure, prosperous and life-sustaining world."


  • Sustainable landscape design
  • Composting

Governor Introduces Clean and Healthy Schools - legislation to protect the health of schoolchildren and the environment by requiring the use of environmentally sensitive "green" cleaning products in all schools in New York State.

New York State Office of General Services - Procurement Services provides centralized contracts for products that contain recycled content.

New York City WasteLe$$ - Environmentally preferable purchasing.

Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center (PPRC) - Environmentally Preferable Purchasing, or EPP, refers to the practice of specifying products with environmental attributes, such as reduced packaging, reusability, energy efficiency, recycled content, and rebuilt or remanufactured products in your Agency's bids and contracts.

Food Service

  • Recycling
  • Composting

Waste Free Lunches - Information you need to participate in (or to start!) a waste-free lunch program at your school or place of employment.

North Carolina Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance - Although commonly overlooked, there are many ways to reduce water usage in the kitchen.

Waste Reduction for the Food Service Industry - A Powerpoint presentation on green food service by Kimberley Fenton of the North Carolina Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance.

In addition to the links in this webpage, administrators can find many more listings that can be found by searching the web.

If you are a vendor or service provider and would like to be added to this listing, or have corrections, contact the NYSDEC at: