When my son was in elementary school, his cafeteria stopped serving flavored milk. It was a health initiative by the principal, who also had banned outside foods in the classrooms. Unfortunately, most of the children hated white milk. When I visited the cafeteria, I cringed as child after child pitched full unopened milk cartons in the garbage. It was a prime example of good intentions leading to unintended consequences: a whole lot of milk heading to a landfill and not in the tummies of hungry children.

The World Wildlife Federation, in a 2019 report, estimated that U.S. school food waste totals 530,000 tons per year. Milk waste could be as much as 45 million gallons per year. If school food waste could be reduced by an average of 3 percent, it would be “the equivalent of taking 12,400 passenger vehicles off the road for one year,” the report said.

Reducing or eliminating food waste is not difficult. In fact, in the pantheon of issues we face in education and in our society, there are fixes within our reach. In this issue, we look at ways that school board members can reduce their districts’ impact on the environment. In our cover story, “Playground Power,” you’ll learn about a nonprofit partnership that transforms blacktop spaces into nature-based schoolyards. “Let the Sun Shine In” gives examples of how districts are innovating with solar power. “10 Tips for Eco-Friendly Facilities” will prompt conversations among you and your board colleagues about which ideas best fit your district.

As you’ll see, these solutions come with benefits, including cost savings, increased educational opportunities, and in some cases, better teacher retention and increased student well-being and achievement. And, you’ll be saving the planet for future generations.

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