I’m certainly not the first to recommend classroom practices that are good for the environment. A number of sites offer various ideas for creating a green classroom. For example, Planet Green hosted by Discovery Channel recommends reusing last year’s school supplies like binders and folders to reduce waste (and save money). My spin on such suggestions is to couple them with language learning opportunities. On one wall, post the recycling symbol of three green arrows that form a triangle. Under it place a short list of vocabulary titled Green Words. The list can include eco-friendly, environment, recycle, reduce waste, reuse, and save energy. Whenever you talk about your eco-friendly practices, point to the list of Green Words. You can refer to it when you do the following:
- Remind students to recycle. Do you have recycle bins in the classroom? At the start of the school year you can demonstrate how trash needs to be sorted. Gather several items made of different materials: a newspaper, a juice bottle, a used tissue or napkin, and a soda can. Ask students to identify the objects by name. Ask them where each one goes: in the trash or in a recycling bin. With more advanced students, ask them to explain by stating what material each object is made of. With intermediate and advanced students you can highlight similar phrasal verbs related to trash: toss out, throw out, throw away, etc.
- Turn off the lights. Do you have a room that receives a lot of sunlight? Perhaps you don’t need all the lights turned on. If this is the case, explain to the students that you keep some lights off on sunny days because you want to save energy. Can they name other forms of energy that should be saved and not wasted? With more advanced students, challenge them to come up with synonyms (conserve, store) and antonyms (waste, use up) for save.
- Reuse paper. Do you have a box for recycled paper? Keep a supply on hand for classroom games and activities. Students can use the back of old handouts and old syllabi when they need to compose something in English. The first time you explain your practice of reusing paper, you can teach them relevant collocations such as piece of paper, sheet of paper, slip of paper, and stack of paper.
- Drink or eat from a reusable container. Do you bring food or drink into the classroom? If so, model the use of a reusable container. Want to stress the point even more? Have students create and take a survey on how much they reuse and how much they toss into the trash after each meal outside their homes.
- Care for your plants. Do you have any plants or flowers in the room? If you’re allowed, bring some in. You can use the plants to illustrate a number of language points: cause-effect (I have plants in here so that we have cleaner air.) / conditionals (If I don’t give the plant water, it will die.) / imperatives (Water it every day.)