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Pathways to Sustainable Development

The results of your Environmental Audit can be used to set realistic targets and concentrate on environmental focus area, or pathways, that are most relevant to your school. Most schools tackle one or two pathway audits at a time, but it will be a decision made by those who best understand the school, the Eco-Action Team. To review details surrounding an environmental audit and Eco-Action Team requirements, refer back to the Seven Step Framework.

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Investigate and increase biodiversity at school and beyond
A wide diversity of species—animals, plants, and other living things—is the key to a healthy, functioning ecosystem. From our schoolyard habitats to our own backyard, whether in the United States or around the world, we can work to increase biodiversity.


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Improve climate literacy and investigate climate change solutions
Schools are engaging in fact-based science investigations around Earth's climate problems. They are reducing their carbon footprints, and through collaboration are designing resilience and mitigation solutions to the ongoing climate crisis.


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Moving beyond the "3 Rs"
A school can reduce its environmental impact by analyzing the full life cycle of the products it uses. Decreasing consumption and reducing packaging as well as finding new uses for old materials, all translate into smaller amounts of waste being hauled away.


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Analyze and measure effective ways to conserve energy
Schools are the largest energy consumers in many municipalities. But up to 30 percent of that energy is used inefficiently or unnecessarily. Schools can significantly cut energy use, resulting in financial savings and reduced environmental impact, while engaging in science, technology, engineering and math concepts.


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Promote a healthy lifestyle while connecting to the natural world
Time spent outdoors, physically active, and engaged in unstructured play is perhaps the best possible prescription to ensure a lifetime of good health. Identify and establish strategies that engage the entire school community in opportunities to unplug and engage in outdoor experiences and adventures.


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Find relationships between human health and the building and grounds
Eliminating toxic and hazardous materials, while maximizing elements that promote health, will improve the learning environment for students and staff. Raise awareness and collaborate with building and district staff on strategies to improve upon current methods used to maintain the inside and outside of the school.


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Design, develop and maintain an outdoor learning laboratory
Research has demonstrated that in all discipline areas, students who are given the opportunity to directly engage in outdoor education and experiential learning have been able to significantly increase their capacity for learning.


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Improve food education and nutrition opportunities at school
Food choices have a big impact on health, the learning day and the environment. A campaign focused on food sustainability can help you make nutritious, fresh, local and whole foods a part of the culture within the school and community.


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Outline alternative school transportation methods to reduce the school's carbon footprint
Our modes of transportation rely heavily on methods of transport whose byproduct is contributing to significant increases in CO2 in the atmosphere. Strategize, raise awareness and participate in sustainable solutions - transportation that reduces fuel consumption as well as air, noise and water pollution.


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Analyze and measure effective ways to conserve water
Basic water efficiency programs can reduce a school's water use by 30 percent or more. Schools can investigate and propose strategies to improve irrigation methods, reduce surface runoff, consume fresh water more efficiently, and water reuse technologies.


Learning About Forests
An international program of the Foundation for Environmental Education, FEE. Learning About Forests, aims to increase knowledge about the key role forests play in sustaining life on our planet. Learning About Forests is intended to reassert the idea that our forests are a natural asset to be treasured and kept safe for future generations, an idea which has for decades been neglected as our trees fueled economic expansion and lifestyle improvements.


Watersheds, Oceans and Wetlands
Water covers about 70 percent of the Earth's surface. Our actions inland impact critical ecosystems as water travels throughout our watersheds, filtering through our diminishing wetlands and into our majestic struggling oceans. Through behavior change, creative design and innovative technology the future stewards of this planet can improve the health of these critical systems.

Help & Advice on the Eco-Schools USA Pathways
There are many local and national organizations and curricular resources that can help schools address each of the pathways. Look for the Curriculum Connections and Resources sections on each pathway's main page to find out more.

Use the Eco-Schools USA Handbook included below as you begin to explore the 10 Pathways to Sustainability. It includes "Pathways' Key Questions" along with a one-page description containing driving questions for each Pathway. You will also find a resource section that includes pathway-specific links.

Please note: the Energy Pathway must be addressed by every school applying for a Green Flag award.

View the entire Eco-Schools USA Handbook 2017

Eco-Schools in the United States are constantly coming up with fantastic ideas to implement the pathways. If your school has a great strategy, share it with everyone on our Eco-Schools USA Facebook page!

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