When you add up all of the students, teachers, administrators and custodians in schools across the country, the numbers may surprise you. Fifty-five million Americans (1 in 5) spend their day in a K-12 school. Get those 55 million people together and you’ve got a wide platform for environmental education and a powerful voice for change. Here’s how to improve your school’s eco-savvy test scores.

1) Start a green team: Join forces with other eco-conscious students to form a Green Team that evaluates the school’s environmental programs and brainstorms innovative ways to improve them. Green Team members can initiate a school recycling program, present environmental education workshops, or lobby the school board to replace existing light bulbs with energy-saving CFLs.

2) Ban bus idling: A recent Yale University study found that students who ride a school bus are exposed to up to 15 times more particulate pollution than average. Why? The answer lies in the practice of bus idling. School buses line up and wait in front of the school with the engines running, filling up with harmful particulate pollution that will stay with you throughout your ride. Bus idling wastes gas, contributes to air pollution and global warming, and is damaging to our health. Make sure your school has a policy in place to ban it.

3) Use paper wisely: Try to avoid using excess amounts of paper at school. Be sure to use all of the sheets in a notebook before starting the next one, use the double-sided feature for printers and copiers, and send text messages to friends instead of passing notes.

4) Clean up: Does your school use a bucket-load of chemical cleaners to clean and disinfect classrooms? If so, ask them to make a switch to eco-friendly cleaners that are better for the environment and non-toxic for the students, teachers, secretaries and administrators who spend their day there. Order the free guide from the Healthy Schools Campaign called “Green Clean Schools” and pass it on to your school administrator.

5) Save on supplies: Before you head to the store to buy new pencils, notepads and binders for school, check to see what’s hiding in your desk drawer from last year.

Why bother?

It may be depressing to think about, but you are currently spending about a third of your life inside your school. And that’s just in a typical school day. Add to that any time you spend before or after school in extracurricular activities, sporting events, club meetings, (even detention) and it can work out to half or even more. So it makes sense to take steps to make sure your school is a greener, healthier, more interesting place to be.

The Green Teen tip: Ditch the car

Walk, ride, carpool or take public transportation to school each day. Organize a “Walk to School” event for the next Walk To School Day on Oct. 8. Check out their site for more ideas.

Want more of the book? Purchase a copy of The Green Teen.

Want more of Jenn? Read her blog every day here on MNN.