Beyond Benign

Lead Teacher Blog

Jennifer Babbin

Going Green One Step/Day at a Time

Thinking about going green in your classroom? Awesome, you’ve taken the first step! There are so many unbelievable reasons to go green and a ton of resources available. Still, I’ll admit I didn’t make the switch overnight.

After attending a three-day seminar by Beyond Benign in 2014, I was armed and ready with a ton of new replacement labs to bring into a new school year. However, as you know, each new school year brings about its own special challenges. There’s no way to get everything transformed in one school year. I began to change things over one lab at a time, analyzing the reactants and reducing hazards where I could. It’s taken me almost four school years to get my own labs to a much greener point. Continuous improvement is a mantra of the field of green chemistry and the more I work to integrate green chemistry principles and practices into my labs and curriculum, the more opportunities I find to improve with my students.

The toughest part about going green for me was the thought of having to give up some of my favorite labs. The Flame Test Lab has always been a favorite of mine and while it creates some nasty products, it’s one that I believe the students tend to always remember. I haven’t given it up completely, but I have modified it. Now, I demonstrate burning the salts and use the Flame Test and Emission Spectra Lab which allows my students to experiment with colored-flame candles. Types of Reactions is another one of my all-time favorites, which included the famous, yet hazardous “yellow rain” experiment that uses lead nitrate. I’ve adapted the Reactions Lab and my students can now perform a double replacement reaction that can be easily and safely be disposed of down the drain. They also have the opportunity to see the “yellow rain” reaction when I show them a YouTube video of it.

Here are my top words of advice for those new to the green chemistry world:
1. Take it one lab/topic at a time, any change is a good one.
2. Most supplies can be bought at Walmart/Target/Dollar stores and have long shelf lives.
3. Check out the Beyond Benign site, there’s tons of labs.
4. Ask questions! We Lead Teachers are here and very happy to help.
5. Your health will thank you and so will your students!

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