How to Green Your Summer Camp, Part 1

Well, this is the week my kids have been waiting for—in the words of the great Alice Cooper “School’s out for Summer!” But after two or three weeks of lolling about the house, catching fireflies in the backyard at dusk, and a few easy going play-dates, my kids (and my sanity) will need a little more structure in their days. That’s why I, like so many other parents, send my kids to summer camp.

If you’re opting for a mostly indoor experience—art, music, or creative writing camp, for example?here are some pointers from from the famed Church Street School for Music and Art, located in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood, on how to check if it’s really green.

In this exclusive interview, I spoke with Church Street School’s founder and executive director, the brainy but friendly Dr. Lisa Ecklund-Flores. Here’s what she had to say about making sure your kid’s camp me the eco-friendly sniff test:

Well, we’ve always been green and organic from an environmental standpoint. Here the kids make their own working musical instruments from found objects and such. But as a developmental psychologist, I also know the importance of reducing kids exposure to toxins. Pesticides and even some cleaning solutions are actually neuro-toxins that can interfere with a child’s development. We see the school as being a safe place that allows freedom of experience for the body and spirit, so here’s what we’re doing. You might want to consider it as a safe-haven checklist for your child’s summer experience too:

If the school or camp provides the snacks, check them out. Do they contain artificial colors or flavors? Some have been linked to behavioral issues with kids. Organic whole foods are best.

Ask if they use pesticides indoors or outside. Are they the most benign possible? What is the procedure in terms of time allotted between application and when students come into the area?

Are renovations done with thought to the environment and indoor air quality? We use only low-VOC paint

Note that wood floors are far better than carpets in terms of allergens.

Is there a “shoe-free” policy in areas where younger kids are crawling around? Lots of toxins get tracked in on shoes, even if they look clean.

Are the cleaning products nontoxic? There are so many efficient and safe options now, there’s no excuse for anything less.