Teaching youngsters about the need to improve their environment has helped boost their confidence, leadership skills and independence, according to a survey out today.
Spreading the green message has also improved behaviour and cut bills at more than 3,000 hard-up schools.
The national Eco-Schools scheme, which is holding a conference in Birmingham today, believes its survey shows youngsters are more concerned about the environment than adults.
The scheme encourages youngsters to learn about the adverse impact their school might have on the environment and how they can help to reduce it. It also encourages them to pursue green campaigns in the wider community,
Simon Chapman, executive director of Eco-Schools, said: "The simple fact is that while some grown-ups believe care of the environment is someone else's problem, many children have twigged that it has a huge impact on everyone - here and now.
" What's more, they've shown that by making small changes, you can create cleaner, safer, greener places to live in."
Among those rising to the challenge is Great Barr School in Birmingham, where children have picked up litter in the local community and run poster campaigns to challenge youngsters to use a bin.
The survey found 80 per cent of teachers involved in the programme believed that schemes to help protect the planet had increased children's confidence.
Some 74 per cent thought that it had helped children learn leadership skills and 66 per cent felt it had made pupils more independent.
Eco- Schools were also enjoying increased profiles and saving money.
More than 65 per cent thought it had set them apart from other schools, while 96 per cent said it had reduced the amount of rubbish they threw out.
A third felt that being an Eco-School made it easier to attract new pupils while nearly 40 per cent said it had improved their Ofsted scores.
But the programme still has to persuade children to stay environmentally friendly as they grow older.
Mr Chapman said: "Take a look at your local high school and you'll probably find it strewn with rubbish.
"While many teens profess to caring about large global, green issues, this doesn't extend to the environment around them and littering has become an instinctive reaction.
"We have to find a relevant way of getting teenagers to show respect for their neighbourhood and that's the biggest challenge Eco-Schools faces."
Among those pushing the environmental message are head teachers, civil servants and lecturer and broadcaster Professor Gervase Phinn.