Sustainability Study Session: How to Have an Eco-Friendly School Year
Another school year is quickly approaching (or may have already approached in some school districts) and it’s time to do some back-to-school shopping! But, how do you earn an A+ when it comes to the environment? Take notes, parents. We’re about to school you on how to get a gold star in saving time, money, and the environment.
Bye, Bye, Buy
Ugh, those shiny new binders, markers, and backpacks are calling your name! And it’s so tempting to take part in those back-to-school blowout sales, but the best thing to do is hold off until you know exactly what you need. Resist the hypnotic grasp of those two-for-one notebook sales and take inventory of what you have left over from last year. If you still have blank paper, sharp scissors, and a perfectly good backpack, do your wallet a favor and save the cash you would have spent on new supplies.
What Goes Around, Comes Around
When you do have to buy, because you will inevitably have to get some new supplies, look for recycled content items. Lots of stores have unique notebooks, pens, pencils, lunch boxes, backpacks, and school sets that are made from recycled content. They tend to be a little pricier so you could just purchase one or two items to stay within budget. Also, keep in mind you’re doing the right thing – and who can really put a price tag on that? If you’re on a super tight budget (we’ve all been there) peruse our Back-to-School or Recycling for Teachers Pinterest board for upcycle and reuse ideas instead.
Social media is very useful for tracking people whose yearbooks you wrote in decades ago, breaking news, and getting the word out to a mass audience. Use it to find out if anyone you know has books you can trade. Chances are if your Madison is a year younger than her soccer buddy, Aiden or Jaiden or Haiden or Caiden (who can even keep track anyway), they might have a book she can use for her upcoming class. And don’t forget to offer up your used books to others as well. Trading and/or renting is much nicer to the environment and your budget. And since paper makes up about 17 percent of what we send to landfills in California, we think it’s worth it to trade or buy used. Once you’ve passed them along, those books won’t take up room at your house or the dump.
Same goes for clothing! About 98 percent of textiles that end up in the landfill could have been recycled. So, see if you can organize a clothing swap via social media. Kids often outgrow things before they get a chance to break them in so they still look like new. While you’re at it, see if other parents want to participate. It’s an easy way to swap your wardrobe for a new one and not feel guilty about spending money or just tossing your “old” clothes out to keep your closet neat. You can even get creative and upcycle some old items. And by the way, 90s fashion is coming back (for some reason) so if you have some throwback threads, include them too!
Now that you’ve got those throwback threads, books, and a recycled content backpack, show them off by treating the sidewalk like a catwalk. If you live within walking distance of your kids’ school, organize a kiddie caravan. Have parents take turns walking or biking smaller students to school instead of driving. It’s a nice way to get those steps in and prevent unnecessary air pollution. You do want your kids to grow up with clean air, don’t you?
Share and Share Alike
Check with your kids’ school to see if they have a recycling and compost program. While schools are required to have both a recycling and an organics recycling program in place, it’s a good idea to follow up with them and even help them come up with new ideas. One trend that is catching on are “share tables” for food that is unwanted, but still perfectly edible and delicious. Kids put food they aren’t going to eat on the table and other kids can have it. It’s an excellent way to teach them a valuable lesson about sharing, prevent food waste, and get those calories in growing children’s bellies.
Pack it Up, Pack it In
Also, keep in mind what you pack in your children’s lunches. An easy way to keep food and trash out of the landfill is to learn how much your kids are going to eat and only pack reusable items instead of single-use items like juice pouches, plastic zipper bags, yogurt tubes, and plastic utensils. Replace those items (this doesn’t have to be done all at once, but gradually) with a reusable water/juice bottle, lunch containers, reusable fabric zipper bags, cloth napkins, and reusable utensils.
A for Effort
Finally, be flexible. Learning how to be green in a single school year is tough! But it’s not impossible. If you’re aiming to be more eco-friendly, it’s a lot easier to digest if you don’t bite off more than you can chew. Start small and reward yourself and your kids for doing the right thing. And for more environmentally-related school information, check out California EEI, a free CalRecycle program that is bringing environmental literacy to California classrooms.