It feels good to start the school year off with a lot of new stuff, like clothing, binders, folders, pens and pencils, but broaden your outlook a little. All that new stuff requires trees, water, energy and other resources. Additionally, some waste that you don't see is generated by manufacturing, packaging, and transporting all of that stuff to the stores where you buy it. If you buy all new stuff when you have perfectly good stuff from last year, you are wasting resources and generating waste. Think about these ideas to prevent waste as you start your school year. If you are spending money you earned, you will appreciate the savings. If you are spending your parents' money, they won't mind the savings either, and you all might feel better knowing you helped preserve the planet.

Determine what can be reused from last year.

  • Repair and reuse binders.
  • Use up notebooks that have good blank pages left in them, like perhaps that science or history notebook that you could have made a whole lot more notes in than you did.
  • Find your pens and pencils from last year and reuse them.
  • If you have paper that was used only on one side, use the other side for scratch paper. You might try cutting it into halves for fourths and stapling it together to make scratch pads.
  • If you have books left over from last year, find out if some other student a year behind you can use them for the same classes.
  • If your backpack is beginning to come apart, see if you can extend its life with some simple repairs. This could be a good time to learn to sew if you don't already know. To sew thick material, buy a sewing awl, such as a speedy stitcher, at almost any outdoor supply store. Some hardware stores carry them too. A tool like this will come in handy for countless repairs and projects, and will last a lifetime.

Buy wisely and buy recycled.

  • Make a list of what you need before you head for the store, and stick to the list. Resist impulse buying.
  • Look for recycled content in paper, pens and pencils. Postconsumer content is the best, but any recycled content is great. Ask the store manager if you don't see it. If the store does not carry recycled content products, suggest to them that they should.
  • Look for nontoxic products, such as pens, inks, and art supplies.
  • Some, if not most, of your "new" clothing could probably come from a thrift store. You might be able to find other items at a reuse store, or a school supply reuse program, if you have one near you.
  • Look for products that aren't sold with a lot of packaging, and try to think of ways to reuse the packaging that comes with what you buy.
  • Buy durable items, such as strong packs, lunch boxes, and locks and tires for your bicycle.

Manage your batteries.

  • If you replace rechargeable batteries in a cell phone, laptop, or other electronic device, recycle them. Don't put them in the trash.
  • If you use a lot of disposable batteries, consider switching to rechargeable batteries.

Reuse or recycle electronics.

Plan your lunch for waste reduction.
According to New York's Department of Environmental Conservation, a single student produces 45 to 90 pounds of garbage a year in disposable lunches. A federal review of the National School Lunch Program found that wasted food costs more than $600 million, plus an untold nutritional loss. (Environmental News Network, In School Cafeterias, Trash Piling High Despite Recycling Efforts, May 13, 2005, By Ben Feller, Associated Press.)

  • If you bring your lunch to school, package it in reusable containers instead of disposable ones, and carry them in a reusable plastic or cloth bag, lunch box, or back pack. Bring drinks in a thermos or water bottle instead of disposable bottles or cartons.
  • If you buy lunch, take and use only what you need: one napkin, one ketchup packet, one salt packet, one pepper packet, one set of flatware. Recycle your cans and bottles, and separate your waste if your school has recycle bins.

Take care of your things.

  • Put your things in a safe place or in your back pack each time you have finished using them. This will reduce waste and prevent you from losing something important.

Use public transit, walk, or ride your bike to school.

Waste Prevention and Recycling at Home