Back to School! Learn the Three R’s: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle
Back-to-school is synonymous with pens, paper, books, new clothing and a return to the regimented days of classes and extracurricular activities. Whether you’re the one looking forward to returning to the classroom or you’re busy getting the little ones ready for the big day, you’ll be happy to know that you can stay green, even as the leaves turn brown.
Last year may seem like a lifetime ago, but you’ll be surprised at the amount of school supplies you can use again this year. Check your storage areas for unused stockpiles of pens, paper and other items. It’s easy to forget supplies that aren’t in plain sight; chances are you already have many of the items on your list.
Are old papers and used binders and folders just sitting around? Those are the type of items that you don’t want to throw away but have no idea what to do with. Good news! Try flipping over paper and using the blank sides – staple them together to make a recycled notepad. Gently used folders can be turned inside out and used again.
If you do need to make a shopping trip, take the time to make a detailed list of what you need. Impulse purchases are often unnecessary and result in excess waste. A list will keep you on track and save you money.
Look into buying supplies made from recycled materials. Everything from pencils, binders and paper is available in an earth friendly alternative to traditional materials. Check labels for details.
Opt for nontoxic or vegetable-based ink, paint and other supplies. They are better for your health and the environment.
According to the EPA, waste from packaging is responsible for more than 30 percent of all the waste generated each year. Pretty packaging is nice to look at, but it’s not really necessary and it’s certainly not earth friendly. Buy in bulk when possible – you can always use the surplus next year – or look for items sold in minimal or recycled packaging. If you can’t get around purchasing the lavishly packaged items, remember to save it instead of throwing it away as soon as you get home. Pretty packaging is great for art projects, rewrapping or maybe even retooled as a decoration or table setting. Use your imagination!
Remember the first rule of friendship: share. Do you still have last year’s textbooks? Why not hand them over to a friend or a family with kids that might need them. Consider hosting a textbook swap and encourage neighbors, friends and family to bring their old textbooks to trade. Add some food and adult beverages and suddenly you have all the ingredients for a back to school party!
Are you and your family having fun keeping your back to school preparations as green as possible? Encourage each other to start or join an environmental club at school! From cutting down on cafeteria waste – think of all the wasted paper products, plastic condiment packages, and discarded food – to implementing a building-wide recycling program, there are many opportunities to introduce the same environmental policies you use at home when you go back to school.