Wherever you live around the world, it’s probably time to start the school year at the end of the summer. Here are some tips to pass on to parents with kids. They’re also good for high-school and college kids to follow.
1. Put the word out on Facebook or Craigslist or Freecycle that you’re in the market for staplers, rulers and scissors: bet you’ll be rained on with a “loaves and fishes” appearance of everyone’s extra office supplies. If you must buy, check out biodegradable pencils and vintage refillable fountain pens.
2. Pass on those synthetic, stretchy book “bras”. Sure they look cool, but you can make even cooler from an old pair of jeans, used gift bags, and plastic carrier bags from the kids’ favorite stores.
3. Cut back on paper waste. Bigger kids may be on laptops, and increasingly, students are able to email homework in, but schools still chew through paper like the hungriest of caterpillars. Choose paper with a high percentage of recycled content, that’s processed chlorine-free (PCF). This info will all be printed on the packaging.
4. Despite eReaders emergence, hardcover textbooks will continue to challenge the structural limits of backpacks (and backs). Get the required book’s ISBN code, and score used versions online or through bookstores. Ask the school to organize a book swap so texts can graduate downwards each year.
5. Wash last year’s backpacks, book bags, and lunch boxes and bags. Then dye them, paint then, embellish with buttons and patches.
Check out YouTube to see what folks are doing with duct tape. Make a hip pencil case without touching a needle and thread:
6. Pack lunches in reusable container that can be washed daily: avoid foils and plastic wraps, and steer clear of landfill-bound zip-lock bags.
7. Send drinks in a re-usable bottle, just be vigilant on daily cleanup. If you opt to reuse bottles from purchased water or juices, bin them after 3 refills.
8. Talk to your school about adding recycle containers. Teach the children to use them.
9. Add a special container for food scrap, and incite a science teacher to start composting: it can feed a school garden or supplement a chemistry or biology class.
10. Convince parents to instigate an annual clothing recycling program. This is a no-brainer if the kids wear uniforms, but works like a dream for sports gear too. The best programs I’ve seen are run in the most affluent towns. This isn’t about charity, it’s about saving a bundle on expensive items that are only used for a nano-second of student life.
Once these recycling programs start, they grow legs. I’ve seen schools that loan formal wear for dances, graduations, religious and awards ceremonies. Most of the clothes are donated after a single initial wearing: others are solicited from local department and sporting goods stores.
These ideas can gain particular sponsorship from environmental clubs, scouts, parent groups, and science teachers. To succeed, it’s got to be embraced by the school as a whole.
A cultural shift where everyone understands the reason behind the action. It could be one of the most important lessons in the school year.
Image of kids in the lettuce patch from Shutterstock