Tips for a Waste-Less School Year

  • Choose and use a wide assortment of products made from recycled products, such as pencils made from old blue jeans; binders made from old shipping boxes; and many types of recycled paper products. You also can reuse items like refillable pens, rechargeable batteries, and scrap paper for notes. Using recycled-content and reusing supplies prevents waste and saves you money.
  • Before starting a new school year, sort through your materials. Many supplies can be reused or recycled. Notebooks, folders and binders can be reused. Recycle unwanted papers and reuse your old folders and binders. Share your used books with friends, relatives or younger schoolchildren.
  • Waste from packaging accounts for more than 30 percent of all the waste generated each year. Use school supplies wrapped with minimal packaging; use compact or concentrated products; or buy products that come in bulk sizes. Save packaging, colored paper, egg cartons and other items for arts and crafts projects. Look for other ways you can reduce the amount of packaging you throw away.
  • Many schools reuse text books to save money and reduce waste. Covering your textbooks with cut-up grocery or shopping bags helps reduce waste and keeps your books in good condition. Be creative -- use markers or colored pencils to give your covers unique and fun designs. Paper grocery bags are also great for wrapping packages.
  • Use nontoxic products, inks and art supplies, such as batteries with less mercury, vegetable-based inks, and water-based paints.
  • Use and maintain durable products. Sturdy backpacks and notebooks can be reused for many years, which helps reduce the amount of broken items tossed away each year. Put long-lasting, high-quality tires on your car and bicycle. Be sure to keep your tires properly inflated.
  • 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, or lunch box. Bring drinks in a thermos 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. And, remember to recycle your cans and bottles.
  • If you drive to school, try carpooling or take public transportation. Get your parents' permission to try walking, biking, or skating. You can prevent wasted fuel, reduce air pollution, and decrease traffic in your community.
  • Borrow or rent your decorations and supplies for parties, dances and proms. If you buy these supplies, try adopting a theme that can be used from year-to-year, so that you can reuse your decorations and supplies.
  • Pass it on. Share the message with your friends and schoolmates. Waste less by reducing, reusing, and recycling. Volunteer for, or start , an environmental club or recycling project in your school.
  • Work with your teachers and friends to find ways to encourage everyone in your community to make waste reduction a part of their everyday lives. You can also look for unique ways to make your school more waste-free, such as starting a school composting project.

Tips from EPA

This article originally appeared in the 08/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.

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