By Karissa Miller / WM
Believe it or not, another school year is here. As you get back into the routine of yellow buses, lunch boxes and after school clubs, consider this an opportunity to add a new element into your daily schedule: sustainability.
Back-to-school is an ideal time to pick up new habits that help your family reduce waste and learn about resource conservation. It all comes down to the three Rs — Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. By putting the Rs to work, you save water, energy, and natural resources like trees.
Here are some tips to get you started.
Before school shopping, rummage through drawers, closets and old backpacks to see what you have on hand. The greenest back-to-school supplies are the ones you already have! Make a list of what you have and only purchase what’s needed.
Make packing lunch a zero-waste event. Skip the paper bags and opt for reusable lunch boxes that your kids will love and look forward to using. Buy snacks in bulk and package them in reusable containers to replace snacks individually wrapped in plastic. You can use reusable zip-top bags, food storage containers or even tubs repurposed after the yogurt or sour cream is gone.
In the United States, up to 40% of food is wasted each year. Consider packing a healthy mix of what kids are most likely to eat (easier said than done, of course). Also encourage them to bring home what they don’t finish (rather than throw away good food)!
Have kids’ clothes that no longer fit after the long summer? Host a clothing swap with friends or neighbors. This can be fun, and you can take home new-to-you clothes without spending a dime.
Instead of buying new school clothes, check out your neighborhood second-hand store. You’ll get a lot more bang for your buck and find one-of-a-kind items.
Turn trash into treasure. Encourage kids to think up creative ways to upcycle items that would normally be thrown away. These make for great art project supplies!
Repurpose an old cloth or small towel to use as a reusable napkin. This can save hundreds of disposables napkins each year, which means saving trees every time your child opens their lunchbox.
Give paper, bottles and cans a second life through recycling. Be sure materials are empty, clean, and loose when you toss them into the recycle cart, and no plastic bags!
Recycle Right. This means only recycling items shown on your local recycle guide, and keeping everything else out. Keep out liquids, plastic bags and trash that can contaminate otherwise good recyclables.
Torn or stained clothing that’s no longer wearable can still be recycled — just not in your curbside cart. Find a textile recycler near you at 1800recycle.wa.gov.
Once you embrace the three Rs, you’ll notice opportunities popping up everywhere to reduce waste. Challenge your family to look for fun, creative ways to reduce, reuse and even upcycle – at home and school.
Karissa Miller is WM’s education and outreach manager. For tips on recycling and waste reduction, visit the WM website – wmnorthwest.com
Photo caption: Back-to-school is an ideal time to pick up new habits that help your family reduce waste and learn about resource conservation.