Back-to-school is an ideal time to pick up new habits that help your family reduce waste and learn about resource conservation.

Back-to-school is an ideal time to pick up new habits that help your family reduce waste and learn about resource conservation.

Go green this back-to-school season

It’s an ideal time for the entire family to learn the three Rs — Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

  • By Wire Service
  • Wednesday, September 20, 2023 1:30am
  • Life

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

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 –

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.

Talk to us

More in Life

Danny Vernon, Illusion of Elvis Presley tribute impersonator, lets the audience participate as he performs at the Evergreen State Fair on Monday, Aug. 30, 2021 in Monroe, Washington.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

“An Elvis Christmas” in Marysville and the Gothard Sisters in Edmonds are seasonal entertainment highlights.

Mr. Pumpkin
Mike Case-Smith remembered as ‘Mr. Pumpkin’

A man remembered as “Mr. Pumpkin” by generations of Oak Harbor families recently passed away.

Gift guide: Gear up on these energy-related goodies recommended by your PUD

Here are some of the Snohomish County PUD’s favorite gifts. Yoiu can find even more great gifts at Friday’s holiday bazaar.

Keith Stocker poses for a portrait at Stocker Farms in Snohomish, Washington on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Snohomish tree farm brings Christmas spirit, one seedling at a time

At Stocker Farms, it can take a decade to grow the perfect tree. All you have to do is pick the right one.

Collius_boys.jpg: Carolea’s father Collius (Jay Jenkins, center) has selected Ambrosius (Ian Wight, right) as his choice for his daughter, but she is in love with Nectarean (Josias Allestad) in Red Curtain’s production of “A MidWinter Night’s Dream,” Dec. 1-23.
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

”A Midwinter Night’s Dream” opens Friday at Red Curtain Arts Center in Marysville.

Siblings Qingyun, left, and Ruoyun Li, 12 and 13, respectively, are together on campus at Everett Community College on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023, in Everett, Washington. The two are taking a full course load at the community college this semester. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Siblings, age 12 and 13, are youngest students at EvCC campus

Qingyun Li was 11 when he scored a perfect 36 on the ACT test. His sister, Ruoyun, was one point away.

A family walks through the Wintertide lights Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, at Legion Park in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Wintertide Lights returns for the month of December in Everett

The free family event is open nightly at Evergreen Arboretum and Gardens in Legion Park.

Great Plant Pick: Saxifraga Primuloides

What: This dwarf version of London pride is an indispensable groundcover for… Continue reading

This fantastic chair carved from walnut takes the form of an ostrich

“Fantasy furniture,” hundreds of years old, can depict both real and mythical animals. This piece sold for $3,276 at auction.

With 132 shades of brown, December gardens burst with ‘winter interest’

With most primary and secondary colors lost to the changing seasons, I’ve come to see just how beautiful browns can be.

2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Platinum (Toyota)
2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Platinum

It is the most powerful mid-SUV Toyota has ever built.

Boomerang-shaped daytime running lights are a standout feature of the 2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid compact SUV. (Kia)
2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid just might have it all

The compact SUV delivers the goods on desirable qualities.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.