Zero Waste at school
School activities produce a lot of waste, including uneaten lunch food and single-use lunch packaging, individual-sized snacks, used paper, and toxic cleaning supplies. Here are some easy ways to introduce Zero Waste into the classroom:
- Buy smarter at the beginning of the school year. At the beginning of each school year, we need to buy lots of supplies. When you go to the store, look for durable, long-lasting supplies such as refillable pens and pencils, a durable backpack and lunchbox, and reusable containers for bulk snacks. Buy quality second hand clothes, and notebooks made of recycled content.
- Pack a no-waste lunch. A no-waste lunch is a meal that does not produce any trash. Use a reusable lunch box or bag and fill it with your lunch in reusable containers. Buy juice, snacks, and other lunch items in bulk. You could also include a cloth napkin. Ask your school cafeteria to use items such as reusable trays, napkins and silverware.
- Take only as much food as you need. About 20% of the food we buy gets thrown away. One way to figure out how much food you waste is to measure and track all the food you throw away from your lunch over a fixed period of time. Then you could brainstorm ways to reduce how much food you are throwing in the garbage. Use an icepack to keep food fresh longer. Only take a small portion of food from the cafeteria, and then go back for seconds if you're still hungry.
- Use less paper. Even though we recycle much of the paper we use, it is still a significant part of what we throw in the trash. Use both sides of every page and buy paper and notebooks that contain recycled paper. Use paper that has writing on one side for notes, or feed the blank side into your printer for draft documents. You can also make scratch pads out of that single-sided paper by binding one side. Or "go paperless" and hand in assignments on a computer disk or via e-mail instead.
- Get rid of junk mail. Another large source of paper that is thrown away every day is mail that's unsolicited and unwanted. Collect unwanted mail and contact the companies to get off their lists.
- Organize a rummage sale. Rummage sales are a great way to pass along clothing, toys, sports equipment and items that you no longer want to someone who might need them. And an easy way to raise money for school activities.
- Use non-toxic cleaning supplies and other products. From copy paper to cleaners, automotive fluids to landscaping products, every product your school buys affects human health and the environment. Put a Zero Waste purchasing policy in place to keep the school environment as healthy as possible.
- Integrate Zero Waste into the curriculum. Check out the CVRD’s Environmental Education Manual for tips and plans on integrating Zero Waste education into your classroom, and for some great activities and crafts for kids. Call the Nanaimo Recycling Exchange for information about Zero Waste classroom workshops offered in the Cowichan Valley. Or, check out these website for other recycling crafts and activities for kids.
- Share your knowledge about Zero Waste at home in your classroom!