It’s mid-August and ‘Back to School’ specials are everywhere. The kids might groan while you cheer, but regardless of anticipation levels, a little planning is in order. Before you rush out to stock up on school supplies, think about what you really need. Are there choices you can make to help reduce waste at your children’s school?

10 Ways to Reduce School Waste

Vintage lunchbox

This Vintage lunchbox helps to reduce school waste in a few ways – it reuses an old item, plus prevents new garbage from being created by avoiding plastic bags

  1. DON’T brown bag it – Instead of using disposable plastic bags to tote your child’s lunch to school, choose a reusable lunch box. Snub plastic ones for one made of sturdy metal to go even greener.
  2. Sandwich saver – Plastic sandwich and snack bags might be a popular choice for lunches, but the amount of garbage generated by them adds up fast. Reduce your lunch waste with a cotton sandwich bag instead.
  3. Turning Japanese – Let’s face it. Kids get sick of sandwiches pretty fast. Shake things up by sending a Bento box full of fresh and delicious treats for your children instead. A stainless steel one is easily cleaned and ready for tomorrow’s lunch, minus the waste!
  4. It’s a wrap – Much of the waste generated at lunchtime can be credited to convenience food; ie. packaged food. Instead of reaching for yoghurt tubes, gummy fruit snacks, or the proverbial granola bar, why not spend an hour with the kids on the weekend and make up homemade cookies to tuck into their lunches for the week. That or a piece of fruit will probably be more nutritious, not to mention creating less waste.

Life Without Plastic sells eco-friendly straws, like these ones made from bamboo

Drink up – Don’t forget your child’s drink options when you choose waste-free school options. Send them with a water bottle, preferably BPA-free or stainless steel! If they insist on a straw, choose one made from glass, bamboo or stainless steel.

  • Create compost – Whether you have a school snack program or not, many of the families in your school community probably send compostable items to school with their children (think of the leftovers – banana peels, sandwich crusts, apple cores, etc.). Encourage your school to create a compost program at the school to divert these items from landfill. You can use the compost to create beautiful flower beds or maybe a school vegetable garden!
  • lost and found

    Avoid sifting through the lost and found by labelling your child’s belongings

    Label it – If you’ve ever visited a school, you must have noticed the lost and found pile; they are usually HUGE! Children lose mittens, lunch bags, hats, shoes, shirts, backpacks, and SO much more. Do yourself, your child, and the school a favour and label everything you send to school with them. It can then easily be returned to you, reducing the amount of lost items the school has to deal with—and ultimately dispose of.

  • Start a lending library – All schools have libraries for the children to access, but why not start a public lending library for families? Lower levels of literacy are associated with lower-income. Get families to donate books (which keeps them out of landfills) and increase literacy for all the families in your school community. Expand the idea to include toys too! You can never underestimate the value of play.
  • Throw a community yard scale – Encourage all the families in your school community to donate unwanted items to a school sale. This promotes the reuse of items, not to mention a reduction of newly created, often unnecessary stuff. Plus it helps out lower-income families who might not be able to afford brand new items. Best of all, money is generated which can go towards school projects, like field trips, uniforms or playground equipment.
  • Promote recycling – Recycling bins are a standard sight in Canadian households. If your school doesn’t have a recycling program there, ask them to start one. Encourage your child to do their part by using both sides of paper. Even better, teach them how to make new paper from old newspaper, egg cartons, computer paper, old cards, and more. It makes for a fun craft with the kids at home or at school!
  • What else can you do to help reduce waste at your children’s school?