April 17, 2014

8 Simple Ways to Reduce Plastic in the Classroom

OK. We all know about the plastic bag dilemma. Additionally, most of us are trying to use at least a few cleaning and personal care products that are less toxic. The recycling gig is also familiar to many. But when I recently read about the Pacific garbage patch (North Pacific gyre) on Beth Terry’s web site, Fake Plastic Fish, I found myself completely overwhelmed.

This thing is enormous, people. I’ve seen a fair bit in my lifetime. And I can honestly say it takes quite a bit to shock me, let alone bring me to my knees. When I started researching this phenomenon and saw just how enormous it was, I had to sit down and physically get control of my emotions. I felt physically ill. How can one person feel like what they do makes a difference? And yet, how can anyone sit and do nothing? Beth has done such an amazing job of providing inspiration and information to us. While I’m not sure I can get to her level overnight, she has made me think about what more I can do with my purchasing decisions. Schools generate an enormous amount of trash. When it comes to your classroom, how much of your room’s waste is plastic? Here are a few simple strategies to get you started. I’ll post more information and product reviews as I come across the resources. In the meantime, here we go:

1.Use a refillable tape dispenser.

This alone eliminates the casings the regular rolls come in. Yes, you still have the tape itself, but it’s a start that makes a significant waste reduction.

2.Create your classroom supplies list carefully.

Whether you hand your list out at the end of the year, or have it available for pickup in August, your list has the power to make a huge impact. Consider recommending refillable pens for intermediate grades, stainless steel pencil sharpeners and refillable stainless steel water bottles.

3.Buy your supplies in bulk, particularly things like liquid and powdered tempera, hand sanitizer, lotion, etc.

It’s difficult to find plastic free packaging on some of these things, but by purchasing in bulk you’ll have fewer containers to dispose of.

4.Be more conscious of the teacher supplies you purchase and use.

Your students look to you as a a strong example. Consider a non plastic lunch tote, or wire bins for supply storage.

5.Chalk.

Rather than go for the plastic packaged markers and white board for every single lesson, get back to basics with a blackboard and chalk. Bonus? It’s cheap.

6.Rubber stamps.

I think stickers are fun too, but some of them are enormous and not exactly made of paper. A fun stamp with colorful ink will still reinforce quality work in a way the kiddos can get excited about. They also make stamps to fit in the small squares on reinforcement charts.

7.Composition books.

When asking students to bring in several journals for various subjects, request that they skip the ones with plastic covers and go with the old fashioned paperboard bound composition books.

8.An eco bag fund raiser.

This’ll get the ball rolling, and now is a great time to do it . . . BEFORE everyone buys their kids plastic versions. The folks over at EcoBags.Com gave me the link to their Earth friendly fund raising program. I’ll be reviewing the product individually in the next few weeks right here on Lesson Mag. (So stay tuned.)

Got another classroom plastic reduction tip? Share your information in the comment section below. This post was written in support of the Green Moms carnival, which will be hosted on April 14th, 2009 over at Fake Plastic Fish. For other going green in the classroom information, check out our cloth bulletin board post, and this post on affordable classroom greening strategies.

Photo Credit: Tourist on Earth

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