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How to Reduce Waste this School Year

How to Reduce Waste this School Year

Back-to-school time is a lot like Christmas—there’s excitement, stress, and a lot of buying. Most parents with school-aged children have spent a small fortune on school supplies and snacks at the beginning of the year only to discover a mountain of barely-used pencils and notebooks at the end of the year—not to mention a car littered with fruit snack wrappers. As parents, we lead by example, and the practices we employ today will rub off on our kids. Here are 4 simple ways to reduce waste this school year and set a green example for your kids.

#1 Avoid Buying in Bulk
Those bulk packages of pens, notebooks, snacks, and juice boxes are tempting, but the truth is that many of these products are sold cheaply in bulk because they’re unhealthy, cheaply made, or don’t follow environmentally-friendly productions standards. Instead, compile a list of everything you need based on all your kids’ school supply sheets and look for supplies that are made from recycled materials or that can be recycled or refilled later. As far as snacks, shopping locally for healthy fruits and veggies and setting aside a couple hours a week to bake a batch of granola or whole grain muffins to send the school will ensure that your kids eat healthy without creating a ton of trash.

#2 Use Resusable Lunchware
The average American family creates 4,320 pieces of unnecessary lunch waste, mostly plastic packaging. That adds up to a lot of trash in the landfills and ocean with a lot of dollars down the toilet. Instead of buying pre-packaged snacks and milks and sending lunches to school in brown bags and plastic baggies, purchase non-toxic, reusable lunch boxes and snack cups for your kids to take lunch to school in and send water and milk in stainless steel bottles. Throw in a cloth napkin and reusable cutlery and you’ll eliminate ALL of the 4,320 pieces of lunch waste your family would normally produce!

#3 Choose Minimally Packaged Products
When possible, buy notebooks and supplies that don’t come in plastic wrappers or extra boxes, which are totally unnecessary. Every piece of non-degradable plastic trash that you throw away ends up in a landfill or adding to the island of trash in the ocean.

#4 Green Your School Commute
A great, easy way to reduce your carbon footprint is by having your kids walk, bike, or ride the bus to school. Walking or biking will give kids a little exercise to boost their energy and sharpness before class and let them enjoy the outdoors at the same time. If safety is a concern where you live, walk or bike your kids to school instead of driving them, or see if another student who already walks to school has a parent who can tag along.

What are some simple ways your family has reduced waste during the school year?

4 Green, Healthy Snacks for School

snacks.jpgSchool children are growing their bodies, brains, and personalities and eating right is key for the healthy development of all three. With so much junk available to kids these days, we thought we’d provide some ideas for delicious, nutritious snacks to send to school with your kiddos. Buying non-GMO and organic when possible is far healthier than buying conventional. Read on for 4 green, healthy snacks for school.

#1: Fruits and Vegetables
Seasonal, organic fruits and vegetables are such an important part of your kids’ diet. Check out your local farmer’s market or CSA to see what’s in season, or visit the local or organic sections of your grocery store’s produce aisle—the cheapest, most abundant produce is usually what’s in season! Kids love carrots and ranch dressing; you can also pack cut up cucumber, radishes, tomatoes, broccoli, and snap peas with a yummy dressing or homemade hummus for a fiber or protein boost.

#2: Nuts and Seeds
One of my all-time favorite, classic snacks (and one I know most kids love) is organic apples and peanut butter (I buy the kind you have to stir because it’s made without palm oil). You can also substitute almond butter if you’re trying to avoid peanuts or sunflower seed butter if your kids can’t do nuts at all. Nuts and seeds are packed with Omega fatty acids, regulate blood sugar, and provide a protein-fat boost that lowers cortisol and helps stressed kids calm down. My favorite trail mix to pack as a snack is a combination of almonds, walnuts, dark chocolate pieces, dried cherries, and dried blueberries—it’s an Omega-3, super food power snack!

#3: Whole Food Bars
Whether you make your own or purchase a nutritious option, bars that are packed with protein, fiber, and good fats make for a great snack that will keep your kid full and focused throughout the afternoon. Check labels: it’s best to buy organic, non-GMO, whole food bars that are made especially for kids because they’ll pack the right amount of vitamins and be lower in sugar. Choose nuts, seeds, and dried fruits over sweet bars that will just make your kids crave candy.

#4: String Cheese
String cheeses are so much fun to eat and they’re the perfect little pick-me up as a mid-morning or –afternoon snack. Most are under 100 calories so they won’t make kids sleepy but are full of fat and protein to give their brains and bodies the little kick they need to make it to 3:00. I like to pair a string cheese with a piece of seasonal fall fruit.

What school snacks do your kiddos gobble up? Which ones come back home in their lunchbox?

5 Green Tips for Back-to-School Shopping

colored pencils

It’s that time of year again! If you have more than one child or your only has been through a few rounds of back-to-school, the novelty of buying all new supplies and clothes may have worn off now that you realize what an impact fall shopping has on your wallet and the environment. Read on for 5 simple tips for back-to-school shopping.

#1: Go Through Last Year’s Supplies
Most teachers call for a pretty generous supply of notebooks, folders, pens, and pencils. Go through your craft room or office to see if you have any untouched notebooks or folders in good enough shape to reuse. It’ll save you time and money and prevent unnecessary waste.

#2: Try On Last Year’s Wardrobe
Not all clothing items or brands fit the same—some run bigger than others. Plus, clothes that are worn less frequently have also been washed and dried less frequently and may still offer some wiggle room. Have your student try on last year’s clothes to see if there’s anything you can salvage before buying new. For items that have been outgrown buy second hand or from a sustainable, green brand in cases where you must buy new.

#3: Check Amazon
Before spending a fortune on new text books and the English class reading list, check Amazon! Chances are you’ll find what you need in like-new condition for much less. Buying used books where possible is a much greener option. If your student isn’t required to make notations, you can sell them back at the end of the year—bonus!

#4: Send a Waste-Free Lunch
The average American family spends $400 extra per year on disposable lunch ware and creates about 4,320 pieces of trash—mostly plastic packaging—unnecessarily. Not to mention the fact that plastics contain harmful chemicals like BPA and phlalates. Send your kids’ lunches to school in a reusable lunchbox, and replace bottled water and boxed juices with stainless steel bottles you fill at home.

#5: When Buying New, Buy Green
There’s no doubt you’ll still need to make some new back-to-school purchases this fall. Look for brands that use recycled paper and pen or marker canisters to make new supplies. Green backpack, shoe, and clothing brands are springing up everywhere, too!

What’s your favorite way to go green during back-to-school shopping?