The 5 Rules of Back to School
The three Rs have a completely different meaning than they did 175 years ago when the expression was first coined. They are no longer Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. It’s all about the 5 Rs now: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose and Reframe.
Back to school means one thing – new stuff! There are ways, however, to cut down on the costs of back to school and be green at the same time.
If you do have to buy new supplies, choose products that have reusable containers or recyclable packaging like cardboard. It cuts down on waste, and can be recycled. Try buying plain binders with clear outside pockets so you can change up the look with paper or fabric if you have trend-conscious kids. They can be reused for years to come, as long as they are in good shape.
The first thing to do is look at the school supplies your children have brought home from the previous school year. Chances are, you can make many of them work for the new school year. Instead of buying all new pencil crayons and pencils, give them a fresh sharpening. Encourage your children to use pencils over pens. Most pens are not refillable, or people choose not to refill, so encouraging pencil use can save you money and extra plastic. Some items don’t take too much of a beating- rulers, calculators and scissors can last for years.
Ask other parents if they have spare supplies lying around their homes that you could take off their hands. Often, the needs of each class are different and the slightly older child may not need the supplies from the previous year. See if you have anything that may be of use to them too.
Instead of buying plastic binders, find ones made of recycled cardboard. If they are looking a little worse for wear, cover them with recycled paper- finally a use for your child’s artwork! There are likely to be objects around the house that can be used in a whole new way- an old makeup bag or chocolate box makes a great pencil case, or you could transform last year’s holey backpack into a new lunch bag with a bit of time and sewing.
What do you do about lunches? Most times, it’s actually cheaper to buy snacks in bulk and invest in some great reusable containers. They come in many different shapes and sizes, and often come in your kids’ favourite characters and designs. Take a tip from Eastern cultures and find your child a tiffin or bento-style lunch box. These are comprised of several compartments that keep the food separated, and are made of recycled plastic or stainless steel.
Many schools have implemented a no waste policy, so if you bring your sandwich in a plastic baggie, it must go home with the child (discarded crusts and all).This is a great way to learn with your kids about materials that can be composted, recycled and reused.
These are just a few ideas to get you started on back to school. Don’t forget that when the school year is over, you can recycle many of your school supplies that can’t be reused next year.