Creating less trash at school

school-house-on-earthThere are lots of ways that we can reduce waste at school. By thinking ahead and being creative, you can reduce your impact on the environment and save money at the same time.

What can you do?

Pack a no-waste lunch


A no-waste lunch is a meal that does not end up in the trash. You can buy food items in bulk then put them in reusable containers to carry to school. Another idea is to ask your school cafeteria to use items such as reusable trays, napkins, and silverware.

Example: Use a reusable lunch box or bag and fill it with your lunch in reusable containers or a washable plastic bag for sandwiches, and a cloth napkin that you'll bring home to wash and use again.

Benefits: You create less waste by using washable containers to pack your lunch. Packing your food in reusables is typically less expensive than buying food that comes in disposable containers.

Ask your school to reduce waste in the lunch room

school-lunchExample: Ask your school to use items such as reusable cafeteria trays and silverware. Milk cartons produce a lot of waste. Two alternatives to suggest to your school are milk pouches, which result in a much smaller volume and lower weight of waste than paper cartons; or better yet, reusable eight-ounce plastic bottles, which produce almost no waste (only the cap is discarded).

Benefits: The school creates less waste in the lunch room and may be able to reduce the bill for garbage disposal.

Carry a few reusables

At the beginning of each school year, it seems as if we need to buy lots of supplies. When you go to the store, look for durable, long-lasting supplies.

Example: Refillable pens and pencils, a durable backpack, and a lunchbox are all great examples of products that can be used over and over again.

Benefits: Items that can be used more than once will reduce waste. If you take care of them, they will last a long time — and maybe you won't have to buy new ones next year!

Use less paper

paper-use-other-sideEven though we recycle much of the paper we use, it is still a significant part of what we throw in the trash. Think about all of the paper you've thrown away that only had writing on one side. Those pieces of paper could have been used a second time, potentially cutting your paper use in half. Also, by buying paper and notebooks that contain recycled paper, you complete the recycling loop.

Example: Make room in your classroom or at home to put paper that has only been used on one side. Use that paper 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. Can you “go paperless?” Ask your teacher if you can hand in assignments on a thumb drive or via e-mail instead.

Benefits: Because paper and packaging make up such a large part of our garbage, by using less paper you can reduce up to 40 percent of the trash that is thrown away.

Get informed and become more aware

Talk to your teacher about starting or joining an environmental group at school or look for ways to increase your awareness of natural surroundings and environmental issues.

Example: Set up a school waste reduction campaign with your environmental club. You could turn visits to nature areas and parks into service learning class projects.

Benefits: Being informed about environmental issues will give you the knowledge to help yourself and others become environmentally friendly. Connecting your activities with nature helps to increase appreciation and gives extra motivation to take actions to preserve and protect it.

For more information

PDF icon Creating less Trash at School