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Back-to-School (and all year round) Recycling Tips

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Getting ready to go back to school is an exciting time! When it comes to reducing waste, getting ready starts in June when the previous school year ends. 

When the school year ends

Go carefully through your locker, backpack, and desk.

  • Every piece of paper that isn't written on can be saved and used next year. Rip out used pages from notebooks and tablets. Save the rest. Store them away with unused graph, tracing, loose leaf and construction paper. 
  • If your binders and tabs haven't been written on, save those too. You can usually pull out inserts. Binders can be wiped clean with a slightly damp rag.
  • Gather up pencils, pens, markers and crayons, as well as other art supplies. Organize them now. Bind sets with tape or rubberbands. Test pens and markers on a piece of scrap paper.
  • Take home your locker organizer and that extra change of clothes. While you're at it look for jackets, old P.E. sneakers, towels from swim class, water bottles and lunch box containers that mom's been asking you about for a while.

When you get home, sort it all into three piles.

    • Keep - These are the things you think you can use again. Clean them up, organize them and store them away neatly for the summer.
    • Donate - These are the things that are still good for someone to use, just probably not you for whatever reason. Organize these and place them in a bag to be taken to the donation center. If you have books that you don't think you will read again, click here. If you have outgrown clothes or shoes, click here.
    • Recycle - This includes all paper that has been used, or anything made of paper or cardboard. Remember, if you can rip it, you can recycle it. Look for other recyclables too. Check Art's List.

    Remember to empty old batteries from you locker light, pencil sharpener and any other battery operated tools. Place those in a bag for battery recycling.

    Whatever is left, if anything, may be trash. Maybe there's a ripped plastic pencil case, or a pen that has no ink, but chances are there's not much because you've done such a good job. 

    Check your closet for outgrown school clothes and shoes. Donate them. Give old school uniforms or t-shirts with school logos or emblems sewn or printed on them back to your school. They can go to help a younger student who cannot afford to purchase uniforms.

    Before the new schools year starts

    Teacher Supply RequestWe know that buying new things is very exciting. It's also exciting to do the right thing for our planet, or to save your family a little bit of money. So this year, maybe look at things a little differently and try out these tips. 

    Before going shopping in August for back to school supplies, go through the ones you stored away in previous years. Even if you don't have your supply list yet, you can usually guess what a few of the requests will be.

    Show off your unique style with upcycled materials. Make book covers out of shopping bags or bits of wrapping paper. Make locker organizers out of cereal boxes and cans. With some leftover art supplies and a little imagination, you can have something no one else does!

    Before purchasing new books for the school year, see if an older a friend, neighbor, or family member can hand down books to you that they have already used. Make sure to do the same for your younger friends and relatives in the future.

    Instead of buying a new book bag or gym bag for the new school year, consider reusing your old one. You loved it last year, and maybe you still do, so give it a few more months. If you do want a change, trade with a friend, and then you will both have something new. Or, if you have an older siblling, see if there's a cool hand-me-down you can use.

    Make a good list. Before putting something on the list, ask yourself if you really, really need it. If you are not sure, wait and don't put it on the list. You can always come back to the store if things change.

    When you shop:

    1. Bring your reusable bags with you to the store.
    2. Use your list. Buy only what is on it. 
    3. Read labels and find supplies made of recyclable and non-toxic materials.
    4. Look for supplies with little or no packaging, like loose pencils, single erasers and unwrapped folders and notebooks.
    5. By refillable items when possible.
    6. Purchase durable products that will make it through the whole year.
    7. Try consignment shops.
    8. If you are required to bring electronics like a tablet or laptop to school, look those with an ENERGY STAR® logo. They are products that were designed to use less energy and create less waste.

    During the year

    Use those new and old supplies wisely. For example, use both sides of the paper while writing in class or doing homework. Save small pieces of paper for figuring math problems, or to make yourself reminders.

    When doing special presentations, watch the waste. Do you really need those sparkly letters or poster lights? For things like Science Fair Boards and History Day posters, consider covering and reusing old posterboard. (The back side of oldwrapping paper is great for this.) Draw on your titles, or print them from the computer, instead of buying packs of letters and supplies that you won't ever completely use.

    Separate all paper and other materials into the recycling bin at home and in school. Paper, paper, paper is most of what you will use in school. Unless it it covered with glitter and paint and stickers, it's recyclable.

    Ask your teacher if you can turn in assignments using a flash drive, or an electronic sharing program, instead of printing them out.

    Be a leader. Encourage your classmates and teachers to recycle and reuse products. If you don't have a recycling bin in your classroom, ask your family if you can donate one or bring an old box to use. Then, take responsibility for bringing it home to empty properly. Even better, organize a classroom rotation list.

    Join your school’s recycling or environmental club, or ask a teacher how to start one!

    Do you have a computer or tablet? Are you thinking about upgrading?

    Apple LogoMicrosoft LogoWant to recycle your Apple or Microsoft product? Returning these items in to their respective stores allows the companies to recycle the products responsibly. The best part is, you may be able to earn a gift card or discount for a new item if part of your item is reusable! 

     

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