It’s that time of the year again where kids reunite with their schoolmates, meet their new teachers, and embark on their new school year journey. That’s right, it’s back-to-school time! Going back to school is a great time for some refreshers on how we can use the 4 Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot) both at school and at home.
Reduce is the first and most important of our 4 Rs. Reducing simply means using and consuming less. By reducing our consumption, we reduce the amount of waste we produce in the first place. Below are some great ways we can practice reducing at school.
- Instead of buying individual glue sticks, create reusable glue sponges to lessen plastic waste. They are simple to make and can help reduce how many individual plastic glue sticks we use!
- Buy only the essentials when back-to-school shopping. Tip: Make a list of needed items, so there’s less chance of overbuying.
- When grocery shopping for lunch, buy in bulk to reduce unnecessary waste.
- Lower transportation emissions by carpooling to school.
- Use a share table at lunchtime to reduce waste at school. A share table is a designated area where students can donate any unopened food they don’t plan on eating. Then, students who are still hungry after eating their own lunch may select items from the share table to eat!
Reuse means to use something again. We can reuse in many different ways. A common way to reuse is utilizing reusable water bottles or shopping bags to limit our use of single-use plastics. Another great way to reuse is upcycling. Upcycling involves reusing materials to turn them into new things. Ideas for how you can reuse at school and practice upcycling can be found below.
- Use reusable lunch containers and utensils.
- Rent or buy used copies of books needed for the school year instead of buying new.
- Shop at local thrift stores for back-to-school clothes.
- Clean out and reuse your backpack from last school year; chances are it’s still fully functional!
- Melt leftover crayon stubs and turn them into cute recycled tie-dye crayons!
Recycling means turning waste materials into new products. We can recycle by putting correct items into our blue recycling bins. Remember to empty out any liquids into the liquid bucket at school or down a drain before putting items into the recycling. Common recyclable items you might see at school include:
- Empty milk cartons
- Empty soda cans
- Empty yogurt containers
- Homework papers
- Cardboard boxes (just remember to flatten before recycling!)
Fun fact: Glass and metal materials can be recycled an infinite amount of times!
Rot is just another word for composting! When we place items into our green compost bin, these items break down and “rot” in the process of being turned into finished compost. It’s really important that we ensure all of our compostable items end up in the compost. If it mistakenly ends up in the landfill, it releases a potent greenhouse gas called methane which contributes to climate change. Common compostable items you might see at school include:
- Food scraps – be sure to scrape out any food left in your containers into the compost bin before placing the container into the correct bin.
- Food-soiled paper products that do not have any plastic on them including food trays, napkins, and paper plates.
- Leaves, twigs, and flowers.
In general, it’s important for us all to be mindful of how much we consume and how much waste we produce. Simply remembering and practicing the 4 Rs can make a big difference!