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Zero Waste School at Home

Tips To Save Time, Money and Waste

Skipping in-person schooling this fall is a big disappointment for many families, but let's try to find a zero-waste silver lining to celebrate when it comes to learning at home. Less in-person schooling during the pandemic means there's an eco-friendly opportunity to avoid wasteful spending on school supplies, fast fashion and other limited-use items.

With a little more time on our hands now that many of us are no longer commuting to school or work, we'd like to suggest that now is the perfect time to slow down and reflect on how we can green our habits. Let's ponder what's really necessary to buy before reflexively jumping into an online back-to-school shopping frenzy.

Here are some of our top tips for families seeking to start school in zero-waste, plastic-free style at home this fall.

Focus on Food Prep

As many school districts and families make decisions about education for the 2021-2022 school year, we know that many of us will be experiencing the new normal of online and home-based learning. Take advantage of this opportunity to add some food planning to your educational plan.

  • Consider it ‘HomeEc at Home.’ Get your kids involved in planning and prepping lunches and snacks at home.
  • Create grab and go lunch and snack options with your kids. This makes for fewer interruptions in the school and workday. Look for BPA free containers like the Seal Cup Fivesome Set to stash your pre-packed food.
  • Don’t forget to reuse and avoid wasteful single-use products when planning your in-home school lunch program. Is the small convenience worth the long-term environmental damage?

    Reusable & Refillable Covid PPE

    Sometimes you’ll need to head to campus, so if you need to gear up, spend your time and money finding reusable gloves, a reusable mask that fits, and refillable non-toxic sanitizing wash.

    We all want to stay healthy, so we understand why blue disposable surgical masks have become a popular single-use, go-to facewear option for families. Sure, they're convenient, but our environment is taking a beating. The masks are showing up in alarming numbers as litter along streets and in waterways. Instead, find a reusable, washable mask that fits your student’s face so they’re ready to go on campus to pick up an assignment or handle any business that requires face to face encounters.

    When it comes to hand sanitizer, we all need a little squeezy or spritzy container that will fit in our pocket. But let’s not keep buying and needlessly throwing away small quantities of sanitizer. Buy in bulk and refill the small vials to cut down on germs and waste at the same time!

    Finally, if you feel you need to don a pair of gloves, skip the single-use choices. Instead, a reusable pair of kitchen dish gloves or gardening gloves will do the trick again and again. This will be a thrifty choice and cut down on needless plastic waste. Sanitize with a spray or wipe down between uses! Bonus points for picking a glove made out of biodegradable rubber, which you can cut up and compost at end of life. 

    Use What You Have

    When it comes time for school supply shopping, take stock of what you already have. Pull all your supplies in a central location and take stock. Go through your file cabinets and see what folders, notebooks, and other fun things you already have on hand that can be reused. 

    • Clear out your old binders and reuse them. Are they ripped? Buy some colorful, nontoxic tape to patch them together. Simple!
    • Rip out the used paper in your notebooks and use the rest to take notes on school Zoom calls. Or you can find a DIY video and learn how to make cute, “new” notebooks from old ones.
    • Dump all your pens, pencils and crayons in a big box and sort through them to find the best ones, make your own sets with all the colors of the rainbow, sharpen pencils, throw out unusable pens, group all the highlighters together, etc... 
    • Give new life to your old backpack by washing, repairing, and re-stitching it with ribbons or a patch decoration. 
    • Zoom school doesn't give you much chance to show off your fashion sense, especially below the waist! So skip buying back-to-school outfits this school year too. Wash and use the clothes you already have or shop at your local thrift store.
    • Instead of purchasing the trendy, single-use plastic box that your little one will be “so over” next year, consider an ECOdipper for paperclips, erasers, and little knick-knacks!

    Do You Really Need That?

    Before you head out to stock up on needed supplies, stop and consider if you really need it!

    • Is there an online or digital solution, like digital notebooks with pages made out of white board material that's erasable, that you haven’t considered?
    • Do you have something on hand that might perform the same function?

    Take this opportunity with your kids to find creative ways to return to the school year with as minimal waste as possible. In these troubled times, this is a great way to help your kids feel in control of their environment.

    To find out more ways to invest in safe, reusable options this school year check out ECOlunchboxes today.

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