Ten Hacks for a More Sustainable School Year
1. Find an eco-friendly backpack.
Backpacks are usually made of polyester, a petroleum-based plastic fabric that is very pollutive during production. Moreover, when these backpacks are washed or thrown away, they discard microplastics in waterways. On the other hand, there are a lot of eco-friendly backpack options on the market that use better materials such as cotton canvas, recycled plastics, and recycled leather, which put less of a dent on the environment. These materials are also very durable, so the backpacks are longer-lasting (thus creating less waste).
2. Pack a lunch in a reusable container, and buy a reusable water bottle.
There are many great options for reusable containers available for purchase both in-person and online that are easy to clean and compact enough to fit in your bag. School lunches regularly use plastic wrapping and packaging, so packing lunch through your own eco-friendly means is an easy way to help out the environment. There are many great reusable water bottle brands like S’well and Hydroflask.
3. Walk, ride a bike, or carpool to school.
Driving to school and waiting in a line of cars to get dropped off can greatly contribute to air pollution and harm the environment. If possible, walking to school is a great way to not only get some fresh air and exercise in the morning but be more eco-friendly. If your school is a bit far for walking, safely riding a bike is another great way to help. In the case that neither option is feasible, carpooling and riding the bus can also reduce carbon dioxide emissions and air pollution as a whole.
4. Donate extra school supplies instead of throwing them away.
Every year, students around the world go out and purchase new school supplies. They often don’t use all of the 50 markers they bought or the 12 packs of glue sticks that were on sale. So when the school year comes to an end, it’s best to reuse those supplies or donate them to the kids who can’t go shopping every fall rather than throwing them away. Some notable charities that accept donations are Kids in Need Foundation, Operation Give Kindness, and Develop Africa.
5. Cut the straps of your disposable mask when throwing it away or use a cloth mask.
Disposable masks have a huge impact on the ecosystem. At least 100 billion face masks are thrown away each month. When masks are disposed of improperly, animals can come across them and become entangled in the straps, barring them from swimming or flying and potentially leading to their death. The easy way to solve this problem is to use reusable cloth masks. However, some people find them to not be as comfortable as disposable masks. If this is the case, cutting the straps off of disposable masks can still lessen the impact on vulnerable animals.
6. Get school supplies that can serve another purpose.
Some school supplies are meant for more than school, even when their lives are over. An example is the plantable pencil by Sprout. Once your Sprout pencil is used up and too short to write with, you can plant the leftover part in soil and let it grow into a plant. They are made of sustainable wood, a biodegradable seed capsule, and a 100% natural clay and graphite core. These pencils are a great example of school supplies that can be reused in many ways.
7. Get school supplies that provide eco-friendly alternatives to everyday tools.
Certain school supplies are able to accomplish tasks that are usually environmentally harmful without creating the same waste. For instance, the Swingline Stapleless Stapler does the same job as a stapler but does not produce metal waste. Given a stack of papers, this tool punches a small hole in them and tucks the punched-out tab under the bottom sheet to keep them all together. This is an excellent alternative to staples, which do not break down easily and cannot be recycled. Furthermore, we tend to use many staples without even realizing it. Staplers like the Swingline stapler can help with this while still doing the same job of holding our papers together.
8. Use recycled notebooks.
Although various schools are working to adopt a paperless environment, paper use is inevitable. Fortunately, many companies make notebooks with paper composed of recycled materials that are a great way to help the environment. Some good brands for recycled notebooks are EcoJot, Northbooks, and Eco Paper.
9. Buy second-hand clothing or eco-friendly clothing.
Many brands like Pistol Lake, Blue&Yellow and Wear Pact have environmentally conscious clothing lines. These are great options for clothes to wear to school everyday, but they can be pricey. A great alternative is to instead buy second-hand clothing at thrift stores like Goodwill and thredUP (online). Rather than throw clothing away, someone gave it away for others to have the chance of wearing it economically. Besides, a lot of damage befalls the environment when clothes get manufactured. Water to wash the clothing is used too generously, and a lot of material gets wasted. Wearing second-hand clothes can help a great deal.
10. Join an environmental club at your school or start one.
Joining an environmental club can be very helpful in reducing your carbon footprint. These clubs can help you with many more tips and tricks that will guide you through life in a more sustainable way. They can encourage you to help advocate for the planet and work with other activists to make change. Joining YCAT is also a great way to help out the environment. Visit https://www.ycatinc.com/get-involved to learn more about how you can get involved in the fight against climate change.