Create a Waste-Free Classroom

As you organize the space in your classroom for the new school year, bring in elements that can keep your room cleaner and greener. Create opportunities to collect materials and include signs or props to develop good environmentally-friendly habits. Think of ways to continually model behavior of how to reduce waste for your students. One example is to drink out of reusable bottles and mugs.  

[video] Show your students how to pack a waste-free lunch

Help students model behavior:

Encourage students to bring in a water bottle to eliminate cups and trips to the water fountain.  

Have conservation signs near disposable items like paper towels to remind students to use just one or only take what you need.  

Have an alternative to paper towels to clean up spills like a rag or sponge.  

Keep caps on markers when not in use and store colored markers out of the sun, so they will not dry out quickly. 

Teach students to conserve use of their school supplies such as applying glue sparingly. 

As the educator, it is important for students to see you model environmentally-friendly behavior, so the whole class limits trash going to a landfill.  

Equip your classroom with multiple options to sort, collect and store supplies and materials. Place labeled containers in specific locations in the classroom.  It can help the class stay organized and reduce loss of materials that would need to be restocked. Have a container or bin for paper scraps, other reuse materials, recycling, compost and trash. Stress that the trash can is the last possible option to place an unwanted item instead of the first.  Create a fix-it center to help students repair supplies. One rip in a piece of paper should be taped, not thrown away.

If the students cannot use these materials for class activities, then set up systems to reuse, recycle and compost elsewhere. If your reuse bin is overflowing, then encourage students to take materials home for crafts or to create models. More than likely, you may need to request that families collect materials to be brought to the classroom for designing and modeling.

Reusing materials helps parents and the school save money on purchasing new supplies. Many school districts do not have recycling service for all of their buildings or may only have bins for paper. If your school does not have access to recycling, then get a sturdy large tote bag for classroom mixed recycling.  Ask for volunteers to take home to their curbside bin. If you have a school garden, the class can set up a compost corner to manage. If not, find a parent volunteer who composts to process food snacks and lunch leftovers into usable soil.

If you demonstrate how your classroom can reduce and reuse throughout the school year, your classroom can be the shining example of a waste-free classroom. Showing the administration that your students are committed to recycling may encourage the school district to provide recycling services for your school. Share with us the opportunities you and your students accomplished to create a world without waste.

For more details about creating a waste-free classroom, contact Kathleen Rocco at (216) 443-3731 or send an email.

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