For Earth Day, we certainly want to teach the three Rs: reduce, re-use, recycle. Unfortunately, many schools only actually do the third of these. We’ve gotten pretty good about recycling our paper and we’re proud of our can drives, but there are ways we can do more.
Here are some ideas for reducing paper use:
- Reduce worksheets. Sometimes we need individual worksheets for assessment, but often we can have students arrange elements in a pocket chart, work in groups at smart boards, or have one student act as scribe at the white board instead.
- Re-use decoratives. Not only can you store bulletin board sets and borders for future use, but you can also use those extra decoratives to make centers and Big Books.
- Put it on the computer. Use classroom wikis, online gradebooks, and email assignments as an alternative to copying.
- Avoid toxins in your classroom:
- Clean desks and other work surfaces with white vinegar and baking soda – you’ll kill 99% of the germs without supporting the dangerous toxins produced by factories making chlorine, and without introducing harsh chemicals into your classroom environment.
- Use markers labeled “low odor” or “nontoxic” for your white board. As with any art supplies, your best bet is to look for The Art and Creative Materials Institute certification. Clicking on the link will give you full details on the ACMI standards.
- Choose glues that have been certified as non-toxic, such as white school glue.
Re-use before you recycle:
- Recycling is important, but don’t think that tossing things in the recycling bin is your first choice. Provide a good example to students by using refillable water bottles, fabric tote and lunch bags, and pens that take refills. Drink your coffee from a mug instead of a Styrofoam cup. Avoid juice boxes and cans of soda. Share your reasons with your class, but know that your actions are speaking louder than words.
- When you finish presenting a lesson, pull pieces together from your materials and student products to make a center for the future. You’ll save time and money as well as natural resources!
- Most teachers use old newspapers for papier mache, magazines for collages, and food packaging for craft projects. When you do that, point out that you’re re-using items that would otherwise be thrown away. Read a book like Galimoto by Karen Lynn Williams and Catherine Stock to bring the point home to students.
There’s a lot of satisfaction in knowing that you’re providing a positive example to your students and to your fellow teachers!