by Michele S. Byers, executive director, New Jersey Conservation Foundation
Environmental problems often result from millions of small decisions. It’s no surprise, then, that the inverse may be true: many small, positive actions can add up to a healthier environment. As kids head back to school, the transition into a new daily routine is a great time to go greener!
The mantra of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” works every time. Back-to-school is no exception.
First, reuse school supplies from year to year. If you have kids in elementary school, you may have up to 4 billion crayons in your home… or at least enough to go without buying new ones every year. The same goes for pencils, pens, markers, glue sticks and more.
Look for school supplies made from recycled and eco-friendly materials. It’s a growing market. Today you can find notebooks, loose leaf paper markers, calculators, rulers, pens, paper clips, scissors, staplers and even backpacks made from or containing recycled or sustainable materials.
They aren’t even hard to find! Mainstream retail stores carry some. More comprehensive offerings are available on the web, from sites like Red Apple School Supply (www.redapplesupply.com) or GreenLine Paper Company (greenlinepaper.com). Some sites educate consumers by explaining why certain products are better for the environment than others.
Beyond school supplies, how about lunch? It’s another area with hidden conservation potential.
Hard core recyclers will reuse paper and plastic shopping bags to carry their lunch. But for more image-conscious kids, there is an infinite variety of reusable lunch boxes and bags (some from recycled materials) now available.
Lunch itself offers opportunities to go green. The containers used to keep sandwiches fresh can be disposable or reusable. Instead of using plastic bags or wrap, invest in a few strategically-sized reusable containers and bowls.
If you have packed kids’ lunches, you’ve probably given in to individually packaged snacks. The convenience is positively liberating. Unfortunately, in your heart of hearts, you know it creates more trash.
Try using reusable containers instead, and buying snacks in bulk. This not only cuts down on packaging, but will save you lots of money! The savings vary, depending on the foods you buy, but Robert Lilienfeld, editor of The Use Less Stuff ReportTM (www.use-less-stuff.com) estimates that buying in bulk could save a family with two kids more than $2 a day, or about $325 over the course of the school year.
So, think about your back-to-school choices and gear up your brain for the fall. Any time you reduce, reuse and recycle, it helps conserve natural resources, promote a healthier planet, save money and serve as a great example for the next generation!
And I hope you will consult New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s website at www.njconservation.org or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, if you would like more information about conserving New Jersey’s precious land and natural resources.
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