Green Corner: Be environmentally sound when going back to school
August 27, 2015
It's getting back to school time and there are numerous ways for both parents and kids to practice the 3 r's at work or school. Teaching our children good habits now, and leading by example helps them carry it into their adult lives.
First thing we can do is talk to kids about electricity and turning out the lights. Practice with your kids turning off the lights whenever they step out of a room. If they wonder why we do this, tell them that every 100w light bulb used 24 hours a day, per year, takes 714 pounds of coal to make that power. This will apply to anywhere they go, including classrooms and friend's houses.
Amazingly, one-third of all the trash we dispose of is packaging. Buying conveniently small, pre-packaged products adds to the waste stream in a big way. Reduce your footprint by buying in bulk and filling a small container with yogurt/raisons/peaches and the like.
Glass jars with twist on tops (if allowed at school), stainless steel containers, and cleaned out yogurt/butter/plastic containers all work well for bulk food distribution and are relatively free. Fill them up with milk, juices, yogurts, cut up vegetables/fruit. Use glass jars for hot foods like soup, since glass can be microwaved.
Glass jars can be used to carry water, but I prefer the stainless steel ones because they are not plastic and cannot break so easily by dropping them or freezing. Either one is preferable to plastic water bottles, since Americans use 2.5 million bottles every hour of every day with most getting thrown out. Ziplock bags can be washed out and re-used a couple times as well. And, instead of buying paper bags or using decorative bags for a lunch box, get a metal or plastic lunchbox that can be re-used over and over again.
When getting school/work supplies, feel good being green by re-using already purchased supplies or buying with green in mind. First and foremost, look through all of your drawers and nooks and crannies to find pencils, binders, crayons, markers and what-not. If you don't buy more and use the ones you've "lost," you minimize the chance you will throw them out when you feel overwhelmed with too much stuff.
If you have to buy more supplies, think about buying refillable pens, pencils and whiteboard markers. They tend to cost a bit more, but after learning how to not lose them, the not-so-cheap pens work out best; mostly, because they tend to not freeze, leak, and generally last longer. Plus, you are only throwing away one-third of the product and re-using the rest. That's a good thing, since 1.6 billion pens are discarded every year. Using mechanical pencils is another way to reduce one's environmental impact, with 14 billion pencils being produced every year, all from trees.
Being good stewards of Mother Earth involves thinking outside of the box we have been told to fit in. I hope some of these ideas resonate with you.
Thomas Harris is president of the Infinite West Board of Directors.