Green Eyes On: 5 Ways to Stay Green With the Kids Back in School

green eyes on back to school

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Reading, writing, arithmetic, social studies...oh, that class used to make me sick, too. But, what are you going to do? School is back in session and that means homework, bagged lunches, after-school activities, and plenty of Friday night lights. But it can also mean you running a mean, lean, eco-family machine!

Here are five ways to make that a reality:
1. Say no to brown bag lunches!
I'm not suggesting that you bag the effort to pack your kids a healthy lunch to nosh on, I'm merely suggesting that you do it in a reusable bag of some sort. One that doesn't contribute to the 18,000 pounds of lunch waste that are created each year by elementary schools across the country. By some estimates, each student in America tosses away, on average, 67 pounds of school lunch packaging every year. Don't contribute to this unnecessary waste stream. Instead, throw that healthy lunch together in a reusable bag like the naturally antimicrobial one from New Wave Enviro, made from 100% bamboo. For your younger school kids, packs theirs in an adorable lunch tote by Built.

2. Go one step further.
Forgo all pre-packaged lunches, snacks, even drinks in favor of ones you pack up yourself. In lieu of juice boxes or bottled sports drinks, fill a lunch-box sized Sigg (now completely BPA-free) or a jewel-toned bottle from New Wave Enviro. Use reusable bowls and containers for sandwiches or snacks. I love the recycled plastic bowls by Preserve.

3. Set up a recycling center at home and at school.
At home, install an easy-to-locate recycling center for paper, plastic, aluminum and glass. Use chalkboard paint and chalk to label old buckets or bins to make sorting recyclables easy for the whole family.

Now get your kids' school marching down the same path. A lot of schools today have some sort of recycling program in place, but teachers and students might not be aware of it, or might not know how to do it. Waste Aware Schools, an organization out of the UK, offers downloadable posters that explain how and why to recycle in a fun way.

According to the EPA, a lot of common school materials can be recycled. These include office paper, notebook paper, newspapers, water, juice and milk boxes and jugs...and the list goes on and on. Educate the students and the teachers and help your schools recycle all that they can. When you figure that the average school throws away 38 tons of paper (that's about 644 trees worth) every year, it makes a little effort on your part well worth it.

4. Host a swap party.
This is a great way for your kids and the rest of your family to get rid of clothes, books, toys, games, even your old kitchen gadgets that are no longer being used. And it's a fun way to give someone else's cast offs a try. Here's how it works: you and your family go through the house gathering all of your old stuff. At the same time, encourage friends, neighbors, or your church group to do the same. Then throw a swap party and share around. You'll find new fun clothes, books, gadgets, backpacks and more, and you'll save on precious resources because you won't be buying anything new. Anything left at the end can be donated to Goodwill.

5. Spend more time outside.
In her new book, "Grow Your Own Treehugger", Wendy Rosenhoff suggests finding a local waterway, gathering your kids and their friends, and sending each out with a garbage bag and some long sticks to pick up trash. Whether you're cleaning up a park or river, hiking as a family, or spending time in the garden growing your own tomatoes and green beans, you'll be connecting with the natural earth around you and doing so in a way that doesn't involve air conditioning, overhead lights, or inside electronics.

More Back to School articles on TreeHugger:
TreeHugger Goes Back to School
Back to School: Green College Life
Back to School: Become a Green School Advocate
The TH Interview: Back to School Special
More Back to School articles on Planet Green:
How to Go Green: Back to School
Where to Get Green Back to School Supplies
How to Go Green: School Teachers
How to Reduce Your Kid's Carbon Footprint at School
How to Pack an Eco-Friendly School Lunch

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