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Don’t Lose Momentum–Keep up Green School Pledges!

September 12, 2010

Now that Labor Day week has passed, the school year has officially begun for most of Massachusetts. Gone are the back-to-school flyers, sales, and endless lists. Most things are purchased, and travel routines are in place.

However, green doesn’t stop when the bus wheels begin to roll. To keep momentum going on greening schools and students, be sure to follow through on those crucial daily tasks that generate so much community waste–lunches and paper. Below are some Green Quick Fixes tips to help you keep up the good green work.

Packing Zero Waste

  • First, it’s hard with busy family schedules, as well as work demands, to manage prepping the next day’s packed lunch. It’s easier to just send the kids off with money for the cafeteria, right? It helps stimulate the economy, right? Consider that there is so much waste produced by schools from snack packs, napkins, disposable plates and serverware, bottles, and plate waste that money is lost in shipping, disposal, etc… According to a National School Lunch Program 2002 report to Congress, plate waste alone accrues more than $600 million in economic losses (because 12% of calories served during school lunch are disposed of). So it’s not only less expensive and better for the environment, but its better for the economy if you pack school lunch.
  • Second, there is the stress of finding and investing in toxic-free reusable containers, not to mention having to convince some kids to useLunch Kit AND bring home reusable containers. However, many manufacturers use PVC-, BPA-, and toxic-free plastics as well as organic and fair trade fibers, and there are numerous products out there from chic to practical to choose from. GoGreen members like bGreen, Celedon Road and One have such products available locally. It’s worth the effort to find things your kids will love and remember to tote back home.
  • And lastly, there are the resources used in washing cloth napkins and reusable containers some eco-wise folks like to consider. Be sure to wash the largest loads on the low energy cycle with phosphate- and chlorine-free detergents and then allow linens and dishes to air and towel dry to eliminate additional use of fossil fuels. The extra cloth napkins and reusable containers from zero-waste lunches will help fill up your machines to achieve those full loads.

Reduce-Reuse-Recycle Paper

  • When it comes to paper for homework and fun, follow the triangle by first reducing. Talk to your children about thinking twice before printing, and paste a note next to the printer as a polite reminder.
  • Second, think reuse. Print double-sided, and reuse no-longer-needed notes with printing only on one side. You can stack such discards next to your recycled paper reams as an option for informal needs.
  • Third, buy recycled content and recycle paper as much as possible. Most communities in Massachusetts have paper recycling programs curbside, at schools, and for commercial businesses. See MassRecycles for details.

While your keeping pace with greening schools and students with these tips, you might as well channel some of that energy into greening work! Program your mobile GPS instead of printing out directions for your next road trip, and pack yourself a zero-waste lunch for the office.

Want to get more involved with greening schools and want to address the footprint of your child’s school cafeteria? See Green Schools, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s Kids & Teachers page, and The CalRecycles online fact sheet for great ideas and example  projects.

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