January 28, 2020
While it might still seem like the new year has just begun, we’re now into the fifth week of the year and that means one thing: school’s back! In turn, that means parents around the country are working to organise schedules, backpacks, stationary, uniforms and much, much more.
With all of that going on, the last thing on most parents’ mind is purchasing all that school gear mindfully. That’s why we are here to help with some timely tips for going back to school sustainably.
This is one of the easiest wins of the back-to-school checklist. Australia sends over 20 million tonnes of waste to hundreds of landfill sites around the country every year. Much of this garbage is composed of single-use items like plastic bags, plastic water bottles, disposable coffee cups and plastic straws, all of which have readily available alternatives. Sending the kids to school with items such as reusable drink bottles or keep cups, reusable straws, beeswax wraps and a fold-up tote bag (as well as reminding them to use these items!) will help your family substantially reduce how much waste you create.
The most sustainable stationary of all is the stuff you already have, so be sure to do a full stock check of last year’s pencil case before buying anything new. Besides reusing, there’s a range of stationary products available on the market that have a lower environmental impact and cut down on plastic. Purchasing products made from 100% recycled material, such as Planet Ark Paper, helps cut down on the need for virgin materials. Furthermore, purchasing wood products that are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified reduces our reliance on plastic and ensures we aren’t using products sourced from unsustainable forest practices.
Check out Officeworks Sustainability Hub for more sustainable stationary.
Children grow up quick. That means there is a lot of outgrown stuff out there that is in perfectly good nick. The worst environmental outcome would be for all of it to end up in landfill. Not only are second-hand uniforms, backpacks and books far more sustainable than buying new, they are also significantly cheaper. Ask your school administration if they run a second-hand clothing pool or chat to other parents at your school to find out if they have used gear they want to give a second life to. If neither of those options work out, check out the Sustainable School Shop or The Uniform Exchange platforms for buyers and sellers of second-hand school goods.
There are so many things that can be achieved with a little bit of willpower and cooperation, but we need to take charge if we want to see it happen. If there are initiatives you want started, unsustainable practices you want ended or just areas you think could be improved, raise it with the school’s administration. Whether it be introducing ‘Waste-Free Wednesday’, banning single-use plastic in the school canteen or even something as big as installing solar panels, good things can only happen when people take action.
Liam is Planet Ark's Communications Coordinator. Prior to joining Planet Ark Liam spent his time studying global environmental issues, travelling Southeast Asia on the cheap and working for a sustainable property management company in Bali, Indonesia.