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Let’s Talk Trash: School’s back

Whether you are gracing the halls of academia, entering the virtual classroom, enrolling a child in private school, or unschooling your kids, now is the time you might be eyeing a school supplies list.
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Fruits in a big stainless steel food container. Dry dates and nuts in small plastic free lunch box. Metal spoon and fork near it. Zero waste, eco friendly

Whether you are gracing the halls of academia, entering the virtual classroom, enrolling a child in private school, or unschooling your kids, now is the time you might be eyeing a school supplies list. Before you log in to shop online or dart out the door to buy new, there are a few low-waste options you can consider.

Reusing or repurposing is a great way to start the new year with a light footprint. You might begin by passing along great quality supplies from older siblings and friends that have moved up a grade. Binders, pencil cases, iPads, text books, novels, sports gear and the like can often be enjoyed by more than one user before they wear out or, unfortunately, become obsolete.

Zero-waste lunch kits are an essential for all ages these days.  Even those that are learning from home benefit from changing up study locations, so reusable to-go gear comes in handy. Pick up a reusable utensil kit, or make your own using thrift store forks and spoons and fabric from an old pair of jeans. Refillable water bottles and tea carafes are easy to find used or to splurge on, if you don’t already have five in a drawer somewhere. The key is to get in the habit of rinsing and ‘restocking’ your school bag or car after every use. A fun home school activity with the kids could be to make your own snack pockets with beeswax-infused cotton. To get the recipe right, look into using pine resin and jojoba oil in your mix. Plans are easily found online.

A great way to avoid waste is to make your own snacks and avoid the crinkly plastic wrappers that they often come in. This type of packaging is accepted at Recycle BC depots around town, though not in curbside recycling pickup, for those times they inevitably come into your life. Energy-rich treats that are easy to put together are a few nuts and local dried fruit made in the oven or dehydrator. If you spy a neighbour with pears, apples or plums lingering on trees, do them the favour of offering to glean them in exchange for keeping some of the bounty. Pureed and dried, these make hardy fruit leather and you can add in fresh vanilla or an edible essential oil for fun.

When you don’t have something at home and can’t seem to find it used, there are more eco-friendly options on the market. They may not look as flashy or obvious as you’d think, though. Opting for plastic-free materials is better than compostable plastics, and when plastic is necessarily involved, look for a high percentage of recycled plastic content.

Buying quality goods may also hurt a little more at the checkout, but they will ultimately last longer and require less maintenance or need for replacing. Keep this in mind especially for items that experience a lot of wear and tear through regular use.

Wherever you are at in your zero waste education, you can always graduate to the next level!

Let’s Talk Trash is qathet Regional District’s waste-reduction education program. For more information, email info@LetsTalkTrash.ca or go to LetsTalkTrash.ca.