With the excitement of school ending also comes a LOT of wasted school supplies. I’m here to encourage you to reduce your fall back-to-school shopping list by REUSING items!

I get it, some materials are unsalvageable. But… for the ones that are in decent shape, a lot of us need to be better about saving and reusing for the next school year. In fact, this is the perfect opportunity to live more sustainably, model for your students and children how to be more Earth-friendly, AND save some money. Below is a list of a few suggestions:

  • Spiral notebooks – Because my students only filled about 30 pages in their 70-page science notebooks, my plan is to hold onto any returning students’ notebooks for them to use again in the fall. No need to purchase new ones when they still have plenty of pages remaining. For my fifth graders moving on to middle school, I will tell them to rip out the used pages and recycle them, and then they can use the remaining pages for another subject. (Pages with blank sides can be saved for scrap paper.)
  • Folders and binders – If they are in decent shape, reuse them too! An alcohol swab should remove most stains, and stickers or colored tape will cover blemishes.
  • Writing tools – You guessed it, save them for next school year! If you have broken crayons, here are some sweet ideas from We Are Teachers for what to do with those. For other unsavable school supplies, TerraCyle has recycling partnership programs with Dixon and BIC.
  • Backpacks – yes please! Shake out or vacuum the crumbs, use a soapy sponge to remove dirt, and sew on a patch or two as needed. My fourth grader has used the same backpack since first grade and will use it next year too 🙂
    Like-new products you don’t want can be donated to places like Cradles to Crayons.

Of note is that the actual manufacturing of products is one of the biggest contributors to pollution and climate change. From the chemicals needed to create the products to the water and energy consumed to the carbon emissions, all of it is bad for our environment. In short, reusing is saving even more than the landfill!

The post was excerpted from Deanna Hoffman’s May 28, 2023 blog “Being Mindful of End of School Year Waste” on her website Meet Me on Planet 3. Deanna is an experienced science educator, parent, and environmental advocate. She is also co-lead of Green Newton’s School Connections, a group dedicated to promoting sustainability in the Newton Public Schools.Meet Me on Planet 3 is an education consulting company focused on high quality science instruction as well as helping PreK-12 educators incorporate sustainability and climate change into curriculum & instruction.