Active Learning

7 easy ways to reduce classroom waste

Jasmine Short

We all want to do our bit to save the planet, but it can be difficult to know where to start. To celebrate Zero Waste Week we’re sharing our top seven tips on how to reduce waste in the classroom. These quick and easy swaps reduce waste, help the planet and save some of your budget too!

1) Name your pencils

Every teacher knows that pencils vanish. At the beginning of term, give each student a pencil with their name written on it (we love to use washi tape for low waste labels). Each student has one pencil and needs to ask you for a new one if their pencil is lost, broken or too worn down. Giving students the responsibility of looking after their pencil means that they are far more likely to look after it and pencils will quickly stop vanishing.

2) Lose the laminator

Laminating can help to make paper sturdier and more durable which is great, especially if you work with younger students. But, laminating paper means that it can no longer be recycled. Instead of laminating papers to make resources like flash cards or number counters, stick them onto some old cardboard instead. Save up your old cardboard packaging, glue the paper to the card and cut it out. The resources will be even sturdier than if they were laminated and you make use of your class recycling.

3) Glue sponges

Glue sticks are a mess-free way to secure things in class, but they do use a lot of plastic. Swapping to homemade glue sponges can reduce plastic significantly and is an inexpensive way to glue. Take an air tight container and pour about 1cm of liquid glue into the bottom, place a sponge on top of the glue and secure the lid. The sponge soaks up the glue, and students can then dab this onto the backs of their papers. Bonus tip: If you are using glue sticks, save the lids of any glue sticks that you throw away. Lids often go missing and the glue dries out and has to be thrown away. Keeping old lids means you always have one to hand to save any glue with a missing lid.

4) Double up on paper

Change your default printer settings to print on both sides of the paper. Each printer is different, but a quick internet search will direct you how to change your default settings so that you automatically print on both sides, reducing the paper you use by half.

Boy reuses paper to draw pictures

5) Save paper

Sometimes you have to print on one side of the paper, but the other side of the paper can still be used. Save paper that has only been used on one side and use the other side at another time. This can be used for more printing, jotting down notes, drawing and much more.

6) Use your recycling

Make puzzles and learning games from used cardboard. Some of our favourite ideas are:

– Ask students to make the box flat without cutting it. Students will unpick the joins and discover how the box was constructed. This is a great activity for learning about 3D shapes and nets.

– Vocabulary cards. Cut out words and ask students to write the definitions on the back of the card. This is helpful for students learning another language or subject specific words, and is a great way for students to practise command words.

– Planting. Ask students to dampen a cardboard tube and fill it with compost, then place a seed on top and push this down 2cm with the end of a pencil. Students can place their tubes in a tray near a window and watch their plants grow, learning about how plants develop.

Reusing cardboard tubes to grow plants

7) Party!

Everyone enjoys a class party, but there is often lots of waste from paper plates and plastic cups. Swap the disposable party ware for reusable plastic plates and cups. These are a low-waste swap that will save you time, money and probably quite a few spills in your next party.

These are some of our favourite ways to reduce waste in class, but the possibilities are endless. If you have any tips, let us know by getting in touch.