When you send your kids back to school this year, make sure that reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic aren't the only three "R's" you're teaching them. The Oregon Resource Efficiency Program has estimated that each student produces up to 240 pounds of waste a year. When you consider the nearly 75.5 million students who attend school in the United States-well, you can do the math.
Aside from putting your multiplication skills to the test, these numbers highlight the extent to which our nation's schools are contributing to landfill waste-and show just how critical it is that the other three "R's" be put into practice in classrooms. Not only will teaching kids to reduce, reuse and recycle cut down on waste, but it will help them form eco-savvy habits that will last a lifetime.
What a Waste
So where is all this waste coming from?
Go Green, Save Green
Although you may not be able to control the temperature of your child's classroom or the school's waste program, there is still plenty that you and your kids can do to practice conservation. What's more, the things Rogers recommends are small, manageable changes that won't take too much time-or break the bank.
Packing a "waste-free" lunch, for example, saves not only packaging, but also the money you would have spent on a year's worth of plastic baggies and other disposable containers. Walking, carpooling and riding a bike to school are also good for your wallet and for the environment.
Walk. Only 31% of kids who live less than a mile away from school walk there. Half go by car. If just 6% of those who go by car walked, it would save 60 thousand gallons of gasoline a day!
Carpool. On a typical day, the average mom spends 66 minutes driving, making more than five trips to and from home and covering 29 miles. If having your kids walk to school isn't an option, carpooling is a great way to save both time and gas money.
It has been estimated that a typical American kid who takes a disposable lunch to school generates 67 pounds of discarded packaging waste per school year. That adds up to more than 18,000 pounds yearly for the average-sized elementary school.
Try to pack your child a "waste-free" lunch-one in which everything can be eaten, reused, recycled or composted. Replace plastic bags, plastic utensils, disposable containers, paper napkins and brown paper bags with reusable alternatives: a lunch box, reusable drink containers, cloth napkins and silverware. You could save up to $250 a year and as much weight in waste as the average nine-year-old-70 pounds!