It’s the end of the summer and time for kids to head back to school. So how do you combine school’s three R’s of reading, writing and arithmetic with the planet’s three R’s of reduce, reuse, and recycle? We all know that instilling good habits is easiest when we're young. As the kids return to class, here are some simple tips to encourage healthy habits and sustainable schools.
1. Get to school sustainably
Avoid the lines and frustration at school drop-off. Consider starting a bike train, group walk, or carpool, and take turns with other parents to dropoff and pick up the kids. As always, remember to pay attention in school zones, and turn off your engine when parked. Visit the City of Austin’s Safe Routes to School website for more information.
2. Shop smart
Buy school supplies with less packaging that are made with recycled and sustainably-harvested materials. Invest in sturdier products so you can reuse them year after year. Consider purchasing some of your child’s clothes from consignment shops or thrift stores.
Ask school administrators whether recycling bins and recycled materials are available and accessible, and if the kids are encouraged to use them. Make sure your child knows what can be recycled and what can't.
4. Spend time in nature
Studies show that children who spend more time outside are happier, more attentive, and less anxious than kids who spend more time indoors. Encourage kids to get outside for an hour or two after school each day, and on weekends.
5. Eat healthy lunches
The average elementary school disposes of 20,000 pounds of lunch waste every year. That’s 10 tons of trash per school! If your child brings their lunch, remember to use reusable lunch bags, utensils, and food containers to cut down on waste. AISD has several sustainable food initiatives underway, including plans to be composting in all school cafeterias by the end of the 2018 school year, and eliminating single-use trays. If possible, encourage your child to eat in the cafeteria at least once a week.
6. Do a “green” school project
Do you or your child have an idea for a sustainable school-based project? The Bright Green Future Grant Program awards up to $3K in grant funding for projects at Austin-area schools. Projects examples include rain gardens, bicycle academies, chicken keeping, and more! The Office of Sustainability will be accepting applications starting August 15.