Whether you’re a pro at the green-living lifestyle or just starting to be a little more eco-friendly, these six back-to-school tips require little effort and may help make a big difference when it comes to avoiding waste. And, as if helping the Earth isn’t incentive enough, these tricks may have a positive impact on your wallet, too.
Take a look around your refrigerator and pantry. Most of the food items you’re already buying come in easily reusable containers. Rather than tossing them, wash out the containers, such as empty mayonnaise containers and butter tubs, and use them to pack lunches or as a supply-holder for a homework station.
Bonus: For a fun after-school craft, let kids decorate the containers.
Before you start back-to-school shopping, take a look around the house at what’s left over from last year. If you find broken crayons, unwrap the pieces, put them in muffin or cupcake tins and bake at 150 degrees Fahrenheit for around 20 minutes, suggests MarthaStewart.com. Once the tin cools, they’re safe to pop right out. The result? A super cool crayon that’s sure to stick out (in a good way) among the store-bought supplies.
Bonus: Mix and match colors for tie-dyed crayons.
If you find any binders or folders that are still in good shape from last year, pick up a roll of colorful or printed duct tape and let the kids go to town decorating their old supplies. They’ll have a good-as-new binder that’s durable enough to last all year without replacements, and it’ll have more personality than those dime-a-dozen cat folders.
Bonus: Use what’s left over from the tape roll to make colorful name tags for lunchboxes, backpacks and key chains.
Egg-crate caterpillars? Toilet-paper-roll snowmen? Chances are, your kids will be asked to bring household items to school for craft time. Talk to your teachers early in the school year about any upcoming projects so you can save some of those empty tissue boxes, milk cartons and egg crates. You know what they say — one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.
Take a trip to the fabric store and let your kids pick out patterns and prints they like from the scraps and ends that are left over from previously cut materials. Cut the fabric into small squares to make reusable napkins they’ll be excited to use and reuse not only at the cafeteria table, but at home, too. If you want to be really green, cut up old T-shirts and do the same thing.
No need for a meltdown. Rather than purchasing a plastic cooler-pack to help keep drinks and food at a safe and optimal temperature until lunchtime, freeze your child’s juice box the night before. It will keep their goodies cool and will melt just in time to drink, says HomeFoodSafety.org.
Before the school bell rings, think twice about throwing those common household items away. With a little creativity and enthusiasm, you’ll discover plenty of ways to repurpose many of the items you already have around your home.
Originally published August 5, 2014.