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5 Ways to Reduce Waste in the Classroom

Updated: Mar 2, 2020

Classrooms can become waste factories. Paper cutouts, mistake ridden homework, dried up markers, plastic silverware and water bottles, etc. All of these things can fill up your classroom trashcan, and in turn, Earth's landfills. Here are some things you can do in your classroom to reduce waste and teach your students how to live a more sustainable life.

Image from Trash Talk: Moving Toward a Zero Waste World by Michelle Mulder Photographerlondon/

1. Get a recycling bin

It sounds so simple. However, I have visited many classrooms and schools who do not utilize recycling bins, crazy! Make sure you are aware of what can be recycled. You would be surprised how many things you can skip throwing away! Here is an infographic on what you should and should not be recycling:

2. Use "single-use" objects for activities and lessons!

I once conducted a lesson about tornadoes and other natural disasters using plastic water bottles that I found in the recycling bin. We made "pet tornadoes" inside our water bottles using sand (or glitter), water, and the bottle. Get creative! There are a lot of different activities you can do with recycling or trash.

3. Conduct a waste audit experiment!

Have students keep track of their waste throughout a one-week period in a data table. Graph the most used types of trash. Discuss strategies to help reduce their waste.

4. Host a clothing drive

Ask students and their families to bring clothing that they don't use or need anymore and help your students host a clothing drive in your classroom.

5. Set up a compost

America is one of the leading nations in food waste. There is always some of your plate that doesn't make it to your stomach. You can compost inside your classroom using vermicomposting, which is composting with red wiggler worms, outside on the property, or you can donate it to a local garden.

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