Sorry … we know it feels like the summer holidays have only just started, but we need to talk school. With lots of families (us included) kitting out kids of all ages to go back to class in September, it’s a great time to rethink the way we do things and what we buy for the next academic year.
Here are our top tips for cutting plastic and encouraging a cleverer way of doing things. Top of the class if you can score all ten!
1. Yep … you got it! Get a Refill Drinks Bottle
Fill and refill with juice and save all those individual cartons, straws and bottles. Even better, just fill with water and keep your young Einsteins hydrated and brain-ready for the whole day. Encourage older kids to use refill bottles, both of our local secondary schools have top up points they can use. By the time they get to college/uni, they won’t think twice about carrying a water flask.
2. Plastic Free Lunches
Use the existing containers, bags, tubs and wrap in your cupboards to reduce packaging. Ditch cling film/foil and put sarnies in a re-useable tub or paper wrap. Pop fruit into reusable containers, decant crisps and nuts from larger packs into tubs. Home bake biscuits, bars and treats to paper wrap or put in tubs. We could write a whole other post on this alone! Encourage packed lunches for older kids/students to save money and reduce unhealthy single-use snacks, takeaways and meal-deals.
3. Uniform Swap / Thrifty Threads
School uniform is a DRAIN on the purse. Clothing production/fashion is one of THE biggest drains on our environment. Rethink and see how you can reuse what we’ve got. Ask if your school has a uniform swap shop. Set up a group with other parents or the PTA to swap/buy second hand uniform. Scour charity shops and only buy new when absolutely necessary. Make it normal to take the kids looking for clothes in charity/second hand shops … set a habit which will save them money, teach them to build their own amazing look and isn’t damaging the earth. Students tend to have this one nailed!
4. Reduce & Reuse
Look across the board at everything and decide which things will last at least another year. Do you need to buy a new school bag? Do you need to buy a new lunchbox? Will the pencil-case see them through until Year 6 or even Year 11 .. to Graduation?! There is so much pressure to buy, buy, buy and kids love the latest ‘stuff’. It’s one of the biggest times of year for pester power to rule. On that note …
5. Say ‘Tata’ to Plastic Tat
Novelty pens, smelly rubbers, phone cases, phone holders, gel tags, pen toppers, copious markers, felt tip fads … the list goes on & on and they usually all come in plastic packaging. Again only buy what’s needed, look for sustainable alternatives and for SAS Plastic Free Champion businesses who are trying to reduce impact. Shop local wherever you can.
6. Plastic Free Tuck / Trips
Tuck and trip treats rule … no matter what age you are. It’s a slippery slope of sugar, plastic wrap and guilt! But not to worry, just rejig things. Make snacks in advance at home to carry about in tubs, home make biscuits and tray bakes, chop up veg sticks and whip up your own hummus, buy dried fruit, nuts and other delicious snacks from refill shops like the Weigh Inn, The Granary or Archie Browns. Endless opportunities to save plastic … and be healthier in the process. If all else fails … choose cardboard and foil wrapped chocolate!
7. Plastic Free Caffeine
Coffee culture hits early … around Year 8 we’d say! Get your mini barristers a re-useable coffee cup/tumbler (and stainless steel straw for those iced lattes) and encourage them to go to local coffee shops rather than the big, polluting coffee chains. Remind them they get a discount for using a refill cup. The more of them doing it, the more will follow. Check our our Plastic Free Champions here
8. Plastic Free Packing
Kitting up for uni? Set habits from the start and help your brilliant protege avoid some plastic pitfalls as they take their first steps to go it alone. Make sure they have a refill cup and bottle but also get some food containers like tiffin tins and Tupperware to store snacks and leftovers/lunches. Act by example and shop local at the grocers, market or farm shop and refill shops. Then find out where their local options are, so they can do the same. Encourage packed lunches and a bit of home cooking. Yes, we know … but it’s worth doing.
9. Pick Up Three
Ask a primary school child about dropping litter and they’ll look at you in horror. But sadly something happens in the teen years and the message gets slightly lost. We’re not saying all teens drop litter …. that’s not fair and we know they don’t. Many teens are amazing and are leading the way in helping us reduce our collective eco-impact. But lots of litter hotspots in Penzance are where teens hang out too – help us by picking up three pieces whenever you’re out and encouraging your kids to do the same wherever they go.
10. Get your school to sign up to Plastic Free Schools or start up a Plastic Free College/Uni
Our families need to take individual and family action … but we also need action from decision makers, industry and government. Help push change up the line and put pressure on your school, college or university to support plastic-free and sustainable options. The easiest way is to get them signed up to SAS Plastic Free Schools and to support the pupil-led project. Students can set up a Plastic Free Uni or College by emailing [email protected]