New set of "three Rs" teaches lessons in environmental stewardship
Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 08/25/06
BY ALAN J. STEINBERG
Most people think of the traditional "three Rs" this time of year, but three others generally not associated with back-to-school time
—reduce, reuse and recycle — are of equal importance.
As our children get ready to head back to the classroom, it's crucial that we prepare them not only to learn, but also to be good
environmental stewards. Back-to-school shopping, school lunches and
at-home activities are all areas in which you and your child can make a real difference for the environment.
Where to begin? Start with a simple inventory of the school supplies you already have before you go shopping. That way, you won't purchase duplicate items, which may just get discarded. When buying new items for school, consider products that can be reused, year after year, like sturdy backpacks and refillable binders, pens and pencils. (They may cost a few cents more, but will save money in the long run.)
When buying printer paper, opt for paper that contains at least 30
percent recycled content. You'll be supporting the practice of
recycling with your purchase. And, for every ton of paper that is
recycled, 380 gallons of gas — in addition to 7,000 gallons of watter and enough electricity to power a house for six months — are savedd, a great way to contribute to the Bush administration's goal of lessening our dependence on foreign oil.
As you shop, look for items with minimal packaging. Packaging
materials account for more than 30 percent of all waste generated each year. And, try to save larger boxes and reuse them for packaging
gifts. If possible, bring your own shopping bags; reusing bags cuts
down on waste and saves the store, and eventually you, money.
When your child heads off to school, lunchtime presents another
opportunity to reduce waste. For students who bring their lunch, lunch boxes, reusable drink bottles and durable utensils are excellent ways to minimize the amount of garbage a school has to process. Homemade sandwiches and snacks in reusable containers and fresh fruit are not only an environmentally friendly alternative to prepackaged foods, they're generally healthier, too.
For students who buy lunch, remind them to take only what they need
for their meal — one napkin, one condiment packet, one set of utennsils — and to recycle as much of their waste as possible after they're done eating.
When students return home from school, homework presents another
opportunity to reduce waste. Students should ask teachers if e-mail
assignments are acceptable as a way to cut down on paper. When
printing out assignments, most printers feature a "draft" setting that uses less ink. Also, many stores offer a discount on new printer
cartridges when a used one is brought back for recycling.
Finally, students who learn how to minimize waste should share their knowledge with friends and teachers. If a school does not have a recycling program, students could start one. Children can even develop a composting program at their school to turn biodegradable food and yard waste into free, natural fertilizer.
Learning about three new "Rs" — reduce, reuse and recycle â€€” this
back-to-school season is a great way to help your child become more
environmentally aware and reduce waste. Also, it's remarkably easy.
Just a few small changes preparing for the school year, during the
child's school day and at home can make a big difference.
Alan J. Steinberg is administrator of U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency Region 2, New York
These reduce, reuse, recycle ideas can be part of the back to school
experience and help make schools places where environmental stewardship is a day to day habit. Of course, some of these suggestions are more easily implemented than others, but there is a range of ideas and practices to try out.
There are additional ideas at:
----- Forwarded by Teresa Ippolito/R2/USEPA/US on 08/25/2006 02:09 PM