Written by contributor Megan of Sorta Crunchy.

Summer days are drawing to an end.  Back-to-school commercials fill the airways while teachers begin planning and preparing for the new year.

Our oldest daughter starts kindergarten next week (how is that possible?), so I have all things school on my mind. She has been at my side all summer, learning how to examine what we are throwing out as we try to reduce our waste more and more each week.  From learning to read the recycling codes on plastics to reminding me of what can go in the compost and what cannot, she has been an avid student of mindful waste management.

I hope that as school begins, the lessons we have learned together this summer will make way for learning how all of these things apply in a learning environment outside of our home.  I”ve been thinking about how we can take the 3 R”s back to school.  Not the traditional 3 R”s of Reading, (w)Riting, and (a)Rithmetic, but rather the 3 R”s of conservation – Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.

1. Reduce

Photo by Stephen Cummings

The first of the Three R”s is the one we should be aiming to give the most priority – reduce! But, in a materialism- and consumerism-driven culture, it”s also the one that can bring the greatest challenge.  On our end, I will continue to pack waste-free lunches for my daughter”s lunch each day.  There are a variety of companies and brands offering waste-free lunch solutions, so that challenge is quite easy.

Watching The Story of Stuff changed the way I viewed shopping and spending, particularly how I shop for clothes.  Rather than participating in the back-to-school shopping blitz, I can choose to reduce our contribution to the consumerism cycle and shop second-hand instead.

2. Reuse

I was so encouraged when I received our parents” packet from our daughter”s kindergarten teacher and saw that she encourages parents to send “beautiful junk” to their classroom to be used in projects and art. The items she listed included buttons, yarn, fabric scraps, yogurt and other food containers, jars, and paper sacks.

We try to emphasize reusing as much as possible around our house, so I am happy to send along all kinds of materials that could find a new life in the hands of kindergartners.  As a former classroom teacher, I roulette online australia know that most teachers are extremely resourceful when it comes to finding materials for their students to use.  I am so happy to see the emphasis placed on reusing!

I also plan to reuse as much as possible all the stuff that our daughter will be bringing home. I know from her year spent in Pre-K that there will be tons of paperwork that can easily be used as scratch paper before it hits the recycling bin, not to mention the artwork that can be reused in a number of ways – to make wrapping paper, to cover notebooks, and to cover our art wall.

3. Recycle

Photo by Pylon757

Recycling is the easiest way to take positive steps toward Earth-friendly living!  Paper is so easily recycled, and that which can”t be reused in some way will go straight to the recycling bin.  My plan is to ask our daughter”s teacher what kind of recycling they will be encouraging in the classroom as well as the campus beyond.  We can recycle #1 and #2 plastics in our community, and if the school campus doesn”t already have a plastics recycling program in place, I am hoping we can get one up and running.

When I was a child in school, the concept of Reduce-Reuse-Recycle was something we talked about once a year – on Earth Day.  I am so hoping that my children will grow up knowing that caring for our planet is part of our responsibility as the people to whom this planet has been entrusted.  I dream of a day when homes and schools work together to create environments where responsible living is encouraged!

This list is only the beginning of ways we can encourage Earth-friendly living throughout the school year! I would love to hear your thoughts on how to emphasize Reduce-Reuse-Recycle in a learning environment – whether that environment is in a classroom, at home, or on the road!