8 Ways to Be Mindful of the Environment When Home-Schooling
Like many families, you may be in the process of starting the back-to-school transition. And you may be one of the many teaching their children at home this year. While this can be a big change for everyone, it can also have its perks. For instance, there are ways you can protect the environment while home-schooling. Here are eight eco-friendly home-schooling tips to kick off the school year.
1. Ditch the Single-Use Materials for Lunches and Snacks
Single-use packaged food and drink items are one of the worst environmental offenders. The majority of plastics end up in the landfill, with recycled items comprising a much smaller percentage. More than 26 million tons of plastics went into landfills in 2017, versus less than 3 million tons that were recycled that same year.
One way to be mindful of the environment is to avoid single-use plastics and other single-serving packaged items for your kids’ lunches and snacks. Find alternatives to prepackaged and single-serving foods and drinks. Whether you’re in the house all day or heading out for a field trip to a park, think reusable. This is often easier to do when you’re at home rather than hurriedly packing up school lunches the night before (or morning of).
As a bonus, reusable alternates are often cheaper over the long run than regularly purchasing single-use options.
- Purchase high-quality reusable water bottles instead of buying bottled water on the go. Try Vapur’s Anti-Bottles, which are not only reusable, but also flexible, foldable, attachable, and freezable. They’re perfect for keeping kids hydrated at home and on the go.
- Forget the prepackaged crackers and snack foods. Buy these items in larger sizes and portion them out using reusable containers. This is useful for day trips, but you can also make snack time simpler by setting out a few homemade snack packs the kids can grab whenever they need something.
2. Buy Supplies Made From Recycled Materials
For all of those office and art supplies your child needs for home-schooling, choose products made from recycled materials whenever possible.
The list of school supplies you can find made from recycled materials includes markers, pencils, backpacks, lunchboxes, folders, and more. When buying new is a necessity, try to find those items with the least environmental impact. In addition to looking for info on recycled product materials, you can also buy items that are non-toxic and PVC-free.
3. Use Secondhand Supplies
Of course, a solid alternative to buying brand-new school supplies every year is to use secondhand items. Textbooks, workbooks, and other curriculum guides can often be found at thrift stores, secondhand bookstores, or through online marketplaces.
There may be a Buy Nothing group in your area, where people are willing to give away their supplies and books to someone else who can use them. Garage sales and yard sales are another route to get used school materials.
Borrowing is also a long-lost art to consider. If there’s a specific item you need temporarily for a school project, think about if there’s a way to borrow it from a friend. And don’t forget about your public library. They have a massive amount of books, magazines, Legos, educational movies, and music you can borrow to enhance your child’s learning.
4. Use Everyday Activities to Teach An Eco-Friendly Lifestyle
Education doesn’t have to be presented in a traditional “lesson” format. Some of the best environmental education your kids will get comes from everyday lifestyle habits they learn from you.
For example, an ongoing lesson is how to minimize electricity and water usage. Talk to your children about small, simple habits like turning off lights when they leave a room and turning off the faucet while brushing their teeth. You can even encourage them to do most of their work next to a well-lit window so they don’t need to turn on a lamp.
Incorporate eco-friendly lessons into everything you do, from having kids help wash dishes after lunch to evaluating how much fuel is needed for a weekly field trip in the car. Make it a natural part of conversation so your kids learn to care about the earth and the environment as a matter of course.
5. Plant a Garden
Gardening is an amazing way to teach children about nature and science, and they’ll automatically learn “greener” ways through that experience. Learning how to plant, weed, water, and harvest from their garden teaches them to respect and love nature, leading to stronger environmental stewardship.
Gardening presents great benefits for children. It fosters an interest in science and nature. Studies show kids with access to hands-on learning about nutrition, which often comes in the form of gardening, increases their consumption of vegetables and other healthy foods.
Even if you don’t have yard space for a huge garden, there is probably something you can do to let your kids garden, whether that’s starting a container garden or participating in a community garden. A small herb garden is great as well.
6. Use Digital Tools to Reduce Waste
Any parent of an elementary school child knows that the amount of papers and supplies they use daily is incredible. Many of these things are simply thrown away once the assignment is completed.
While home-schooling, you can use digital tools and apps to reduce paper waste. You can use a digital camera or your camera phone to document your child’s work. If you’re remote teaching but still working with the public school, you can send completed work to your child’s teacher in a digital format, cutting down on unnecessary paperwork and hassle.
You can also have a couple of whiteboards where kids work on math problems or practice writing letters, instead of using paper. Again, sending a photo of this whiteboard via email to the teacher works just fine.
Apps and learning websites are also great for helping your children learn while reducing the amount of paper they need to use for school. Of course, you want to be mindful of screen fatigue, but that doesn’t mean screens can’t be valuable tools.
7. Learn Outdoors
Children reap numerous benefits from spending time outdoors. Taking class outside whenever possible helps kids focus better and can improve physical fitness. Going for a hike gives them the chance to observe insects, clouds, streams, and plants, while moving their bodies instead of sitting at a desk. Plus, the more your kids can be outside in nature, the less time they’ll spend using up resources like paper and electricity.
When children have the opportunity to learn in nature, they get more hands-on experience with the world and all its living parts. This enhances their appreciation for the environment and can inspire them to continue to help preserve the environment as they grow older.
8. Engage in Environmental Learning Projects
Help your kids find age-appropriate eco-friendly projects to do. The Journey North website, for example, tracks the migrations of wildlife such as monarch butterflies and bald eagles. Your kids can report sightings of these creatures after an afternoon hiking or kayaking excursion.
Search online and in your local region for ideas of ways to help the environment. Learn what your local nature preserves are doing to protect wildlife, land, and waterways. There is plenty kids can do to be more eco-friendly, and they’ll be learning the whole time.
It’s essential to preserve the environment for our children, so why not be more mindful of it when home-schooling this year? Your kids will learn how to care for and protect the world around them in a way they might never do sitting inside a classroom.
Sarah Barkman has home-schooled her four children for eight years now and has crafted a number of outdoor activities for them.