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    Teachers for an Un-Trashed Planet

    Teachers making sustainability “normal” in their classrooms.

    Why I prefer colored pencils + crayons over plastic markers

    1. Their work is much neater and higher quality with colored pencils and crayons. Colored pencils and crayons require the students to use more fine motor control and offer so many more options for color variety and blending than markers do.
    2. I teach first and second grade, and the amount of plastic markers that we were going through was staggering. I would remind them all day long, but inevitably the caps got left off and markers dried out and were thrown away within a few weeks of opening a new pack.
    3. Crayons and colored pencils last SO much longer than even the best cared-for marker. Using markers just seemed like a poor use of money and resources that resulted in lower quality work.

    How I use masking tape to save pencils

    • I've started assigning each student a pencil with his or her name on it. The ownership that this creates has reduced our pencil consumption drastically. Prior to this practice, kids would break pencils, sharpen them down to nothing, chew on them, and tear out the erasers just to play with them. Now they know that I'm expecting them to take care of their pencils and we've learned about why it matters. The change was so easy and made such a huge difference this year that we'll never go back! I'd say we're easily using 1/10th of the pencils that we used to. Sure, kids still lose them or break them or chew on them occasionally, but overall their level of responsibility has been impressive and has had a huge impact on how many pencils we use.

    Why I stopped using the laminator

    I realized that most laminated game boards and letter cards don't really hold up that long under kid use anyway and that it would have a far smaller environmental impact to just remake what I needed out of paper or cardstock every few years. As for things that go on the wall, laminated posters often reflect a bright glare and are very hard for the kids to actually read. So by not laminating decorations and instructional posters I am having a positive environmental impact while making those resources more accessible to my students.

    Our real plates + cutlery prevent hundreds of disposables a year

    We have class parties that require plates and forks about 4 times a year. That meant we were throwing away 84 paper or plastic plates and 84 plastic forks or spoons a year. Multiply that by a decade of teaching, and that's 1,680 items in the landfill. So one year I went to our local nonprofit thrift store and bought a set of salad plates for my kids to use. Then a parent heard what we were doing and bought us a set of thrifted forks and spoons. Either a parent or I wash them at the classroom sink after each celebration. I was worried about the kids breaking them at first, and then I realized that they're probably eating on real plates at home and know how to do it ;). We haven't broken a single plate in the 10 years that I've had them! 

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