Everyday Enviro with Elise - Back to school the right way - Planet Ark Environmental Foundation

Everyday Enviro with Elise - Back to school the right way

By Elise Catterall  January 29th, 2019

Elise faces the new school year with a sense of opportunity - the opportunity to start a fresh year with good green habits.


If you’re a parent, like me, you might be facing the return to school with a mix of sadness and relief. You may also, like me, face it with a sense of opportunity – the opportunity to start a fresh year with good habits - good green habits. 

I am determined to make the 2019 school year my most organized, streamlined and green yet.  So, I put a simple plan in place to do that.

Three steps – gather everything school related (pens, pencil sharpeners, lunch boxes, pencil cases, water bottles, uniform components – you name it), sort it all then deal with it all. I needed to know just how many old lunchboxes, pencil cases, odd socks, etc. were lurking in the corners of my house. Like in any good decluttering effort, I then labelled four boxes – Ready to use, fixable (needing repair/cleaning/altering), un-needed/donate, can’t be used/repaired/donated (i.e., landfill).

Many items, happily, went in to the ready to use box, which I then sorted in to whether they were kitchen, closet, or stationery-related. The fixable items were further categorized into cleaning, mending and altering, to be dealt with accordingly (that, if I’m honest, is still a work in progress).  The donate-able items made their way to the secondhand store, friends and/or the school uniform shop. And finally, the rest was disposed of appropriately, either through recycling or in the bin to landfill.

By the time we had finished with the fixable box, I felt more in control and ready for the year than ever before, and I hadn’t spent a cent!  We scrubbed old lunchboxes, squeeze pouches and Tupperware containers ready to go for lunch; we sharpened every pencil, tested every pen and texta, washed out schoolbags and pencil cases, paired up socks, and let down a couple of hems. 

Going through the process was a real eye opener.  Over the previous years, we’ve just restocked school supplies mindlessly – either because we couldn’t find something so assumed we’d run out, or because the kids wanted something new and shiny, or because I just went onto autopilot at the beginning of each year.  The result was clutter, double ups and perfectly good things not being used.  And that is not to mention all the wasted money and resources. 

I have had to stand strong a few times throughout the process.  There is something terribly appealing about a brand spanking new set of colour pencils, and something very exciting about a new lunchbox or pencil case and it did take some internal convincing (and external convincing when the kids were involved) to shut that down.

We succeeded though, and now that the urges have passed and we see all our perfectly clean and functional containers, cases and other bits and bobs, we are completely satisfied by what we have. As we should be! There will be plenty of opportunity for new (or new to us) things as time goes on and then we will appreciate them all so much more.

See you next time! - Elise

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Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes. 


By Elise Catterall

Elise is a writer, photographer, and naturopath with a passion for nature. She completed a Master of Public Health in 2017 through the University of Sydney. Her photographic work focuses on flowers and plants as a way of celebrating nature. She has been writing for Planet Ark since 2017, sharing positive environment stories, personal environmental experiences and perspectives.

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