Back-to-school but make it sustainable

Back-to-school but make it sustainable

By Pamela Jolly  January 27th, 2023

Looking to make your school year more eco-friendly in 2023? We've collected resources and ideas from our Planet Ark team to help you make more sustainable choices.


As school begins for another year, the scramble is on to get children ready for a hectic year of learning, excursions, sport and after school activities. Amongst the mayhem consider some small changes your family could implement to make a positive impact and contribute to a healthier environment for everyone.

Lunch boxes

1.     Include as many plant-based nude foods (without packaging) as you can and remind your little munchers to put skins, pips, seeds and cores into the school compost or bring them home for composting.

2.     When shopping for lunch box snacks, check packaging for the Australian Recycling Label (ARL) and choose items with recyclable packaging. You can share what each ARL logo means and what coloured bin it goes in with the kids. There’s a great diagram here explaining how it works, that you can review together

3.     There are many different lunch boxes on the market to choose from. Stainless steel containers offer the advantage of durability, recyclability and reduced weight compared to glass. However, the best lunch boxes are those you already have in the cupboard that can be used again and again. Small clean jars and bread bags emptied of crumbs, can be reused as separators, containers and food wrapping.

School uniforms

1.     Before buying new uniforms don’t forget to check in with friends with older children to see if they have outgrown their own items. You can also check out the class social media groups or the school office for any preloved uniforms. The Sustainable School Shop and The Uniform Exchange are fantastic online platforms for buyers and sellers of second-hand school goods that you may also want to take a look at.

2.     Many uniforms can last longer with simple maintenance. When children are old enough, involve them in the process and teach them basic sewing techniques like how to sew a button back on and mend holes in socks. Mending can help children value the work that goes into making clothing and encourages them to take better care of their belongings. Best of all, they will have learnt a helpful life skill!

3.     When clothing, underwear and shoes finally reach their end-of-life, check Recycling Near You for companies in your area to help keep items out of landfill. There are a number of recycling options for old uniforms and shoes available.  

Pencil cases and books

1.     Encourage your learners to check that their pencil cases haven’t been depleted from holiday art sessions. A scavenger hunt around the house to locate missing rulers, sharpeners and pencils will help stop the purchase of double-ups.

2.     When you need to buy new supplies, choose products made with recycled materials and recyclable packaging.  Your consumer dollar has enormous power to reduce interest in products made from virgin materials and create a viable market for those using recycled materials. Look for Planet Ark Paper (made from 100% recycled material) and products with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification that use sustainable forest practices. 

Travelling to school

1.     Find a safe low carbon emitting way to reach school. Could you walk, ride a bike or catch public transport to school? Or connect with parents living near you to organise a carpool and share lifts.

Educational programs

1.     Encourage your school to make sustainability and caring for the environment an integral part of lessons. As part of Planet Ark’s annual Schools Recycle Right Challenge, free curriculum relevant lesson plans and activities are available for parents and teachers.

2.     Support the setup of a recycling program or the rejuvenation of an existing one. Planet Ark’s recycling program guide and bright easy-to-read recycling posters can help raise awareness, particularly for new students.

Over the last few years we’ve all seen the devastating impact extreme weather events, particularly flooding, can have. While sometimes it may seem as if these events are completely out of our control, there are small actions we can all take to make a positive difference. Adjusting our habits now to find ways to reduce, reuse and recycle will help make better use of precious resources and start the new school year in a greener way.


Positive Actions

Pamela Jolly

Pamela is a Marketing Communications professional with over 10 years experience working for both agencies and organisations in communications, travel, finance and retail industries. Pamela loves to be in nature riding a bike, skiing, appreciating the trees at her local park or exploring wild places abroad with her family.

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