To put it in the truest and most corny terms possible, reusing is rad. It’s also necessary. Around 90% of plastic is never recycled, and much of this waste ends up in oceans and pollutes other key ecosystems. This is a sure sign that we need to devote more energy to reducing single-use plastic and improving recycling systems worldwide. At the same time, it suggests that we might be better off trying to reduce the amount of material we have to recycle altogether.
Enter reusable items. If you’ve strolled around a university campus recently, you’ve probably seen students waiting in a cafe line with their KeepCups, or eating lunch on the grass out of a container they’ve brought from home. Why should schools take special note of this? Because reusable items can also be used to teach younger students about the environment, an educational endeavor near and dear to many of our hearts.
As the reasons you’re about to read suggest, embracing reusable items is a habit best formed early. As a learning institution, you can give young kids a helpful nudge in the direction of sustainable essentials which will last them, well, perhaps not a lifetime, but at least a few good years! Schools can help reduce waste both directly, by encouraging students to reuse, and indirectly, by instilling pro-environmental behavior in groups and individuals using their social influence.
Start Early, Save More
The environmental value of reusables is immense—so why wait? If a six-year-old starts bringing a bamboo lunchbox and cloth napkin to school, they’ll already have saved tons of plastic bags and paper by the end of the year. Think of their eco-savings by the time they reach adulthood.
Sociologists in sustainable development tell us that acting in the interest of the environment is not simply a matter of individual choice; our behaviors are instead dependent on social practices, routines and the meanings we give them. Schools have a responsibility to educate for sustainability in their formal curricula, but the practices they encourage—like taking advantage of reusable products—can help in another way by shaping the cultural norms students will respect. It’s not too late to plan for a better future…
Encourage Good Saving and Spending Habits
Parents are likely to be enthused by the financial gains they can make by investing in a high-quality item once and cutting the persistent single-use expenses. There’s no reason children can’t also appreciate smart consumer choices.
To illustrate this, you can do a simple activity with them: determine a likely price for a bottle of water (perhaps the cost of one from their school’s vending machine or a local supermarket) and have them calculate how many water bottles they could afford to purchase before investing in a reusable version becomes worth their while. They’ll also be able to determine how much they save in a month with their reusable bottle, compared to buying single-use plastic bottles every day. Whenever they head to the fountain for a refill, they’ll do so with the knowledge that they’re saving both natural resources and their parents’ wallets.
Thinking more broadly for a moment, consumption in high-income countries has gone off the rails, burning through more resources than our planet can provide. Now is a great time to instill eco-friendly habits in children’s daily routines so that they become conscious of their consumption. With this knowledge base, they can go on to make responsible choices that they and their parents are proud of. Heck, they might even teach their parents a thing or two.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Using eco-friendly products isn’t just about the savings or the reduced environmental impact. It’s also a day-to-day reminder to think about bigger issues. For those of us fortunate enough to live in areas sheltered from the worst effects of climate change, the crisis can occasionally slip out of sight and out of mind. Reusable products we rely on regularly can serve as little cues to remember. For instance, reusable food containers could spark a discussion on the ways food itself is sourced, while a fairtrade cotton bag might steer one’s thoughts towards the textile industry and its sustainability challenges.
Visual Learning Tools
This also plays into the aesthetic of promotional eco-products. You probably know the look: earthy, lots of wood, branding that makes it abundantly clear that the product is environmentally friendly with a capital E. Some may consider this a gimmick, but the effort to give visibility to reusable materials and weave them into a lifestyle people can embrace isn’t necessarily a bad move, especially if you teach kids about the root environmental challenges that make these products necessary. In that sense, it’s another visual learning tool.
So, as a school, what can you do to help? Ideally, bestowing your primary school students with branded reusable items as a gift would be a strong signal that you’re committed to caring for the environment. However, if you’re looking for a more focused way to instill this in kids while teaching them about the environment and sustainability, you can turn to prizes and giveaway challenges.
A recycling challenge, a competition upcycling clothes, an art contest in which students paint an old object to give it new life: these are just some of the ways you could get your students thinking more about this very important subject. And what better prize to give them than a reusable essential that will serve them far beyond their primary school years. It’s your chance as a school to contribute to the reduction of waste, directly and indirectly, by ensuring the baton of planetary care is safely passed to the next generation.
It’s no secret what our products at eco-reusable are all about: promotional reusable items, made from sustainable materials like bamboo and engraved with your logo. You can browse the whole collection, ranging from tumblers to classic board games, by clicking the button below.