10 ways to go back to school sustainably

We're going back to school - here's how we can  do it as sustainably as possible.

There's a lot you can do to make a difference, set a good example and teach good life skills at the same time.

Aviation teacher Chris shows a flight simulator to two Brentwood Secondary College students
 1. Get the school community involved

Join Sustainability Victoria's ResourceSmart Schools program. It's a step-by-step program designed to include sustainability into the school curriculum. More than 500 schools are involved, so get on board today.

See: ResourceSmart Schools

2. Make lunch environmentally-friendly

  • Get the kids to make their own lunch. Use containers suited to "nude food" which doesn't have plastic or aluminium foil wrapping. If you do need to wrap, reusable beeswax wraps are a great alternative to plastic. You can do a course on making beeswax wraps at your local neighbourhood house or community arts centre.
  • Freeze water bottles to keep lunches fresh in summer. Some people use a thermos as a year-round way to keep liquids (like drinks and yogurt which you can decant from a larger container) at a constant temperature.
  • Encourage your students to use the school's compost bins or bring home their scraps for yours.

3. Make your own snacks

Despite what they say, many kids have plenty of time on their hands. Teach them to make their own muesli bars and other snacks. Be patient - it's a life skill that really pays off.

4. Get more value out of dinner

Use last night's leftovers in exciting ways for school lunches. See recipe ideas at: Love Food Hate Waste

5. Bring your own cup

Did you know that takeaway coffee cups are not recyclable? A KeepCup is a good investment if your teenagers buy a cuppa before or after school. Some coffee shops give you a discount for bringing your own cup.

6. Get more out of old stationery

Save money by digging out pens, pencils and other consumables from drawers, cupboards and bags rather than buying new ones. Many stationery makers have a range of notebooks made from recycled paper. Greencollect at Braybrook sells recycled stationery and excess office supplies from businesses. See: Greencollect

7. Reuse and recycle books and uniforms

Most schools have secondhand book and uniform shops, but it's also worth trying your local op shop. Many high school English and literature books are available free on Kindle. For other subjects, ask teachers about difference between this year's version of a textbook compared with previous years - you might be able to pick up an older secondhand book for a lower price.

8. Give a new life to a pre-loved instrument

Music teachers are a great resource to connect an instrument sitting unused on a bedroom shelf with a student. You can often get a better quality instrument this way, rather than paying more for a new one.

9. Ditch the car

Walking or riding to school saves fuel, reduces vehicle pollution and traffic jams. Plus, it's a great way to stay fit. Park a short distance from the school and walk with the kids – you can use it as an opportunity to teach road rules. Public transport is another option - catch a bus, tram or train to school.

10. Build a sustainable study space

Buying a desk, bookcase or filing cabinet? Secondhand office furniture shops often have modern goods at a much better price than brand new, and they will last a long time. Plus, you're preventing unnecessary landfill and getting the most out of existing resources.

For more  tips and stories about sustainable living, see Sustainability Victoria