Topic: Back to School 2008
Date: August 22, 2008
Sound of Middle School Students at Lunch
Lena Kim: All good things must come to an end. And for more than 60 million children in the United States that includes their summer vacation.
Hi, I'm Lena Kim of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's mid-Atlantic region. Welcome to Environment Matters, our new series of podcasts. As August fades into September, the need for school supplies will reach full tilt. With that in mind, the EPA has some timely tips that can help save you money as well as reduce waste. Here to discuss those tips with us is Maryann Helferty, a pollution prevention expert with EPA's mid-Atlantic region. Maryann, what are some basic tips people should remember when shopping for back to school supplies?
Maryann Helferty: Before starting a new school year, parents and children can sort through the materials from the year before. Many supplies can be reused or recycled. Notebooks, folders and binders are good examples of supplies that can be reused. Pens and pencils or other items that have a long shelf life and can be reused. Sharing used books with friends, relatives or siblings is another great way to help reduce waste and save a little money.
Lena Kim: It sounds like what you're saying is you can take care half of your shopping before even leaving the house. Now Maryann, in the event that families must buy new supplies, do you have any advice for them?
Maryann Helferty: Yes. When choosing new supplies it helps to purchase products made from recycled materials. These products range from pencils that are made from old blue jeans, binders made from shipping boxes and paper made from various types of recycled paper products. It also helps to buy items that can be reused such as refillable pens and rechargeable batteries. Sturdy backpacks and notebooks are also encouraged. They can withstand multiple years of use and help reduce the amount of broken items thrown into the garbage.
Lena Kim: How can educators get involved?
Maryann Helferty: I would encourage principals to create a green culture at their school. Announce a green treasure hunt when teachers send out their supply list for the new year. The class with the highest number of reused or reclaimed items gets a special prize.
Lena Kim: Are there any brands or types of products you would recommend?
Maryann Helferty: EPA does not recommend any particular brand or product but we do encourage consumers to buy products wrapped with a minimum of packaging. Waste from packaging accounts for more than 30 percent of all the waste generated each year. Buying items in bulk is another way to help save energy and protect land and water from pollution. EPA also encourages the purchase of non-toxic products. Batteries with less mercury, vegetable-based inks and water-base paints are better for the environment.
Lena Kim: Are there any other areas where children and parents can reduce waste and save a little money?
Maryann Helferty: School lunch is another time where families can waste less and save more. If children bring their lunch to school, pack it in reusable containers rather than disposal ones. Buying kids a lunchbox or reusable plastic or perhaps a cloth bag is also helpful. If children buy their lunch in school, remind them to take and use only what they need when it comes to napkins, ketchup, silverware and other supplies. If your family follows some of these tips, you can play a large part in wasting less and saving more. This sets a good example for future generations.
Lena Kim: Those are some great tips for going green as we go back to school. As you get ready to go back to school explore carpooling and public transit. And remember kids can walk or bike to school. They get healthy exercise and our air gets healthy too. For more information about this topic, visit our website at www.epa.gov/region3.
Closing music begins
Thanks for joining us on Environment Matters, EPA's new series of podcasts.
As closing music fades, 8th grader says "You done with those fries? Pass 'em over."