Classroom Waste: How do we limit it?

One of the spaces in my life that I am most wasteful is definitely the classroom. I’m sure many other teachers feel the exact same way, but being in rural Alaska adds a unique element to the wastefulness of schools. We simply do not have the ability to recycle. In fact, all of the trash in my village just goes into a big metal bin that someone occasionally lights on fire. Much of the trash ends up blowing around on the tundra.

As a teacher, I am constantly making copies of things. Worksheets, tests, activities, you name it. My trashcan ends up overflowing with garbage. Because of this gross amount of waste, I’d really like to find ways to reduce trash in the classroom this year. I’m not 100% sure how I am going to do this, but I’m hoping that I can spend this summer and the time leading up to the new school year researching ways to lessen my waste.

I’m sure my students would love it if I gave them fewer worksheets, and I do actually have them do a LOT of center work and technology-based learning that doesn’t involve any paper. Let’s be real though – I teach kindergarten through 6th grade in a teeny classroom. Somedays I just need worksheets to keep my students who are working independently busy. Independent work is a huge part of my classroom set-up because of the wide gap in grade levels, and worksheets/workbooks tend to be a part of that.

I’m open to suggestions on how to limit my use of paper. I’ve been considering laminating more of my supplies to allow students to reuse worksheets from year to year. However, then I have to look seriously at laminating paper and the cost/waste involved in that. I’d love to hear other ideas that some of you might have though, so feel free to send me some!