5 ways to kick off an eco-friendly back to school season

Sep 13 2021, 11:07 am

It’s that time of year again to rise early, grab your backpack, clutch your textbooks, and head to campus for the first classes of the semester.

The beginning of the school year means having a clean slate to put your best foot forward, endless windows for learning, and opportunities to befriend like-minded people.

As climate change remains an ever-looming reality, it’s also an opportunity to re-evaluate your back-to-school habits through an environmentally conscious lens.

Not sure where to start? We have a few ideas that will help make your return to class an eco-friendly one.

Re-think your school supplies

If you’ve never considered the carbon footprint or waste associated with your school supplies, you’re not alone. That said, it’s super simple and worthwhile to swap your usual supplies for ones that are eco-friendly and zero waste.

From natural erasers to recycled binders and plantable pencils, there’s a whole world of green stationery you can tap into.

Recycle your old electronics

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The back-to-school season is a peak time to get a new laptop, phone, webcam, or other electronics — but you may be at a loss as to what to do with your old gadgets. Instead of allowing them to gather dust in a seldom opened drawer — or throwing them out, which can release harmful toxins into the environment — you can just recycle them.

As part of an ongoing program, Return-It Electronics makes it easy to discard unwanted electronics at their many collection sites throughout BC. All you have to do is wipe your devices and drop them off at your nearest contact-free Electronics Depot where they’ll be processed completely free of charge (though a donation is recommended).

From there, your electronics will be processed in a way that adheres to the highest levels of environmental, health, and safety standards. Last year, the program was responsible for collecting over 13,000 tonnes of end-of-life electronics.

Recycling unwanted electronics is crucial for many reasons, and Return-It has a robust process to ensure they are properly handled. This includes disposing of toxic materials, like leaded glass or mercury, in a way that will not contaminate the environment. By smelting any materials that can be reused, metals can be extracted from recycled electronics can be reused in new products — contributing to a circular economy.

If your electronics are still functional, opt to donate instead of recycling. Organizations like BC Technology for Learning Society are always in search of donations in the form of used computers, laptops, monitors, prints, and more which are refurbished by youths who aspire to work in the tech industry, before being given to schools, students, and families who need them.

Pack a lunch

Instead of buying lunch on campus — which often comes in single-use containers or wasteful packaging — consider making an effort to pack a lunch every day (and snacks, don’t forget snacks). It will require a little bit of prep the night before — but on top of helping save the environment, you’ll also save tons of money.

Start by looking up some easy recipes and get chopping. Oh, and remember to use glass Tupperware containers instead of plastic.

Do hands-on volunteer work

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Sometimes, tweaking our lifestyles to be more eco-friendly can feel abstract. The great thing about doing volunteer work is that you get to see the tangible impact it has on your community and the environment.

Local organizations — like Green Chair, Environmental Youth Alliance, UBC Botanical Garden, and many more — offer hands-on experience working within and learning about urban agriculture, environmental stewardship, and biodiversity.

Get environmental with your elective

One of the wonderful things about having an elective class is that you can pick a subject that you’re interested in learning more about, without the pressure of having to study it full time.

If you’re curious to learn more about our beautiful planet, how it works, and how we can better care for it, see what classes your school has available in earth sciences and ecology. After all, the best way to make a difference is by empowering yourself with knowledge.


Do your part to care for the environment and take the time to responsibly recycle your unwanted electronics this school year by visiting return-it.ca/electronics.

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