Sunday, August 24, 2008

Back to School Challenge: be an advocate for change

Whether you're the mother of a preschooler or a high schooler or taking a Spanish class at night, practice moderation and give voice to better world practices when it comes to school.

I found my son's supply list pretty standard, the usual notebooks (though I missed Whole Foods big sale on 100% recycled paper notebooks), scissors, glue sticks.

However, I was shocked when I read that it listed 4 dozen pencils. 48 pencils which add up to almost 1,000 pencils per classroom if every 2nd grade parent follows the list. I thought it was a misprint, but when I called, the school secretary confirmed the amount. Who decides on the list, I asked. Collectively all the teachers do, she informed me. Though I was tempted to make an angry phonecall about deforestation concerns, I used my better judgment and will wait for the dust to settle (I was a teacher myself once).

The only guess I can make on why a classroom would need this many pencils is that I think many of us still have the disposable "I can just buy another one" mindset. (But really, 960 pencils?) So I bought one box of 12 FSC certified pencils, along with the twelve we gathered from various junk drawers around the house, and hope that will last. Given the current economy and the current necessity to be more sustainable in America, this type of shift in consciousness must take place on a wide scale.

I urge you to make your voice of moderation and wise-buying heard at your son or daughter's school this year.

First, let me go off-topic for a confession: pre-Betty, pre-no buying pledge my attitude about sunglasses, goggles and other popular one season items was why buy expensive ones when I'm just going to lose them? (My reputation proceeds me) The draw of cheap stores like Old Navy and Walmart or Target can be difficult to pass up.

But it is amazing what can happen when you consciously set an intention in your life. This one-year no new purchase buying pledge has helped me shed my disposable mindset and embrace the finer art of "keep your things nice." I still have my sunglasses from last year. And I was pleasantly surprised that my kids have made it all three months, swim practices, and pool visits, and even an away trip to Grandma and Grandpa's community pool, and they still have their swim goggles, unbroken! When we purchased these in May I told them, "These are it, guys! Keep track of them." So we brainstormed together the best way to do that. They decided putting them back in the same place every time would do the trick. Still going strong. I feel like I'm also more careful with my things, knowing I'm not going to rush out to buy a new one (thus sending my jeans in for "denim therapy" see previous blog, which by the way came back. They are good as new!)

So this school year, be an advocate for moderation and better practices. Here are just a few ideas:

*Buy the recycled paper tissues for the class.
*Encourage reuse of school supplies.
*Bring cloth napkins in for the next class party.
*If you don't see a recycle bin within easy reach, volunteer to bring one in. (All County Schools have paper recycling, plastic 1s, 2s, cardboard, and aluminum)
*If you see excess, ask questions and share your desire to see a "less is more" attitude
*If your school is using all disposables for school lunches, question the principal and the head cafeteria director.


No comments: