Yes! The average American student tosses 67 pounds of food packaging at school annually. Half the kids who live less than a mile away from school get driven every morning, and if a measly 6% of them walked, it’d save 60,000 gallons of fuel a year.
Those are just a few of the alarming facts Column Five Media spells out in this handy-dandy infographic on schools and environmental waste. (You didn’t think we were suggesting school is a waste of time, did you?)
It’s pretty topical stuff. The new academic year draws nigh, and with it back-to-school shopping — the good part about hitting the books, right? Not so fast. As the graphic points out, 48% of shoppers plan to spend $250 or more on new school gear, and 25% plan to blow $500 or more. Supplies like notepads, pencils, and other paper products top the list of items folks expect to snap up.
Seems innocent enough, except consider this: 35–45% of trash in the solid waste stream comes from businesses and institutions, like schools. Of that share, 40% of the waste stream is composed of — you guessed it — paper products. A few new notebooks, of course, aren’t going to trigger an all-out eco-apocalypse, but if they wind up in a landfill, they don’t exactly help matters, either. So while back-to-school shopping is fun for kids and maybe even parents, it isn’t terribly fun for Mother Earth.
Luckily, it’s not all gloom and doom. Column Five Media includes six tips on returning to the classroom freshly versed in the ways of environmentally conscious shopping: “Buy notebooks with recycled, 30 percent post-consumer paper”; “donate old textbooks”; “resist buying new outfits and re-appropriate old ones,” and so on.
Unrealistic? Maybe. I’m thinking mostly about that last one. Short of eliminating peer pressure, the cynicism of the fashion industry, and, well, America’s entire culture of conspicuous consumption, kids will continue to show up on the first day of school in hep new threads. It’s practically their summer homework assignment. But hey, we’re sure they’d happily donate their textbooks, old or new.
Click here to see the infographic in its entirety.