The Zero Waste School Shopping List By Ratika Deshpande


As much as I loved going to school – to learn, to laugh with friends, to grow and achieve – it was hard not to notice all the trash that the students and staff were producing every day. From plastic notebook covers and use-and-throw pens to disposable plates and spoons in the school canteen, plastic was everywhere.

Although I’m out of school now, I make sure my little sister makes sustainable choices so that she can reduce her waste at school. I strongly believe one of the best ways to build a plastic-free and zero-waste future is to inculcate sustainable values in our kids. What better place to start than the school!

Here are some ways to make the next school year plastic-free and zero-waste:

Buy second-hand textbooks
Not only are second-hand textbooks cheaper but they also help to reduce your carbon footprint in the long run. Even though many publishers have switched to using sugarcane pulp for making paper, the entire process of writing, printing and selling a book creates pollution on a huge scale. Switching to used textbooks can drastically reduce your carbon footprint. Also, when you are done with the textbook, you can pass it forward to your juniors!

Use colored pencils instead of highlighters
Colored pencils are a great substitute for highlighters made of plastic. They last very long and are cheaper. Plus they come in more colors. You can also resort to the good ol’ pencil if you like. Don’t forget to compost the shavings!

Use one-side-used papers
Make use of one-side-used-papers for doing practice tests, solving math problems or planning out your classes. Use them to print out any pictures for school projects. You can even make a notebook out of these by simply binding them together with a needle and thread.

Use Paperclips
Instead of stapling every piece of paper you come across, use paperclips. Not only are these cheap, but they can also be reused, and hold together more papers than stapler pins do.

Collect your stapler pins
If you do use stapler pin (or have used them in the past), collect them all in a bowl or a jar so that you can hand them over to the recycler. Individual pins cannot be recycled and often end up in the landfill.

Go for refillable pens
Instead of using use-and-throw pens, buy pens that can be refilled. Although most refills are made of plastic, they still produce less waste than a whole new pen. You can also make the switch to fountain pens that can last a lifetime if used properly. Plus the ink comes in glass bottles!


Meet the Staff

Ratika Deshpande lives in New Delhi, India. She strongly believes in empowering people to do their part in protecting the environment. When not working with her clients, she can be found writing on her blog, reading big books and digging through the archives of TED.