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Back-to-School Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Prevent waste and save money this school shopping season.

August 6, 2011

As some households gear up for back-to-school, they might be thinking of the three Rs as reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic. For this August, I ask that we re-frame the back-to-school mindset with the three Rs of reduce, reuse and recycle.

For families with children going to school, or adults taking classes, getting prepared and buying supplies (sometimes WAY too many supplies) is part of the routine in August. Please take a moment to examine the following tips for a more earth-friendly approach.

Step 1: Take inventory of what you actually possess. Often, the supplies we have can be used again. Is there still life in that backpack, pencil case, or lunch bag? Did you only use 1/3 of that notebook last year? Do you have enough pens/pencils/crayons/glue or do you really need to buy more? If you do need more, is it necessary to get the package of 50 disposable pens or can you switch to three pens with re-fillable ink?

Step 2: Make a list of those items that you really need to get, i.e., the things you can’t start class without. You can always supplement later as you identify needs.

Step 3: Buy only what you need and be mindful about what you are putting in your cart. When possible, purchase items made from recycled materials—preferably post-consumer recycled. By buying recycled products, you are sending a message that you care about what the products are made of. The more people that buy recycled-product items, the greater the demand is and the more items companies will make from recycled materials! Even big-box stores sell paper, pencils, notebooks, binders and more made from recycled content if you look. Of course, remember to bring your re-usable shopping bag into the store!

The summer is a great time to get supplies for bringing your own lunch, whether to school or work. Don’t “brown bag” it! If you’re bringing your lunch, invest in a high-quality insulated lunch bag that you will want to bring with you. Insulated lunch bags come in many fun and interesting styles and designs these days.

If you’re using disposable plastic bags, now is the time to get reusable containers (metal, glass, or BPA-free plastic) or reusable bags. My family uses reusable sandwich and snack bags by brands such as Reuseit, LunchSkins, SnackTAXI, and Waste Not Saks. They are easy to wash and have proven to be incredibly durable after years of use.

Finally, if you do have any supplies that can’t be re-used, do your best to recycle them! By being mindful about your back-to-school shopping, you can do your little part to help the environment.

Submitted by Nadine Kadell Sapirman

How To Clean A Teenagers Room Without Calling a HAZMAT Crew

We all know that the easiest way to avoid cleaning your teenagers room is to simply keep the door shut, put a “caution do not enter” sign on their door, and walk away. I know that getting your teenager to do it themselves is a never ending battle of rants: “I LIKE MY ROOM LIKE THIS!” and our passed down from generations reply: “IF YOU DON’T DO IT, I’LL DO IT FOR YOU!” Well, from my own personal experience my Dad DID clean my room for me, but in a not so pleasantly accepted way…let’s just say the front of my house looked like someone got evicted by the local Sheriffs, and that someone was me! But my room was clean! In this day and age our only possible saving grace is to wait until that inevitable day when they move out! College, a great job offer, rooming with their friends, whatever the occasion for them to fly out of the nest and test their independence has arrived, and now you remove the caution sign from their door and prepare to enter a room that would make Oscar Madison look like Mr. Clean.

How to start the “Decon”:

First off, be prepared to wear thick rubber gloves, old shoes that you don’t care if they get ruined, old work clothes, plastic eye protection and an inexpensive dust mask. There is most probably going to be layers of thick dust, cobwebs, and science experiments growing a muck, so it does pay to be ready for anything. Be sure to bring PLENTY of 30 gallon trash bags, large plastic storage bins, and have your all natural cleaning solutions pre- mixed and ready for battle.

1) OPEN the windows and air out the room. It’s best if weather permits to leave the windows open during the cleaning process if you can, but you can leave them open for at least 15 minutes if it’s cold outside.

2) Take everything that’s not nailed down from the room and put it in one location, if weather permits outside on a back porch or your garage. Remove everything from drawers, the closet, under the bed, the desk, the floor and walls. The only thing that should remain in the room is the actual furniture, but if the room is becoming your new office or a “man cave” then remove that too.

3) Set up your storage containers by labeling as follows: “keep,” “donate” and “mystery.” Trash anything that’s broken, give away anything in fairly good condition that they don’t use or aren’t likely to use, keep things they may want to keep, and put anything that you’re unsure about in the “mystery” box. This should make the process go faster, and decisions should be the responsibility of your teenager when they come back home for their first visit. After that the “mystery” box becomes a “donate” box.

4) Clean the room while most everything is out of the way. Look under the bed, in the closet and dresser drawers for dirty dishes, empty food wrappers and rotting and dried food that may be causing unpleasant odors so you can throw them away. Dust, wash down the walls and the furniture, clean the fixtures, windows, baseboards, and always vacuum last. If the carpets are stained beyond recognition you might want to save that for the professionals and have it steam cleaned, but do that only after you have patched and repainted the walls.

What to do with the “new” space

The realization is that you most probably will not do anything to their room until you know for sure that your young adult will not be coming back home permanently. When you know this for certain, then you need to make the decision as to what you can do with this new space. A guest room? Media room? Home office? Ultimately the decision will be yours to make, so enjoy it!

Article credit: Teresa Ward, President of Teresa’s Family Cleaning and New York State’s Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year, is often considered Long Island’s foremost authority on cleaning homes and businesses to create a cleaner and healthier environment for all. Her highly sought after, award winning weekly newsletter provides timely cleaning tips and other important Long Island information and charitable events for homeowners, businesses and not-for-profits. Click here to sign up and receive your copy today!