Create a Waste-Free Classroom

As you organize the space in your classroom for the new school year, bring in elements that can keep your room cleaner and greener. 

[video] Show your students how to pack a waste-free lunch

Be a Teacher, Coach and a Mentor

It's important for students to see their teacher or instructor model environmentally-friendly behavior. You can teach the entire class how to limit the trash that goes to a landfill. 

You can help your students learn by:

  • Encouraging students to bring in a water bottle to eliminate disposable cups and trips to the water fountain.  
  • Posting conservation signs near disposable items like paper towels and plastic utensils to remind students to use just one or only take what is needed.
  • Keeping an alternative to paper towels to clean up spills like a rag or sponge. Instead of using disinfecting wipes to clean up, fill a bucket with soapy water.
  • Leaving caps on markers when not in use and store colored markers out of the sun, so they will not dry out quickly. 
  • Teaching students to conserve their school supplies by applying glue and tape sparingly. 
  • Recycle paper and empty cans or bottles that are generated in your classrom.

Provide the Right equipment

  • Equip your classroom with many options to sort, collect and store supplies and materials.
  • Place labeled containers in specific locations in the classroom. It can help the class stay organized and reduce loss of materials that would need to be restocked.
  • Provide a container or bin for paper scraps, other reuse materials, recycling, compost and trash. Stress that the trash can is the last possible option to place an unwanted item instead of the first.
  • Create a fix-it center to help students repair supplies. One rip in a piece of paper should be taped, not thrown away. If the students cannot use these repaired materials for class activities, then set up systems to reuse, recycle and compost elsewhere.
  • If your reuse bin is overflowing, encourage students to take materials home for crafts or creative activities. Set up a material swap or idea exchange.


  • Challenge your students to figure out how to not make waste to begin with. If you don't create waste, you don't have to determine what to do with it.
  • Reusing goods and materials helps parents and the school save money on purchasing new supplies.
  • Many school districts do not have recycling service for all of their buildings or may only have bins for paper. If your school does not have access to recycling, get a sturdy box or tote bag for your classroom's mixed recycling. Ask for volunteers to take the recycling home to their curbside bins.
  • If you have a school garden, the class can set up a compost corner to manage. Learn what types or organics belong in the compost bin. If you can't set up a classroom or school compost pile, find a parent volunteer who composts. They may be willing to process the organics (including food, snacks and lunch leftovers) into usable soil.

By demonstrating how your classroom can reduce and reuse throughout the school year, you and your students can be shining examples of a waste-free classroom. Showing the administration that your students are committed to recycling may encourage the school district to provide recycling services for your school.

We love to hear stories from teachers and students about how they accomplished a world (or classroom) without waste. Share your stories with us or request more information a
bout creating a waste-free classroom. Contact our education specialist at (216) 443-3731 or send an email.

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