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Reducing Waste as Special Education Professionals

Kate Lamb

Check out her blog at http://www.towardzerowaste.com


Environmental toxins such as mercury, lead and phthalates cause developmental delays but, as special education professionals, we often forget that toxin exposure is the reason why many students need our services. A strong argument can be made that we have an ethical obligation to them and their families to reduce our demand for products responsible for such harm. One easy way to reduce our potential harm is by wasting less.

The key to reducing waste is to first refuse what we don’t need, then reduce how much we do, reuse what is already available and last, recycle (including compost) the rest. If followed in this order, the amount of waste in our trash and recycle bins will be much less. In fact, these four steps are how I have reduced my waste as a speech-language pathologist to less than 1 teaspoon per month.

Here are 4 easy ways to start wasting less!

    • Paperwork:

When it’s not possible to go paperless, consider shrinking page margins, shrinking font size, printing multiple pages per page and/or printing on both sides of the paper to significantly reduce paper and ink use.

    • Laminating:

Before permanently coating an item in plastic, consider how long it will be used, what purpose laminating will serve and whether there is a suitable alternative. Possible alternatives include reusable sheet protectors, name tag holders, picture frames, compostable cellulose tape, and printing on thick card stock instead of regular paper.

    • Classroom/Therapy Room Supplies:

When acquiring supplies, prioritize used over new, non-plastic over plastic, and reusable over disposable. For example, buy wood pencils instead of disposable mechanical ones, cardboard folders instead of plastic, colored pencils instead of gel pens, and refillable whiteboard markers instead of disposables.

    • Materials & Equipment:

Ask colleagues, search local libraries (not just for books, but for toys, tools, assistive technology, augmentative communication devices, etc.), check special education vendors for trial or loan programs and browse online resale/swap groups dedicated to professionals in your particular field before buying new materials or equipment.