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45 Sustainable Practices for the Environmentally Friendly Classroom

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Photo of Emma (Teach Starter)
Updated | 9 min read

It’s no secret that teaching the values and principles of sustainability are an integral part of every modern-day classroom. Sustainability activities and sustainable practices that get your students thinking about the planet are a great way to raise awareness of the environment and its needs.

Show your students just how easy a sustainable lifestyle can be with our tips for the classroom.

Once you’ve educated your class on sustainable practices, it’s a great idea to set some goals for your school environment! Having an energy-efficient and waste-wise classroom will go a long way to really embed sustainable thinking in your students’ minds.

Why not download and display our Ways To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint Poster in your classroom, or even customize our Sustainability Footprints Word Wall to keep your students and yourself accountable!

45 Easy Sustainable Practices for the Classroom

Our beautifully designed Sustainability Quote Poster Resource Pack is the perfect resource to get you and your students in a sustainable mindset.

Display them around your classroom or school, and follow these easy to implement steps to do your part for the planet!

Sustainability Quote Posters

Save Energy

While technology certainly has made our lives easier, if not used responsibly it will leave a big carbon footprint on the Earth. Teach your students about energy emissions and then follow up with our Classroom Energy Audit.

In this innovative new resource, students will:

  • observe the lighting, heating and cooling systems, and appliances in your room
  • investigate your room’s electrical usage
  • suggest actions to reduce your energy consumption.

45 Sustainable Practices for-the-Environmentally Friendly Classroom - Energy Audit

Did you remember to switch off the lights? Be a bright spark and switch off the lights in your classroom to really conserve energy.

Manage Your Waste

Waste management is a fantastic way to reduce your classroom’s greenhouse emissions.We have designed some informative Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rethink, and Repair Posters to help you to start a class discussion on how you can limit the day to day waste produced in your classroom.

Sustainability Posters

Boost interest by asking your students to complete a Waste Management Investigation: How Much Do We Throw Away? Create a waste station in your room, accompanied by these friendly critters on our Garbage, Recycle, and Compost posters!

Your students will love our hands on math investigation Mass Math Investigation – How Much Do We Throw Away?

This activity is a particularly good way for middle years students to combine your sustainable efforts in a cross-curricular context.

You may already have a recycling bin for recycling your printing cartridges or paper. For the rest of your deceased school supplies, TerraCycle provides a handy disposal system that allows you to recycle almost any type of waste. Seems silly not to, doesn’t it?

For more information about how to make recycling easy in your classroom, read our blog 10 Nifty Ways to Encourage Recycling in the Classroom.

Re-Purpose Paper

It is near impossible to have a zero waste classroom when things like worksheets and printouts are such an integral part of a teacher’s day to day life. You can get pretty close, however, by being smart about the amount of paper you use.

Here are some ideas about how to reduce your paper use:

  1. Make your students’ journals last longer by organizing loose worksheets into folders.
  2. Make printable worksheets into booklets at the start of the 6 or 9-weeks.
  3. Create a scrap paper drawer.
  4. Shred your paper for craft activities, such as Paper Mache, or donate it to your local animal shelter for animal bedding.
  5. Use Recycled Paper Bead Kits. Once you have enough, use the beads as counters, or create some beautiful visual art pieces! Or even use them in our Patterns Math Investigation – Bands of Friendship.

Here at Teach Starter, we are committed to reducing our paper waste and helping the environment in whatever way we can. We’re going to plant one million trees! Teach Starter has pledged to plant one million trees by 2033 with our One Million Trees Project by planting a tree for every person who subscribes to Teach Starter. If you haven’t already, head on over to our subscription plans page and help us out on this environmental initiative.

sustainable practices - paper beads

Be Fussy with Food and Water

A waste station set-up in the classroom wouldn’t be complete without a compost bin.

Use the natural scraps from your students’ lunches to create compost to nourish your school’s gardens, or find out if there’s a community garden nearby that would take it off your hands!

Put up our informative Compost Bin Needs Poster to make sure you’re doing things right and make sure you teach your class the importance of hygiene and washing their hands.

If your school is lucky enough to have a chicken coop they would be the perfect place to take your unwanted food scraps. They may pay you back with some lovely eggs!

Just remember to be careful and check what exactly you’re allowed to give chickens before you set this system up.

And where would we be without water?

Explore the importance of water with our Water Is Life Resource Pack, before implementing some changes straight away in your classroom.

You’ll have your students turning off the taps, reporting leaks, and flushing with a half flush in no time! Don’t forget to empty your drink bottles into the garden at the end of the day to make the most of every drop!

Get Crafty

It’s no secret that teachers are top of the class when it comes to re-purposing used items in the name of art and craft. When you put your mind to it, it’s easy to find dozens of ways to make sure your art supplies are as environmentally friendly as possible.

Here are a just a few easy to follow sustainable practices for the art cupboard:

  • Up-cycle trash to create models, artworks, displays, or even educational tools. Use our 12-Hour Clock Template, some brass brads, and some paper plates to easily create this paper plate clock with your class.
    45 Sustainable Practices for the Environmentally Friendly Classroom - Paper Plate Clock
  • Swap plastic cups and straws for paper ones. Do an exSTRAWdinary thing for the environment, and switch to biodegradable or paper straws for your craft activities.
  • Use environmentally friendly craft supplies. Keep nasty chemicals out of our environment.
  • Better yet, make your own paint from old items! This recipe for turning old, tired felt pens into homemade watercolor paint is a great way to get the most out of your school supplies before you chuck it in the TerraCycle box. You can wash and use old yogurt containers and egg cartons for paint pots to make painting even more environmentally friendly.
  • See if your community has access to a recycling center that offers educational experiences.

Sustainable Classroom Practices - Upcycled Art

Sustainable Classroom Supplies

You’ve probably invested a lot of time and money at the start of every school year purchasing new pencil holders, butcher paper, whiteboard markers, and other miscellaneous classroom items. Save yourself and the environment, and think smarter about your classroom supplies.

Use Fabric to Back Your Displays

This is a terrific way to keep your classroom visually fresh without wasting butcher paper. You can usually find an amazing array of patterned materials at a fabric shop, or if you’re after a more simple canvas grab a large flat bed sheet for cheap from your local second-hand store.

45 Sustainable Practices for the Environmentally Friendly Classroom - Fabric Display

Refillable Whiteboard Markers That Work!

When I was teaching, I was always looking for a whiteboard marker that worked. It seemed that there were markers, markers everywhere, but not a drop of ink! I hated the thought of throwing away so much plastic each semester. Then I discovered these refillable whiteboard markers from AusPen and my life was changed forever. They even use recycled plastic for the pens and double sided nibs for when they’re getting a bit sad and tired.

Why not be even more thrifty with refillable pens and highlighters?

Personal Touch Pencil Holders

Pencil holders are another necessity that can do their part for the environment.

Sterilize and repurpose milk cartons or tin cans for pencil holders. Get your students to decorate them for a fun beginning-of-year activity as a way for them to put their own personal touch on the classroom. Make a note to check the cans for sharp edges before handing them over to their designers!


Every Little Bit Counts

Even the smallest of items can be put to good use.

Bottle tops can be made into personalized game pieces, use magazine images for classroom displays, and cut paper towel holders in half for tubes to hold charging cables.

45 Sustainable Practices for the Environmentally Friendly Classroom - Bottle Top Counters


Reach Out To Your Community

If your school community is anything like mine was, there will always be an abundance of parents putting their hands up to help out. Why not ask them to scavenge around at home and donate anything that could be useful in your classroom?

Pre-loved books are a great way to flesh out your school library, and un-used costumes and clothes (washed of course!) are wonderful for any PK or Kinder classroom’s dress up corner.

Here are some other second-hand items that you would find make invaluable contributions to your room:

  • furniture
  • old technology, such as telephones, typewriters, and record players
  • used board games and puzzles
  • cooking utensils
  • toys
  • cushions (again, washed!)
  • art and craft paper and cardboard for modeling and craft work
  • to-go containers, old paper ream boxes, and Pringles jars to store equipment.

Trash can truly become treasure! Old items from home make a great source of evidence for a Past and Present unit of inquiry.

Be careful that you are very specific about your requirements when requesting these items from parents. You don’t want to become the local second-hand drop off store! Try to make sure you have a purpose for everything that gets brought in – parents love to see when something they’ve contributed has been put to good use. And don’t forget to ask them for suggestions – they may have something that you’ve not even considered yet!

Lunch Time Audit

Though it may not technically be in the ‘classroom’, a student’s lunchbox is another area where a few small changes can make a big difference.

You’ve heard of lunchbox audits that uncover the nutritional value of your lunchbox, but what about the environmentally friendly value?

Student Lunch Box Audit

A lunchbox audit can help your students take action from the classroom to their homes, and open up a discussion about sustainability with their parents that can further cement their learning. Check out our Student Lunch Box Audit Worksheet.

Use the information from a lunchtime audit to work out how much waste your students’ lunches produce in a week, a semester, and even a year!

Some tips for a sustainable lunchbox to take from this activity include:

  • Use re-usable packaging, such as beeswax lunch wraps, reusable pouches, and fabric lunch baggies.
  • Eat more fruit and vegetables, and food that doesn’t require packaging.
  • Fill small containers repeatedly with snacks from larger packets.
  • Use a re-usable lunchbox with compartments to prevent cross-food contamination.
  • Re-use glad wrap and foil when possible.
  • Have a Nude Food Day where the objective is for your class to have a completely waste free lunchbox for a day.
  • Use re-usable cutlery sets.

Why not extend your lunchtime waste saving to the teacher’s lounge or the school cafeteria?

Encourage the use of recyclable or compostable packaging for food containers and bamboo utensils. Help your school research the possibility of sourcing it’s food from local suppliers to reduce the food miles of their products, and don’t forget that compost bin!

Beyond the Classroom…

At Teach Starter HQ, we are incredibly passionate about sustainability and have made some simple changes to ensure that our office is energy efficient and has reduced as much waste as possible. Having communal keep cups available for the lunchtime coffee run, handy detailed posters to remind people to dispose of waste thoughtfully, timed lights and air conditioning, and office waste recycling stations are just a few of the things that your school office can implement to encourage a more sustainable school environment.

There are infinite ways you can make sustainable practices a priority in your classroom.

Try some of our ideas and let us know how they work for you!


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