Back in my Near-O Waste Classroom

I just began my thirteenth year of teaching kindergarten and first grade! I’m feeling pretty experienced by now, but as a *Near-O Waste* teacher, I’m still a newbie. After evaluating last year’s green attempts in my classroom, and adjusting the new year according to my successes and failures, I’m ready to rock!

Task #1: marking book pages

  • Before Near-O my students used post-its (several per week, per student) to keep their places in their workbooks.
  • Last year they used cardboard bookmarks made from cracker and marker boxes. Much greener, but not at all sticky.
  • This year I’m going back to post-its. They’re just too effective. I will however encourage students to see how long they can make each one last and I’ll be using the recycled variety.

Task #2: Covering my bulletin board

  • Before Near-O I used bulletin board paper.
  • Last year I used maps from our latest road trip.
  • This year I recycled the distressed maps and dug up the ones my husband and I used on our honeymoon.


Task #3: Building a number wall and keeping track of work groups

  • Before Near-O I used regular post-its for the number wall (one post-it numbered per day to keep track of the days in school) and new post-its almost every day to keep track of my student centers.
  • Last year I used regular post-its for the number wall, but made the same three post-its last all year for student groups by writing their names on movable sticky tags and moving those between the post-its.
  • This year I’m using post-its made with recycled paper across the board and sticking with my three-post-it-per-year max for arranging groups.


Task #4: Distributing writing utensils

  • Before Near-O each student had a plastic (eek!) pencil box.
  • Last year I used fabric bags. The downside? Marker stains were a pain to wash out.
  • This year I’m using communal containers at each table, filled with last year’s markers and crayons (a first for me) and compostable newspaper pencils instead of mechanical pencils, which were good in theory, but essentially useless because replacement erasers weren’t available. I also have wooden pencil sharpeners that my students use to sharpen their own pencils!

Task #5: Displaying my name at school functions

  • Before Near-O I used sticker name tags.
  • Last year I used a homemade, self clinging, felt-and-puff-paint name tag.
  • This year it’s pinned to my bulletin board for whenever I need it.


Task #6: Avoiding Paper

  • Before Near-O I used the printer *a lot*.
  • Last year I avoided it as much as possible, but I felt the loss of some of my regular (printable) activities.
  • This year I’m negating all the trees I’ve saved in the last two years by printing a two-foot tall stack of papers to get me through May. My papers are tucked away in an organized system of folders (one for each day, containing everything I’ll need for that day; filed in advance). Although I’ll be using a lot of paper in the classroom, I will continue to communicate with parents and send homework via email.

Task #7: Compiling student work

  • Before Near-O I sent random papers home almost daily in student cubbies. Then I became a parent myself and grew to dread the daily influx of loose papers.
  • Last year I kept students’ work in recycled binders (portfolios). I liked the quality of the binders and the purpose behind them, but I was annoyed that my son’s didn’t fit in his memory box.
  • This year I’m compiling student work again, but in thinner folders with brads.

Task #8: Erasing the whiteboard

  • Before Near-O I used a standard whiteboard eraser.
  • Last year I didn’t buy a new one, and continued to use the old one, but it was layered with so much marker residue that it streaked my board.
  • This year I’m wiping my board with a washable rag. (I couldn’t justify refillable whiteboard markers given the cost and uncertainty about how the tips would hold up over time.)


Task #9: Have a lovely year! 

Fellow teachers: how are you recycling, repurposing, rethinking, and avoiding waste in your classroom this year?  








4 thoughts on “Back in my Near-O Waste Classroom

  1. Katy SkipTheBag September 13, 2016 / 1:12 pm

    Awesome ideas. The only thing I can think of is do the kids need an entire post it? I’ve cut mine into little strips before. That may allow them to use “one” post it 3 or 4 times longer.
    Thanks for posting this. It’s interesting to see how other professions can have a lower impact on the environment! Keep up the great work!


    • Near-O Waste September 13, 2016 / 5:08 pm

      Great idea!!! I’ll put it into action today 🙂 Thank you.


  2. Nadine September 17, 2016 / 10:10 pm

    Happy Back to School, Andrea! I can’t wait to have my own classroom to zero/nearo waste it up. I’m in my third year of teaching and have been on temp contracts, so I’m in other teachers’ spaces. I find it hard to change it the way I want to. Regardless, I compost, recycle, reuse wherever we can, and teach students environmental responsibility, also remembering to praise them when I see them practicing it!


  3. Near-O Waste September 19, 2016 / 11:27 pm

    Sounds like you’re doing an awesome job, Nadine! I think pointing out when you notice efforts and asking students reflective questions to get them thinking about what they can do/changes they can make is powerful. I hope you get your own space very soon!! 🙂


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