What a year! Time to pack up your classroom and prepare for a well-deserved summer of rest and new year ahead. With all the “stuff” we touch day-to-day and at school, cleaning out can seem like a tall task, and one that sends a lot of that “stuff” to the trash.

You’re in the right place! Tidying doesn’t have to mean bags of disposable cleaning supplies and items thrown away. Here are some zero waste ways to cross this yearly task off the list for a peaceful, clutter-free summer and a fresh start come back-to-school season.

Recycle used paper. Paper, paper, paper. While so many aspects of our lives have been digitized, sheets of paper are everywhere in the form of worksheets, scrap notes, book pages, and flyers. For all the paper we use, a lot of it is recyclable and can be recycled into new paper, so get your waste paper ready to recycle to reduce landfill waste and save some trees!

Most uncoated paper is recyclable through local programs. Call or email your school’s municipality to confirm what they accept (your administrators may know this), and haul your reams of graded workbooks and quizzes to the drop-off. Satisfying!

Clean chemical-free. Sticky hands, dust bunnies, door knobs, desk dividers…there are many surfaces and objects in a classroom that beg for a deep clean, but there’s more to wiping up than meets the eye! There are so many harsh chemicals in many household and industrial cleaners that are toxic to adults and children, many containing hormone disruptors. Yuck!

Wash durable learning tools, desk mugs, and toys in combinations of effective, natural elements that’ll cut grime without the chemicals. Fill a spray bottle with equal parts water and white vinegar for an easy solution for a deep clean without harsh chemicals or disposable wipes, which brings us to…

Reuse and wash cloth rags. Combine the forces with your natural, gentle cleaners with the durable scrubbing power of reusable cloth rags or towels! Torn up t-shirts will also do. Ditch the paper towels and disposable wipes and cleaning utensils for clothes you can wash. This prevents your trash can from filling up, and saves you money on having to buy these items only to throw them away. 

Scrub desks till they sparkle, buff windows into the next dimension, and give your blackboard an even treatment with good old rags. 

Donate or swap. Over the course of a teaching career (or even a year!), you might accumulate some perfectly good “stuff” that is still useful but doesn’t serve you anymore. Teaching tools included, sort out any toys your classroom has aged out of and donate, swap, or sell them — yard sales, consignment, and online communities like Marketplace, Ebay, and apps like ToySwap are easy places to start. 

Many toys are classic, educational, and stand the test of time; if not right for your classroom, another would love to have them. MEGA™ toys are one such line designed to last, and are recyclable through TerraCycle®  at the end of their life. That includes the Mega Bloks®, Mega Construx™️ and other non-electronic MEGA™ brand toys, including the plant-based blocks.

Pack it up!  For everything you intend to keep, tuck them away in the manner you’d like to unpack them. Cardboard boxes are always great, but reusable tubs that snap at the top will help you clean up year after year, are less likely to break, and are structured enough to help you organize its contents.

Again, pack tools when they are clean (no one wants to start the year with sticky rulers or sandbox toys), and properly pack up delicate items like telescopes or watercolor brushes to keep them safe and prepare for the new year; wrapping fragile-ish items in some leftover t-shirt scraps will do the trick. Store in a cool, dry place you can easily get to when Fall rolls around. 

Now, go relax on a beach somewhere!

Have any end-of-school tips to share? Tell us in the comments!

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