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Whether you are learning from home or in a classroom this fall, start your year off right with unique, upcycled school supplies that help you reduce your waste! 

Many students look forward to back to school shopping. New school supplies are exciting! But consider this: all that new stuff requires trees, water, energy and other resources to produce. It’s usually packaged in plastic or cardboard for shipping. Think about it — what happened to the stuff you had last year? Could you still use it? Why do you really need new supplies? Frequently, the answer is simple, we like to start a new year with fresh, new stuff. 

This school year is different for a lot of reasons. Schools are changing schedules and rearranging plans due to the uncertainty of the coronavirus. With these changes, consider adding one more change to your routine — reduce your waste by doing back to school upcycling instead of back to school shopping! This will cut down on the waste you create and, as an added bonus, save you money. 

Start by collecting all the supplies you have left over from last year. Do you have markers, crayons, pencils, and pens that you can reuse? Do you have notebooks that are only half-filled? After you have collected your leftover supplies, consider what you need for this year. Did you get a list from school? Is there anything you would like to have that wasn’t on the list? Sort through the things you need and determine what you can reuse from last year. Give items a new life by transforming them into something new!

Protect your books, reuse paper bags, and have a great place to doodle!

Materials: scissors, tape, paper bag, markers

How to do it:

  1. Cut along the seam in the bag from the top of the bag to the bottom.
  2. Cut along the bottom of the bag along all four edges to remove the bottom of the bag. Spread the bag open — it should now be one large, flat sheet of paper. 
  3. Place your book in the middle of the bag, open in the middle so the spine lays flat. Trim the bag so there is only about 2-3 inches of paper on the top and bottom of the book.
  4. Fold the top and bottom of the bag so it is larger than the book.
  5. Slide the front cover of the book inside the pockets you just created. It works best if you slide it about half the width of the cover!
  6. Close the book. Depending on the size of your bag and the size of your book, you may need to trim the edge of your bag. The remaining “flap” should be about half the width of the book cover. 
  7. Slide the back cover of the book inside the pockets in the back. 
  8. Write the title of the book on the cover and have fun decorating it!

Create a fun and unique bag to store your pencils, pens, and other small supplies!

Materials: Old jeans, scissors, hot glue/glue gun, velcro or ribbon, decorations

How to do it:

  1. Cut two rectangles from the leg of an old pair of jeans. The rectangle should be at least 2 inches longer than a pencil or pen. For this pencil bag, our rectangle was 11” x 7”. 
  2. Put a line of glue from a glue gun along one long edge of one rectangle on the reverse side of the fabric. Fold the top of the rectangle down ½ inch. This creates a clean edge for the top of your bag. Repeat this step on the other rectangle. 
  3. Line your two rectangles up, putting the reverse side of the fabric facing out (correct sides should be facing each other). Use a glue gun to glue three of the sides of the fabric that you did not glue down in step 2. 
  4. Cut a piece of velcro that is just shorter than the length of the open side of the bag (the side you glued down in step 2). 
  5. Glue one side of the velcro to one side of the bag, covering the seam you created when you folded down the top of the rectangle down in step 2. Flip the bag over and glue the other piece of velcro on the other side. Note: If you don’t have velcro, you can also use a ribbon — glue the middle of a long ribbon to the middle of your bag.
  6. Flip your bag right-side-out. Your two velcro pieces should line up creating a closure.
  7. Decorate and fill your pencil bag!

Use your old, partially filled notebooks to create a new and unique notebook for this years’ classes!

Materials: Partially used notebooks, empty cereal box or another paperboard box, hole punch, pencil, scissors or paper cutter, 3 binder rings

How to do it:

  1. Remove the blank pages from your partially used notebooks. Be careful not to rip the pages when removing them. 
  2. Cut the front and back off of a paperboard box.
  3. Trim the paperboard so it is just larger than the notebook paper.
  4. Line the notebook paper up on one side of the box. Use a pencil to mark where the holes are located. Use your hole punch to make a hole where you marked it.
  5. Line the two paperboard pieces up with one another. Use the holes on one paperboard piece to mark where the holes should be on the second. Use your hole punch to make the rest of the holes. 
  6. Use the 3 binder rings to attach the two paperboard covers and the notebook paper. 
  7. Enjoy your unique, upcycled notebook!

We would love to see where this lesson led you! Share your photos and videos with us by tagging #stewardshipschool and #keepomahabeautiful.

Thank you to our Trees for Omaha program sponsors



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