How to make kids aware of the dangers of paper waste

Written by:
Bruna Guimarães
Published on:
March 6, 2024
Time to read:
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In a world where handwritten notes contribute to a shocking 22 kg of paper waste per student every year, I felt the need to contribute to a conscious change in the way we use paper. This is how the MOYU Teaching Kit was born, a digital toolbox designed specifically for teachers of students aged 8 to 12, which guides them through the issues of paper waste and deforestation. With dynamic presentations and practical activities, this kit is more than just an educational resource; it's a catalyst for sustainable change.

The hidden cost of paper in the classrooms

We all appreciate the charm of handwritten notes, right? Those cute messages from students, the doodles in the margins, and the quick reminders - they make our classrooms feel warm, personal, and safe. But there's a catch: that seemingly innocent pile of paper can have a huge environmental impact. On average, a student produces 22 kg of waste paper a year. Can you even imagine that? Now think of a small, "harmless" action of writing little notes multiplied by a classroom, a school, a neighborhood - all of this adds up day after day. 

To understand the scale of these consequences, it's essential to reinforce the fact that, globally, every minute we cut down 30 soccer fields' worth of forest - that's 15 billion trees a year. I find it shocking that 17% of this destruction comes from the paper we use, especially single-use paper. Clearly, this is a problem we're not addressing enough.

Try to think about how much paper you use in one day

Unnecessary amount of paper waste at schools

Did you know that 30% of all print jobs aren't even collected from the printer? That's right, a whole tree of paper, destined for the bin without fulfilling its original purpose. Schools spend around 500 million euros on paper every year and, unfortunately, a large portion of that goes to waste. 

We've all seen what happens when we ignore environmental problems - just like with plastic. We only started talking about it in schools after the oceans had been submerged in plastic, harming animals and ecosystems. For years we've been trying to combat the consequences that the excessive use of plastic has had on our planet, and the truth is that a lot has changed. But do we really need to hit rock bottom to find a way out? 

The use of single-use paper is destroying our forests and we need to talk more about how to avoid an environmental crisis. Even in places that are leaders in sustainability, such as the Green School in Bali, where I spent a week studying how to educate for sustainability, the abolition of single-use plastic is clear, but the use and waste of paper on a daily basis is also evident.

Now, I’m not saying that handwritten notes should be abandoned, but I’m suggesting a conscious approach. So, let's introduce the MOYU Teaching Kit and revolutionize the way we teach and learn.

These will all be trashed later, unfortunately

A teaching kit to raise awareness of deforestation

At MOYU, we've always thought that there's something special about writing with a pen on paper. The feeling of your hand on the page is special, it sparks creativity and makes memories stick. But we also know that it's hard to justify using single sheets of paper, which is why we came up with the solution of creating reusable, erasable notebooks that don't cut down a single tree to produce them. These notebooks are generating a significant impact, and we believe they are a great alternative to paper. However, for this change to have the necessary impact to reverse (or significantly help) the problem, what we really need is to bring awareness about it. In order to change minds and habits, we first need to understand the roots of the entire problem - where paper comes from and what the consequences of producing it are. 

Think with me: What's the group of people most susceptible and adaptable to change? Of course - children. We've all heard that quote: 'Children are our future,' but for these same children to bring change, they need to be educated and guided on what to do. In addition to schools being our children's second home, and teachers being the adults with the most influence outside the family group, schools are also one of the places that consume the most paper... I think we couldn't have found a more perfect group to talk about paper waste, right? And that’s why MOYU’s Teaching Kit was born – a digital toolbox crafted for teachers of 8 to 12-year-olds, diving into the exciting realms of paper waste and deforestation.

A page from our Teaching Kit

A creative approach to get kids thinking of solutions

Now, let's roll up our sleeves and get to work! This wasn't meant for you to just hear me talk about paper... It's time to uncover what this kit actually contains and how it works.

This kit is intended to be used with children between the ages of 8 and 12, a period of age in which the child already has some school maturity since he or she has an organized mind and is now ready to use memory, creativity, thinking, and imagination. It is also at this stage that customs and habits (food, hygiene, etc.) are established and beliefs are formed, which is why it is essential that we encourage a lifestyle with sustainability in mind. 

As with most academic approaches, we usually start by introducing a subject or problem, and then get hands-on and understand how it all works in practice. It was with this in mind that I decided to divide the kit into two parts: theory and practical, where the theoretical part consists of a visual and dynamic slide show, and the practical part features a range of individual and group activities.

The presentation

To arouse children's interest in a problem that is real, serious, and difficult to assimilate, I find it necessary to take things lightly and with curiosity, without taking it with a guilt angle, but rather as an opportunity to raise awareness. For this reason, the whole presentation is very dynamic, with questions and answers that lead us to discover interesting and alarming facts about paper waste, but also with moments that spark critical and creative thinking. After all, who said learning about sustainability had to be boring?

The activities

To take a practical approach to this problem, I've developed several activities that may or may not be done in the classroom. I wanted to develop tasks that were challenging but fun at the same time, such as the "paperless week", where various ways of reducing the use of paper in everyday life are suggested and the challenge has to be met every day of the week. Or activities such as eco-jeopardy - where we test knowledge about paper waste, deforestation, and ecological solutions in an interactive and gamified way, tree guardian to stimulate contact and appreciation for nature, group projects to make the classroom greener, or even random ideas to bring inspiration to teachers, students, and even parents.

I can already imagine students designing paperless projects, thinking of ways to reduce paper use and even turning your classroom into a green oasis. The kit is versatile, adapting to your teaching style and inspiring a sense of responsibility for the planet.

A preview of the activities we prepared

How to use the MOYU teaching kit

Now, you might be wondering, "How do I bring this into my classroom?" Here's a practical guide to incorporating MOYU's Teaching Kit into your teaching routine:

Step 1: Get to know the teaching kit content

Get off to a great start! Familiarize yourself with the Kit and determine the best moments and situations to utilize its elements. This involves analyzing its content and assigning it to the appropriate place and time in your curriculum.

Step 2: Adapt the activities to your classroom dynamics

Adaptability is key. Pick and choose activities from the kit that align with your teaching style and your student's interests. Whether it's the Paperless Week Challenge, Brainstorm Sessions, Tree Guardians, Eco-Jeopardy, or Random Acts of Green, select activities that integrate with your existing curriculum and resonate with your students. And hey, if you've got some other activities that are working wonders, feel free to reach out! Share your tricks so we can improve the Kit, and your insights just might spark more teachers to download the kit.

Step 3: Foster a sustainable classroom culture

It's not just about doing activities here and there; it's about creating a lasting impact. Promote a culture of sustainability in your classroom by incorporating eco-friendly habits into your daily routine. Turn your classroom into a vibrant hub of ecological discovery by following some of these examples:

  • Reusable Stationery: Ditch the disposable pens and paper. Encourage students to use reusable pens and notebooks. You can even organize a "Green Stationery" day where everyone showcases their eco-friendly writing tools.
  • Recycling Challenge: Set up a classroom recycling system for paper, plastic, and other recyclables. Create a friendly competition among students or classes to see who can collect the most recyclables in a week. Celebrate the winners with a small eco-friendly prize.
  • Eco-Debates: Pick a current environmental issue and start a classroom debate. It could be about the impact of single-use plastics, deforestation, or renewable energy. Encourage students to research and present their findings, fostering critical thinking and awareness.
  • Success Story Wall: Create a visual representation of your eco-successes. Whether it's reducing waste, adopting sustainable habits, or contributing to a community clean-up, showcase these victories on a designated wall. It serves as a constant reminder of the positive impact your class is making.
  • Guest Speakers or Virtual Tours: Bring in guest speakers or arrange virtual tours related to environmental conservation. This firsthand exposure can inspire students and broaden their understanding.

By following these actionable steps, you'll effortlessly infuse MOYU's Teaching Kit and so much more into your classroom, making sustainability an integral and engaging part of your students' learning experience.

Test the teaching kit and share your impact

By now, you've probably figured out that we're not just here to talk; we want you to join us in bringing awareness to the education world. As we wrap up our exploration of MOYU's Teaching Kit, take a moment to reflect. Imagine a classroom buzzing with enthusiasm for sustainability, where students understand the impact of their choices and actively seek eco-friendly solutions. 

Whether you're a teacher, a parent, or just someone passionate about turning young minds into eco-warriors, your feedback is important. Love it or hate it, let me know what you think. And if you're using the Teaching Kit in your curriculum, share your experiences. Your ideas could be a game changer for fellow educators who haven't downloaded it yet.

And here's an extra nudge - spread the word! If you've made it this far and you're not a teacher, but you believe that children should learn about the consequences of deforestation, share this blog with the teachers in your network or send them directly to our Teaching Kit page.

Try our Teaching Kit in your school!

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