Here it is, the final episode in our 3-part BONUS series on living sustainably amidst Back to School season!
Parts 1-2 covered low-waste lunches/snacks, school supplies, clothing and backpacks! There are tons of little gems in there you won't want to miss, so be sure to go back and listen if you haven't already!
Today, Tiffany Norton, owner of Juniperseed Mercantile and The Fly Button, joins Katie Kurpanek, Eco-Living Coach and Podcast Host, to wrap up this conversation -- empowering you with our best tips and tricks for navigating this back-to-school season sustainably.
In this final episode we are covering minimizing waste within the classroom-- and this is not just for teachers, it's an all-hands-on-deck collaboration between schools AND families!
As coaches, parents, and former teachers, we have a lot to say about helping our students to make EVERY day Earth Day!
Additional Resources mentioned in episode:
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TRANSCRIPTS FOR EACH EPISODE can be found here: https://allthingssustainable.buzzsprout.com
More about Tiffany:
JuniperSeed Mercantile website and Instagram: @juniperseedmercantile
The Fly Button website (educational professional development)
You're listening to all things sustainable, where we unpack topics related to sustainable living, as well as how to apply specific actions to your own life. I'm your eco living coach and podcast host,Katie Kurpanek. Let's jump in.Hello, everybody. Welcome to part three, the final part in this bonus little mini series that we're doing about back to school and sustainable living.If you missed the first or second episode before this one,you definitely want to pause here, go back and listen to those you are not going to want to miss the awesome tips that my friend and guest speaker Tiffany and I got to share with each other and with you about living sustainably, part one has to do with low waste ideas for lunches and snacks, minimizing packaging surrounding all those things.And then also school supplies.So this is a big one. And then in part two, we picked it up again talking about clothing and backpacks. And you know, like not only where to get those things, but also like different brands and sustainability hacks.And then also like DIY tips,what to do with old clothing,stuff like that. There are so many amazing tips in there. And in the show notes of all these episodes, all the different resources that have been mentioned are linked in there so you can find those. And in the very first episode I also just introduced Tiffany will really reintroduce her because she has been on the show already in season two, towards the very beginning of that season. She is the owner of juniper seed mercantile, which is a low waste shop and small manufacturer of eco friendly products, amazing things based here in Colorado.So if you want to learn more about any of those things, go back to episodes one and two.Now, if you are here today,ready for part three, I'm so excited to get into this with you where we are talking about minimizing waste within the classroom. And this does not just have to do with teachers and school educators and staff members, it's really talking about the entire community coming together school staff,parents, families, the students,all of us coming together to make more sustainable changes and impacts for long term caring for the Earth. Based on Tiffany's and my past experiences being teachers as well as parents, we have a lot to offer you and this episode definitely does not disappoint.It definitely wraps up the entire mini series with a bang in the show notes, you can find all the resources plus you can also find the link to my website, which is that minimal life.com. And right on the homepage, there's a little box where you can plug in your email, you will be signed up to receive weekly emails from me, I promise I won't spam you, I only send you the stuff that I really think is going to support you in your sustainable journey. In fact, I call these emails sustainable Sundays. And if you sign up for those, you will be among the first to know of something big, big, big that is launching really soon it is just half a week away. On August 22,I am going to be launching something that is opening up the official shop on my website. And this thing is geared towards families, families who are looking to raise their kids sustainably in a way that cares for themselves and the earth.And it allows you to also take part in a private community. All of this is based on my own personal experiences. I don't know about you. But when I first entered motherhood, boy was I surprised and overwhelmed by all the things that I just didn't know. And then amidst COVID, I was also trying to navigate a lot of this on my own or with my partner who was also brand new to this. And he and I were just just overwhelmed. I mean, we were overjoyed, but also overwhelmed. And there were so many things that I needed to learn. So all that to say I have compiled a ton of resources that I think will support you. Well,I know they will support you they have already supported so many clients already. And it all will be launching very, very soon. So sign up for those emails. And you'll hear more about that. Now without further ado, let's jump into today's final episode.Well, let's dive into our final part to this series is really focused on minimizing waste within the classroom. So this can be especially helpful for you know, both teachers and parents and caretakers, like everybody collaborating together. And I know that we'll have so much to share from our own history of like being teachers, and a lot of it we've already touched on like for example, going into the hard to recycle stuff. We briefly mentioned TerraCycle and the Alliance center before but that would be one of my like top Go to's for those very hard to recycle items like markers. The snack packs. Those are like, the big ones I can think that are school related. But you can have either a TerraCycle collection box within you know, your classroom and parents, you know,you can advocate that, like start talking with your teachers and see or just the school in general see if they might like provide something like that. But Tiffany, you had mentioned the Alliance center, can you share more about that?Tiffany, JuniperSeed:
Yeah, I loved TerraCycle for many, many years, and that's actually a company that that I would use in my business. So we have boxes for like, recycling disposable gloves that we use for sanitary reasons. The barrel, you know,office supplies, like markers and pens, plastics that can't be recycled with your regular recycling. So plastic film,plastic baggies, things like that. They're very expensive. So the issue that the, you have to pack them very, very, very full to try to make it worth it and somebody has to pay for it. I don't mind doing that for my business. But as a teacher, that was a little bit difficult to pitch for multiple classrooms to have their own TerraCycle boxes.But the Alliance center recycles hard to recycle items for free and you don't have to have the special box that you send back in the mail. And so they have,for example, you know, you don't have to do the one brand of just the Go Gurt yogurt pouches,they'll take any type of pouch food, or any little bag clips,or they have multiple things on their batteries and things like that, that that they're collecting. You just need to have them separated from the other stuff. Okay, so if you can find, you know, Ziploc baggies and kind of put us put them on a display board in your classroom with some text or something, or what I used in my classroom,were a bunch of the small little animal aquariums I found in the science supply closet. So they all matched. And so we would have, you know, the markers, the plastic baggies, the all the different things that we were collecting with the little door on the top. And so they would just stick their little deposits in through the top of the animal cage. And I was so cute. By the end of the year, they were like,I can't believe how many markers we used. Wow, it was just a really good visual for them to see, you know how much we had diverted from the waste stream by recycling these in a in a responsible way?Katie Kurpanek:
Wow, yeah.Tiffany, JuniperSeed:
You have to take it down to the alliance center. AndKatie Kurpanek:
okay. But like you said, if you're collecting them all year long, then it's pretty easy to just then take those containers, whatever you've decided to use, load them up in your car and get them there the one time, that's huge.Tiffany, JuniperSeed:
Yeah. And competing against other classrooms is really fun, too.Katie Kurpanek:
Yes, that was something that the school that I worked at, before we did in the final like two years, I think that I was there, we had done like a school wide competition for the least amount of waste.So we're trying to be very, like conscientious of what we're actually recycling, composting and putting in the trash. And we can come back to the idea of composting in a minute, because I know that's not available in all schools, but our school had all three of those systems. And so we would play games, like,you know, like how to sword blank at the beginning of the year. And it was really fun to do it as a classroom just over and over and over until kids got really, really good at figuring out like you hold up one item,you know, like a piece of paper.Where does this go? And I don't know, make it like a competition of some kind. And then, you know, plastic forks, that one tripped up. Even me before I learned about this, but definitely tripped up our students a lot of the time that like those plastic forks and utensils are not supposed to just be put in the recycling bin. But even though they're plastic, like I think that confuses a lot of people. So we would have, you know, visual images on the bins to be like very clear about what goes where, anyway, eventually, it would just become second nature to these kids. And then across the school, we had like parent volunteers and teacher volunteers, and at the end of every week, their trash would be or no, it might have even been the end of every day, I think,because we were weighing our trash bags. And there was a giant poster that we had put up in the hallway and it had like a spot, a column for every classroom. And anyway, by the end of the competition for however many days or months we did that, then the classroom that had the least amount of trash produced. I don't know I think they won like a pizza party. But it was so much fun.Tiffany, JuniperSeed:
That's a really great idea. I was picturing doing relay races where like you have teams like a pile of trash, and you have to like go run a thing to correct the correct bin to sort out your garbage.Katie Kurpanek:
Yeah, that would be so much fun. I know like with the first grader was that I was working with we had little charts that we had created. And then they got to cut out pictures of all these different items. So they had fun like cutting them out. And then they got to go glue them on like the correct spots. And that was a lot of fun. You can play games with like fly swatters, and have pictures up on the whiteboard,and then you know, you like two kids can like each get a flyswatter. And it's like, which of which item can go in the recycling and like, they're trying to tag the right one first. There's lots of fun ways to do that. But agree, I love those creative ideas. And then composting, going back to that idea to that was something that we didn't have originally at our school, but we had to do a lot of work around that. So depending on the school and the city, and like the whole location of it, it's something that you may be able to like if you're a parent, you may be able to petition your school board or Parents Council to involve a composting collection system within your school, you might be able to volunteer and see if like a local compost company would be willing to partner up with you and like bring this into the school so that the school has less to do or worry about. But basically getting little bins into the classrooms or the cafeteria, wherever they're eating. That helps so much because oh my gosh, as soon as we started doing it, the kids kind of like that visual, you talked about with the hard to recycle items. The kids were amazed at how much food was being thrown into the compost alone and kept out of the trash can. But just seeing it. It also brought up good discussions about like, what was being put in the compost and why it wasn't being eaten. Like could this,you know, did we have to throw this entire banana into the compost or?Tiffany, JuniperSeed:
to segue from that, you know, one of the biggest obstacle obstacles that schools face, even if they do want to do composting programs,is the sheer volume of food waste that they have to deal with every day. And it's an interesting problem to have, you know that the amount of waste being produced is not sustainable to try to compost it. Yeah. So um, you know, I, we had talked a little bit about ways to talk with your schools about, you know, changing some policies that make schools a little bit easier to live with a lower footprint. And I think one of the things that needs to be addressed first and foremost is how much food gets thrown away.Yeah. And they've got some rules, like, for example, the school that I was at, most recently, everybody had to take,you know, all the things, you had to take the main dish, and a salad and a piece of fruit and a carton of milk. And if kids didn't want all of those things,they went straight in the trash,and you weren't allowed to trade or swap. And I think that that has to stop, you know, you,you've got to be able to, you know, if everybody is taking an apple and one out of seven kids is eating their Apple, why are we throwing six out of seven apples away, I would like for every teacher to be able to take five apples back with them to their classroom and give those to the kids in the morning who came to school without breakfast. Yep. Because we've got kids who, you know, they don't necessarily want that Apple for lunch, because they want to go outside and play basketball or talk with their friends or, you know, they can't leave until they're done eating.So those same kids the next morning are going to be happy to eat that banana or happy to eat that, you know, bark during the box juice. So we've got to change those rules about what has to happen before kids can go play. So or do you have to take all of that food? I don't know why we're forcing kids to take food that they're not going to eat. Just drop it in the trash can as they walk past it.Katie Kurpanek:
Yep. Now that exact idea played out in the school that I was with, because one of the many conversations that surfaced from this is like how much food is being wasted.And it was a great discussion to have within the classroom with the students to make them aware of this, but also on staff it was like, well, we're changing our snack policy. You know,because a lot of times like the school snack, again, it was mandatory, like every kid has to take one of these but then a bunch of the like fresh fruit was being thrown away. So yeah,we would just if they didn't want it, it would just stay in the bin. And then it would be like properly stored and used again for morning breakfasts. Or for kids and after school program who also needed a snack.A lot of our policies have to change. But it definitely starts with parents and families a lot of the time who are being very vocal about this and the teachers in the classrooms who see this every single day. And they're being very vocal about this and raising their concerns and issues.Tiffany, JuniperSeed:
Well, I think a lot of parents,especially who are younger and maybe not as experienced, they don't know that their voice matters as much as it does.Schools definitely listen to parents and that's never been more apparent than it is Lately,but it's always been true that,that schools, they really we really do exist to serve our communities. And parents who have questions or concerns really should bring those up and not feel inhibited or something,you know, I don't, I don't want to cause a stink or I don't want to be that parent. There's nothing wrong with being that parent. And I think that being a concerned community member and raising new ideas and suggestions, is always going to be welcomed, even if it's not something that they are in a place yet to follow through with. Never be afraid to share your ideas with your schools.Katie Kurpanek:
Because it is at least getting the idea out there and planting a seed and then the more that you talk about it, and other parents get together with you, and they talk about it,then it's going to become like a much more powerful influence,because it's a whole group of you. I know that another thing that popped up within our school that parents were advocating for were like different types of cleaning supplies, because Oh,yeah, obviously, like, we have got to wipe down our disgustingly dirty tables by the end of every single day,sometimes multiple times a day.But I always hated using all the wipes that were like, just,there's a lot of like toxic chemicals. And it's like, if there's no other alternative,then you know, we had to use them. But anyway, we had a lot of parents who were advocating for like changing the school supply list, so that it would include other brands. But I know you had mentioned to me before like a DIYTiffany, JuniperSeed:
disinfectant.Yeah, so before COVID When it felt like less life and death to make sure that your products were actually like sanitizing,disinfecting. Having a set of unpaper towels or, you know,like we talked about fabric napkins earlier, if you have a classroom set, it's very easy to just make up a solution of like vinegar and water and maybe some essential oils to make it smell nice. Keep your cloths in there,kind of like a wet wipe tub and then hand everybody one and have them wipe off their desks since COVID, of course, that isn't probably as popular because people really do want the disinfectant and prevention element. And what I found is a website called force of nature clean.com. And they have a product that that's basically it's vinegar, salt, water, and a source of electricity. And so what they're it's kind of an interesting chemical reaction that's happening there. And it turns into hypochlorous acid,which is a product that your body actually makes when you're fighting off infections and things. So it's a natural, like,they use it in your eye and for wounds to clean them and stuff.So it's not a harmful acid, it's not very strong at all, but it is effective against bacteria and viruses up to like 99.5% so it's approved. And, and it's very, very safe and neutralizes very quickly so it doesn't leave behind the residues and things like that. And what I love about this is, when you go on the website there, you're gonna,you're gonna get a little contraption that you put your bottle on top of and it will electrolyze the water for you.So it only lasts like two weeks before it's neutralized into basically water again and it's not a cleaning product anymore.So you need to be able to electrolyze the water yourself but you basically fill your water bottle full of just regular old tap water. And then they have these tiny little capsules that you like, drop into water like three milliliters of the chemical that's going to react to form you know the vinegar, and then you put this bottle on its little electrolyzer base and the electric current is what you know catalyzes that reaction to produce the ingredients that have the disinfected properties.So you just keep making your own you just keep filling the bottles with tap water and use these little capsules of whatever the activator is. Yeah,just keep going. I love it.Katie Kurpanek:
That's so smart.Is that so do you you go to like force of nature clean.com And then you buy this entire like starter kit. Okay, and they send you the left electrolyzer. Okay,so you only buy the one right?But only have to buy the one.Tiffany, JuniperSeed:
Yep, you just buy it once you might have to buy more of the little tiny capsules and they are packaged in plastic but you know on the balance of you know what has more carbon footprint you know,this is pretty good. And so comes with the the water bottle that you use for spraying and it comes with the electrolyzer and the little capsules. And I think you can make like 50 gallons or something like that with your first status, maybe like $80 you just buy more of little capsulesKatie Kurpanek:
That's amazing.Yeah, that is super cool. Okay,I'm gonna like that in the show notes as well so that people can find that particular product.And again, this would be a really fun conversation to include your kids in, because you can talk about the chemical reactions that are happening here and the whole, like, just science experiment of it all.Tiffany, JuniperSeed:
Yeah, that was part of why I loved it.Awesome. Well,Katie Kurpanek:
can you think of any other final tips for minimizing waste in the classroom?Tiffany, JuniperSeed:
Well, I do have a person that I follow on Instagram, who is brilliant,Miss Heidi, who is a teacher in Denver, and runs an Instagram account called the Zero Waste classroom, and she's definitely worth taking a follow. She's got all kinds of tips that she uses in her classroom to make her classroom as zero waste as possible. And she's just got a lot of other really great resources and ways of thinking about educating young minds. And I think that you should have her as a guest on your podcast someday.Katie Kurpanek:
This has been so wonderful, thank you for your entire like wealth of knowledge that you're just sharing. And I always love getting a chance to talk with you. I'll have like your website linked below, and Instagram and all that. But anybody who doesn't live in the Colorado area to like Juniper seed, you know, ships, you can shop online, and those products are so amazing, you know, so much of what we've shared in these three parts are, you know,found in your shop, and, or at least can be found, you know, to make whatever DIY project you're working on. So thank you for what you do.Tiffany, JuniperSeed:
Thank you,thank you for what you do. I appreciate you spreading so much good information for folks to live their lives more sustainably. Thank you.Absolutely.Katie Kurpanek:
There you go, my friends, this mini series has been a blast, I am so happy and thankful that I got a chance to talk with Tiffany again and bring just so much of her insights and wisdom to you all.I hope that this series has been supportive to you. If it has, I would love to hear from you my contact information as well as Tiffany's is linked in the show notes. And so you can find all of that there, I would absolutely be thrilled if you drop me a note just letting me know like what was supportive to you, or what was inspiring to you, or anything that you would like to share really. And then of course, if you want to receive weekly emails from me, I can send you sustainable Sunday emails with a bunch of tips and tricks for just continuing your sustainable journey, even you know, outside of back to school season just as a person. And then like I mentioned in the beginning of this episode, the huge big thing that I have been working on for months is finally launching in half a week. So August 22 2022, is going out there. And if you are on my email list, you will be among the first to know about it as well as how to access the exclusive discount that will only be available for the first well, really less than two weeks that it is launched into the world. I can't wait to share more with you visit that minimal life.com Or just click that link in the show notes and you will be taken right to the homepage where you can plug in your email and there you go. You will receive that communication from me. I can't wait to continue supporting you. Thank you, thank you thank you for being here and for all that you are doing to balance living sustainably and raising sustainable families of your own. Keep an eye out for season three coming really really soon, less than a month away. It will be launching in September. And I cannot wait to bring all the amazing conversations that I have been recording with experts among various capacities of being vegan. So if you missed that little sneak peak introductory episode talking about what season three will be about. You can find that just a couple episodes back. But that's all that I have for now. So I hope to be talking to you soon and sending you some really exciting things in your inbox. Have a fantastic day.