Reduce Waste Essay Topics

Schools are places where a lot of resources are consumed and a lot of waste is generated. They are also places where the next generation of leaders, thinkers, consumers and conservers work to acquire the skills necessary for success in the world of tomorrow.

Download and print the 2015 Waste Reduction Week Poster and put it up in your school! As well, there are school resource kits available for download in both English and French which contain loads of tips and ideas to help engage your students. Here are a few fun game ideas!

And don’t forget to sign up for the Recycle My Cell Student Challenge! Register your school and start collecting old cell phones – and receiving a dollar for every one of them! Schools collect cell phones between Oct. 19 and Nov. 18, 2015 and in addition to helping keep cell phones out of the landfill, they have a chance to win $500 for green initiatives at their school. Here’s a poster for registered schools to use.

Attention Teachers!
Does your School intend to collect items for recycling and/or re-use as part of Waste Reduction Week? If so, FROGBOX will loan the use of their 70 litre industrial-strength, eco-friendly boxes – they’ll even drop them off and come back to get them, when you’re all done!

Need a great video to start your Waste Reduction Week Assembly?

Waste Reduction Week Ideas for Schools

Make Recycled Paper

Make Recycled Paper is a fun activity that helps teach about trees, resources and conservation. For younger students, we suggest a method that does not require the use of an electric blender.

Design Posters

Design posters showing how to save paper or water or energy, how to reuse a common item, or what to put in the blue box or recycling depot. Any environmentally friendly action can be depicted including bicycling, composting, mowing with a ‘reel’ mower, or using environmentally friendly cleaners. Coming up with a catchy slogan to promote the practice makes it even more fun. Students can vote for their favourite poster.

Art with Waste

To highlight the idea of Reuse, have students make an art piece using materials that would otherwise be thrown away. This can be a revealing and imaginative project that draws attention to the amount of waste that we produce. Afterwards, have a discussion about packaging materials, and get students to research over-packaged items that are for sale in stores.

Media Study

Advertising is everywhere, and youth are often the target. Have each student find and analyze one or two newspaper or magazine ads, and discuss what the ads seem to be saying. Do the ads imply that students will be smarter, more attractive or more popular if they buy the product that is being promoted? Is it true? As a follow-up, have students design an ‘alternative’ ad that makes riding a bicycle as attractive or glamorous as driving a sports car. Or one that makes healthy food as appealing as sugary junk food. Or one that promotes the positive value of environmentally friendly practices like composting, recycling, walking to school or any other waste reduction activity.

Global Perspective

Have students research the amount of waste generated by an average Canadian versus the average for someone in a developing country that they choose. What are the lifestyle differences between the two cultures that explain the different amounts of waste? Explore the “Ecological Footprint” idea and discuss what would happen if everyone in the world had a footprint equal to the average Canadian, and what we can do to reduce our footprint.

Life of a Product

Students can choose a product or food item (e.g. bananas, canned tuna, a pencil, a computer, a pair of jeans), and find out what resources went into making the item and where those materials came from. What chemicals or other inputs were used in its production? How far did it travel to arrive in the student’s hands? How was it packaged? Were any of the materials in the product or package made from recycled materials? Are the materials renewable or non-renewable resources? What are some ways to reduce the environmental impacts associated with consumption?

Growing with Compost

One of the many benefits of composting is that the finished product is a great addition to soil. Have the students experiment with growing plants in soil from the school grounds versus the same soil mixed with compost. Is there any difference in the plant growth? This is a practical introduction to the needs of growing plants and other organisms. (Tip: Radishes grow really quickly from seed!)


Vermicomposting is a process using a type of worm called ‘Red Wrigglers’ to break down organic materials (food waste). It is done indoors using a small box, and is well-suited to classrooms. Many teachers have found it to be an effective starting point for discussions on waste reduction and cycles of nature. Students enjoy watching the worms break down the waste from their lunches. For more information on vermicomposting, and how to get started, Green Action Centre has prepared a guide to vermicomposting.

Conservation Reminders

Have students design small reminder signs  – Please Turn Off Lights, Please Recycle, and so on – and post them near light switches, taps, garbage cans, photocopiers and printers. Try to come up with catchy slogans and images. For older students, this can be a follow-up to an environmental audit.

Letter Writing

Have students practice their letter writing skills by writing a letter to the editor or to an elected representative explaining how they feel about the environment and why they think that it is important to protect it (and how). This can be an exercise in how to make a case for something, supported by evidence and expressed in ways that invite a positive response.

Host a Speaker

Host a speaker on an environmental issue. This could be anyone with responsibility for waste reduction or expertise in an environmental area.  In Winnipeg, teachers can contact Green Action Centre’s Environmental Speakers Bureau to book an environmental presentation. The list of topics is available here.

Litterless Lunch Contest

Encourage students to pack litterless lunches throughout Waste Reduction Week. Over the course of a week, weigh and chart the non-food garbage left at the end of each lunch period. Challenge another classroom to see who has the least amount of garbage at the end of their lunch. This can be a school-wide contest and teachers can compete, too!

Walking School Bus

Start a walking school bus where parents take turns walking neighbourhood kids safely to and from school. Walking school buses increase safety around school zones because they help to reduce congestion and traffic. Children (and parents) benefit through increased physical activity.  And avoiding motorized trips helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For more information and help on starting your own walking school bus, visit Green Action Centre’s Active & Safe Routes to School program.

Book/Toy Swap

Organize an event where students bring in books or toys that they no longer use. This can be done as a free exchange, or the items can be resold cheaply with the money raised going towards a school project such as the purchase of a compost bin or trees for planting on school grounds. Visit our Second Chance Market October 24!

Tips for Home

The best place to start making a difference is right in your own home. Learn how you can reduce, reuse, and recycle materials to decrease household waste. The tips below will help you get started.

  • Lawn and Garden
    • Learn to compost at home. Use food scraps, yard trimmings, and other organic wastes to create a compost pile. Adding the compost you make to soil increases water retention, decreases erosion, and keeps organic materials out of landfills. 
    • Raise the cutting height of your lawnmower during hot summer months to keep grass roots shaded and cooler, reducing weed growth, browning, and the need for watering.
    • If you need large lawn and garden equipment such as tillers and chainsaws, you can reduce waste (and save money) by setting up a sharing program with your neighbors.
    • When you mow, “grasscycle” by leaving grass clippings on your lawn instead of bagging then. The clippings will return nutrients to the soil instead of taking up space in landfills.
    • Donate healthy plants that you want to replace to community gardens, parks and schools.
    • If you have a wood burning fireplace, save your ashes instead of throwing them away. Once cooled, wood ashes can be mixed into your compost heap and provide nutrients to your garden.
  • Home Improvement
    • Use insulation made from recycled paper, glass, and other recovered materials.
    • Clean and properly store tools, toys and outdoor furniture to protect them from damage and keep them out of landfills.
    • Turn off or unplug lights during the day. Doing so will save energy and help your lights last longer.
    • Storms can cause power outages. Prevent waste by keeping rechargeable batteries for your flashlights. If you do use disposable batteries, reduce hazardous waste by buying ones with low mercury content.
  • Moving & Cleaning
    • Have a yard sale to find homes for clothes, toys, appliances, and books that you no longer need.
    • When moving, use old newspapers to wrap fragile materials.
    • Use moving boxes with the highest content of recycled paper and bubble wrap containing recycled plastic. Be sure to recycle packaging materials after your move. Many organizations, such as U-Haul, have places where you can drop of unused boxes for others to reuse.
    • Be sure to properly dispose of any non-recyclable items that you won’t be taking with you. Look for household hazardous waste collection days in your community to properly dispose of cleaners, paints, automotive supplies and other hazardous items.
    • For cleaning chores, buy reusable mops, rags and sponges. When using cleaning products, use only the amount you need and follow the bottle’s directions for use and disposal.

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Tips for Students and Schools

Students, parents, and teachers can all make a difference in reducing waste at school. By practicing the "3 R's" of waste reduction—reduce, reuse, and recycle—we can all do our part.

  • Green School Supplies
    • Think green before you shop. Before starting the new school year, look through last year’s materials. Many items can be reused or recycled.
    • Purchase and use school supplies made from recycled products, such as pencils made from old blue jeans and binders made from old shipping boxes.
    • Keep waste out of landfills by using school supplies wrapped in minimal packaging, and buying in bulk when possible.
    • Save packaging, colored paper, egg cartons and other items for arts and crafts projects. Look for other ways that you can reduce the amount of packing that you throw away.
    • Maintain new school supplies. Keep track of pens and pencils. Make an effort to put your things in a safe place every day. This will not only reduce waste, but save you money in the long run.
  • In the Cafeteria
    • If you bring your lunch to school, package it in reusable containers instead of disposable ones. Carry food in reusable plastic or cloth bags, and bring drinks in a thermos instead of disposable bottles or cartons. Read EPA's Pack a Waste Free Lunch guide for more tips.

    • When buying lunch, grab only what you need. Too often extra ketchup packets and napkins go to waste.

    • Remember to recycle your cans and bottles after you finish eating.

    • Work with your teachers to set up a composting program at school.

    • Make posters that remind students what can be composted or recycled.

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Tips for Work

Engage and motivate your coworkers to buy green products and help reduce waste. Learn more about how your office can go green.

  • In the Office
    • Instead of printing hard copies of your documents, save them to your hard drive or email them to yourself to save paper.
    • Make your printer environmentally friendly. Change your printer settings to make double-sided pages. Use small point fonts when possible and use the “fast draft" setting when possible to save ink.
    • Pay your bills via e-billing programs when possible to save paper.
    • Use paperclips (over staples) when possible.
    • Reuse envelopes with metal clasps and reuse file folders by sticking a new label over the previous one.
  • Green Purchasing at Work
    • Purchase recycled paper and keep a recycling bin nearby your desk.
    • For information on how to buy more recycled-content products for your office, see EPA’s Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines.
    • Buy energy efficient items with the ENERGY STAR ® logo or items that are EPEAT registered for the office.

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Tips for Communities

Citizens in every community can do many activities to work together and reduce waste. Each of us can make a difference by reducing, reusing, and recycling materials throughout our communities-and encouraging our neighbors to do the same.

  • eCycling
    • Donate your old computers and tablets to a school. Many schools will be able to make good use of your old machine.
    • Before replacing a computer that no longer fits your needs, consider enhancing the computer’s capacity by upgrading the hard drive or memory. This can save you money too.
    • Donating used (but still operating) electronics for reuse extends the lives of valuable products and keeps them out of the waste stream for a longer period of time. Learn where to donate your TVs, computers.
    • Be smart with your smart phone! It contains precious raw materials. Learn how to keep your information and our environment safe when donating your old device. Check out our guide
  • Starting Community Projects
    • On Earth Day, April 22, show your commitment to a clean environment by volunteering for a cleanup effort in your community.
    • Organize a recycling drive in your neighborhood or at school. Collect bottles, glass, plastic, newspapers or books and take them to your local recycling center or a charity in need.
    • Create a community drop-off site for old computers at a neighborhood school.
    • Set up a composting program for your neighborhood or school. It only takes a small amount of land space to collect organic waste into a compost pile. The compost can be bagged and sold for community and school funds.
    • Hold a “donation picnic” at your local park or rec center. Participants can eat, talk and bring their old toys, clothes, books, furniture and other items for charitable organizations.

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Tips for Travel

Travelers create a lot of waste, even with the best intentions. Whether you are traveling for business or pleasure, you can do a few simple things that will reduce your waste, conserve resources, and minimize the overall environmental impact of your visit.

  • Trips and Vacations
    • When visiting beaches and parks, be sure to take back everything you bring in, so that you can leave places unlettered and undisturbed.
    • To pass the time on long drives or rainy vacation days, bring scrap paper for drawing and games.
    • Hot summer days make you thirsty. Be sure to recycle your used drink containers. Consider putting a filter on your water tap and refilling bottles with the filtered water. Instead of buying many small drink bottles, buy drink mixes in bulk and fill your reusable bottles.
    • Share the ride and the road. Public transportation and carpooling reduce pollution.
  • Car Maintenance
    • If you change your own motor oil, collect and store used oil in a sturdy plastic container and take it to a recycling center.ExitDumping oil down storm drains or on the ground can contaminate groundwater.
    • Purchase extended life anti-freeze for your car. When it’s time to change it out, take your used anti-freeze to a recycling center. Call 1-800-CLEANUP or visit Earth 911's websiteExitto find the recycling center nearest to you.
    • Take used or damaged car batteries to auto stores that stock or repair lead-acid batteries for safe disposal. The batteries contain toxic amounts of lead and acid, and should not be thrown out with your regular trash.
    • Return used car tires to retailers or wholesalers that recycle or retread them. Tires are banned from most landfills, and illegally dumped tires become breeding grounds for mosquitoes and other pests.
    • Make sure your car has a clean air filter—a dirty air filter can increase your car’s fuel consumption by as much as 10 percent.
      Instead of sending your car to a low-value car to a landfill, offer it to a local charity. The gift will be tax-deductible.

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Tips for the Holidays

Holidays are the best time to connect with family and friends, but parties and gift giving often creates extra waste. Learn what you can do to keep you holidays as green as possible.

  • Giving Gifts
    • Think green before you shop the holiday sales. Bring your own reusable cloth bag for carrying your purchases, and try to buy items with minimal packaging and/or made with recycled content.
    • Wrap gifts in recycled or reused wrapping paper. Also remember to save or recycle your used wrapping paper. Give gifts that don't require much packaging, such as concert tickets or gift certificates.
    • Send recycled-content greeting cards and remember to recycle any paper cards you receive. You can also try sending electronic greeting cards to reduce paper waste.
    • Bake cookies or other goodies and package them in reusable and/or recyclable containers as gifts. Homemade goodies show how much you care and help you avoid packaging waste.
    • When gifting flowers, consider buying long-lasting silk flowers, potted plants, or live bushes, shrubs, or trees that can be planted in the spring as gifts.
  • Green Parties and Events
    • If you host a party, set the table with cloth napkins and reusable dishes, glasses, and silverware. Also save and reuse party hats, decorations, and favors.
    • Be sure your guest know where to properly dispose of and recycle their wastes at your party.
    • After holiday festivities, put leftovers in recyclable containers, and share them with family, friends, or others. Donate untouched leftovers from parties to a local food bank or homeless shelter.
    • After parties, fill your dishwasher up completely before running it. You will run fewer cycles, which saves energy.

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