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Back to School Pencil Holders

What you need:

Aluminum Can - empty, clean, free from sharp edges

Colored Paper and/or Colored Tape

Glue or glue dots


Markers, stickers, other decorations

What you do:

Measure colored paper (strips or one piece) to wrap around can. If using you tape, you can cut as you go. Next cover the can. Adhere paper with glue or glue dots (these work well because there is no drying time). Decorate with stickers, color with markers, or add any details you like. Fill with pencils and pens for school.


Packing lunches and snacks is part of the back to school routine. But did you know that "Americans waste enough food every day to fill a 90,000 seat football stadium" (USDA - United States Department of Agriculture). While not all that is in lunchrooms or cafeterias, there are several ways we can reduce food waste at school and in the lunchrooms. Of course if your school recycles and composts you are off to a good start. But reducing the amount of food and packaging that goes into lunchboxes and bags is the first place to start. Be realistic. Parents know how much their children can eat so lunchtime is not exception. Limit portion sizes and limit the options - no more than three things to eat. Gentle reminders as teachers to parents about this is helpful. If you have a cafeteria or food service provider ask them to do the same - less food, less packaging, fewer options. And if you are able to do a Lunchroom Waste Audit it is a great way to see how much is wasted every day - plastics, paper, aluminum, excess packaging, and of course, food.


Plastic Bottle Wind Chimes

Reusing plastic bottles is a fun summer craft that will look pretty hanging outside your home too.

What you need:

Plastic bottle - Gatorade or energy drink bottles work well.

Acryclic paint - many colors

Paint brushes


Hole punch

Twine or fishing line

Chime decorations: beads, buttons, cut straws, old keys, or other metal pieces (heavy piece at end makes great sound!)

Sharp tool to poke hole (adults only)

  • What you do:

To begin, cut off the top part of the bottle. Then on newspapers, use the paint to color the bottle as you like. While the bottle is drying, cut twine about 8-10 inches (or as long as you want) in strips or chimes. Cut as many as you want hanging from your wind chime plus one for center chime. Begin stringing beads, buttons, and metal pieces (at end) to chime but leave about 2 inches for tying. After bottle is dry, punch holes in top of bottle - evenly spaced and as many as you have made chimes. Poke a hole in bottom of bottle - use a drill or sharp tool (adults only!) and attach a center chime. Tie all chimes to bottle. Center chime can be tied on by knotting the twine with a bead so it will not fall through. Using this same center hole, add more twine or leave extra from center chime - to hang. 


According to Ban the Bottle Americans use about 50 billion plastic water bottles but only recycle about 20 percent. This means about 38 billion plastic water bottles are wasted each year. Another way to think about it is the average American uses 167 water bottles, but recycles only 38.3. Using resuable water bottles not only cuts back on the waste but saves resources and energy. About 17 million barrels of oil are used each year to make the amount of water bottles we use. That's enough to fuel 1.3 million cars for a year and enough energy to power 190,000 homes. If you do not already recycle at home or at your school, now is the time to start. For tips begin here swancc establish-recycling. Or "ban the bottle" at your home, work place or school and encourage everyone to use reusable water bottles instead. Making the craft above is one of many ways to reuse water bottles too.



Creative Steel Can Plant Holders

Reusing old cans is an easy way to reduce and reuse but also start wonderful plants or herbs for the summer. This is a cute photo of how to dress up a can before planting. You can collect many items – bottle caps, pop-tops, straws, buttons, toothpicks and so on. Have students decorate as they like – imaginations can run wild!


What you need:

Aluminum can – take off paper, clean

Craft glue or glue gun

Paint – optional

Recycled items: bottle caps, milk rings, soda pop tops, etc.

Googly yes

Black marker

What you do:

With glue, attach bottle cap eyes, insert googly eyes; glue nose/pop-top; mouth/milk ring and color in mouth with marker; and ears/pop-tops. There are other variations that can be made depending on what items you reuse.



Did you know that the medicine in your cabinet should not be thrown away with your every day trash? According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Geological Survey it was found that substantial amounts of antibiotics and steroidal hormones are in rivers, lakes and wells from samples analyzed in 36 states. For more information, visit


In addition the EPA also says each year 8 million people use more than 3 billon needles, syringes, and lancets, also called sharps, to manage medical conditions at home. Some sharps users throw their used needles in the trash or flush them down the toilet. Used sharps left loose among other waste can hurt sanitation workers during collections rounds, at sorting and recycling facilities and at landfills, or become lodged in equipment, forcing workers to remove them by hand.


As you would guess children, adults and even pets are also at risk for needle-stick injuries when sharps are disposed improperly at home or in public settings. For more information, visit


SWANCC provides a disposal program for prescription drug waste called the Prescription Drug and Sharps Disposal Program ( for residents that live in one of SWANCC’s 23 member communities. 



Milk Jug Toss

A fun game that can be played inside or out. It can be played with one person, a partner or as a group.


You will need:

  • Gallon milk jug – 2 if playing with a partner, more if for a group.
  • 1 soft ball – you can use a yarn ball, wiffle ball, pom pom
  • Scissors
  • String or yarn if making 1 person toss
  • Colorful duct tape – optional


What you do:

  • Cut the bottom off of the jugs leaving the handle.
  • You can cover bottom with tape if you like (optional).
  • Get/make your ball.


Now play the Milk Jug Toss. Partner or group: toss the ball in the jug using hands (one holds a jug, the other tosses), or use the jug to throw to a partner and catch with the other jug. The more jugs you make the more people can play. One-person play: run yarn or string through the jug and tie a knot so it won’t slip through. Leave the length of yarn you want to attach to create “a toss” that works – taller people like a longer string; smaller like it shorter. Then tie the end of the string to the wiffle ball, pom pom. One player can swing the ball up and catch it in the milk jug like the old fashioned “cup and ball” toys.



We can’t imagine allowing a factory to emit toxic black clouds in the air or pour tons of toxic waste into streams. Before 1970 this was not only was this legal, but courts could not prevent it.  Why? There was no Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, EPA, or any legal measures to protect the environment. It was not until U.S. Wisconsin Senator, Gaylord Nelson, founded Earth Day in 1970 as a way to bring environmental issues onto the national agenda. After twenty million Americans demonstrated in different U.S. cities, U.S. Congress passed the Clean Air Act and created the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Earth Day was born.

How will you celebrate the Earth in April? Plant a tree, bush, or flower? Pick up trash, recycle, or reuse waste? Turn off lights, water, heat or air conditioning? There are so many ways you can impact the future of our planet and make it a place that in 2070 – a hundred years since the first Earth Day – we will still have blue skies, green fields, lush forests, and sparkling lakes and oceans for our children and our children’s children.



Newspaper Snowflakes

Everyone loves to make snowflakes. Using newsprint is a great way to resuse newspapers and make decorations for winter.

What you need:



Water colors

Paint Brushes

(optional - liquid starch, glitter)

What to do:

Cut newspapers into squares or circles. From here, students can fold the shape as many times as they like. Then cut notches in the paper. When they open it up, find an instant snowflake! Next, paint the snowflake with watercolors. If you would like to hang the snowflake, paint with liquid starch to make them stiff. Before the liquid starch dries, glitter can be added.


New Years Resolutions for school and home.

  • Turn off the water while brushing your teeth and save more than two gallons of water a minute.
  • Take showers not baths. It takes about 30-40 gallons of water to fill a bathtub. A shower uses about 2.5 gallons a minute.
  • Fill up your washing machine and dish washer before you hit start. You will save energy and water each time.
  • Program your thermostat. By keeping your thermostat lower in winter when it is not needed (e.g. when you are sleeping or not home), you can reduce energy use and save money on your energy bill.
  • Buy reusable and recycled. When you shop, find products that can be reused and are not disposable, and products that have been made from recycled materials. See the Eco-friendly-marketplace-directory for a list of recycled and sustainable products available to consumers. 
  • Reycle one new item this year (e.g. shoes, ink cartriges, markers and pens). For a list of what can be recycled and where to recycle items, see the Green-pages-directory.

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