5 ways to get an eco-friendly canteen
Author: Rachael Ridley
Many Australians have used their time in isolation to reflect on how we can build a better world where we live in balance with nature. As life begins to go back to normal, there are lots of changes we can make at home and at work to ensure we don’t return to the same bad habits or lose our momentum. And that includes in the school canteen!
Here are some simple approaches to make your school’s canteen as environmentally responsible as possible.
1. Get the kids composting!
Has your school set up a compost or worm farm? Engaging children in these activities is a great way to teach them about the environmental impacts of food waste. It will also ensure leftover food from the canteen doesn’t end up rotting in landfill where it will release methane – a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon!
You could even use the compost to create a garden or veggie patch at your school. Visit Compost Revolution for tutorials and information on how to set up composts and worm farms.
2. Love your labels
Another great way to reduce food waste in your canteen is to correctly and clearly label every item of food with the date it was opened or put in your fridge. The ‘First In, First Out’ method of rotation commonly used in restaurants will ensure food isn’t lost to the back of the fridge and eventually the bin. You could also use re-useable food storage labels or write on the product with marker to reduce the number of unrecyclable stickers that are sent to landfill.
3. The power of energy efficiency
How food is stored is the one of the most important factors in making it last. Many people don’t realise that freezers and refrigerators often lose efficiency long before they break down. Regularly making sure they’re running properly will not only reduce food waste by ensuring the food stored inside lasts longer, but it will also reduce your energy bill and carbon emissions footprint.
If you’re thinking of upgrading to more sustainable and cost-effective appliances, look out for the energy and/or water rating label. According to Sustainability Victoria, every extra star will save you between 20-30% on running costs, depending on the type of appliance.
It’s also important to dispose of your old whitegoods responsibly to reduce their environmental impact. Depending on the condition of the product, it may even be accepted by a second-hand dealer or at a reuse centre. Visit RecyclingNearYou to learn more.
4. Ditch the plastic
It’s estimated that 40% of all plastic is single use* – what an incredible waste! Recycling your plastics through kerbside recycling or REDcycle for soft plastics is a great way to reduce waste sent to landfill, but avoiding plastic wherever possible is even better.
Some plastic items have a more sustainable alternative, such as paper bags for sandwiches or lollies instead of plastic bags. Planet Ark has endorsed a natural paper packaging product called Rollo Wrap that is completely free of ‘chemicals of concern’, such as PFAS (per and polyfluoroalkyl substances), that are often found in plastic-lined paper products. Rollo Wrap can be used as an environmentally responsible alternative to plastic-lined paper products in a range of applications such as sandwich wraps and bakery items. It’s also FSC-certified, recyclable (with minimal food and grease contamination) and compostable!
5. Recycle right with the ARL
The Australasian Recycling Label (ARL) is the only evidence-based recycling label in Australia and New Zealand. It tells you exactly what to do with each piece of packaging, so you can be sure you are recycling right. The ARL is being used on more and more packaging each year, so keep an eye out for it when you’re throwing away your packaging or when you’re procuring products for your canteen.
Planet Ark teamed up with Cool Australia to produce ARL lesson plans that are aligned with the Australian curriculum. Teaching children how to understand the ARL will reduce the number of recyclables sent to landfill, as well as reduce contamination in the recycling bin. Check out the Curriculum Toolkit for free lesson plans, digital worksheets and a host of other resources.
- If you are interested in using Rollo Wrap in your school or business, send an enquiry to Alliance Paper.
- If you're interested in more recycling-related activitiy kits for children, visit the Info Portal at RecyclingNearYou.
- If you would like to get your students involved in nature activities, visit National Tree Day.
Rachael joined Planet Ark in 2019 after eight years working in media and publishing as a producer, editor and writer. Rachael is excited to use her skills in content creation and communication to instigate positive environmental behaviour change.
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