by Chelle Heath
Usually a teacher’s year starts with the laminator going hell for leather. My family even bonds through cutting out thousands of resources – lettering, name tags, tote tray labels. Well, we used to. This year, we’ll have to play Yahtzee instead.
Up until now I’ve convinced myself that it is often more resourceful to laminate things in high traffic areas, or games and activities that I use in the classroom. Now I feel a little embarrassed about that. As I have become more mindful of what happens to a thing after we finish with it, I can’t believe that I was okay with such a practice for so many years!
See, every time you encase a piece of paper in plastic, you’re creating another legacy for your children and grandchildren…and great-grandchildren, etc. At this point in time our understanding is that that piece of plastic will simply break down into tinier and tinier pieces until it becomes microplastic. It will never be reabsorbed and reused by the Earth. Is it worth the cost just to have a classroom that looks pretty and shiny? Is that more efficient than having to reprint on regular paper or cardboard once things are worn out? As I’ve been scrolling through Pinterest and Instagram for classroom ideas, it makes me feel almost physically sick to see all of those freshly laminated signs and displays; and the irony should not be lost on any of us! We’re trying to teach our students to care for an respect this planet, but creating more plastic in the process. And this is plastic that cannot be recycled at standard recycling plants.
But let’s not get lost in the shame and humiliation of what we have been doing. Let’s consider the alternatives. Luckily, there are more of us who are wising up to our mistakes, so Instagram and Pinterest are beginning to feature more “green” alternatives to classroom practice. It’s not difficult to find ideas.
The most obvious one is to just use paper or card for signage and displays. I know that last year I chose to only laminate the tags and signs that were going to be in contact with grubby little hands every day, and the things that I pulled down from display are still perfectly fine to be reused. This year I am not going to laminate any of them. I expect that they’ll start to look tattered after a little while, but I aim to just reprint on light card when necessary. This also allows for changes to be made where processes and organisation can be improved. How often have you set something up because it works in theory, only to find its flaws in practice?
Write and wipe sleeves are great for many of the resources that I would previously have laminated. You can print games that you have downloaded and just put them into the sleeves while they are in rotation. Yes, it is still plastic, but one set of sleeves can last for a year and save hundreds of laminating pouches. These are available at Officeworks and many other places that sell stationery and school supplies.
Some companies are beginning to look for biodegradable alternatives to the traditional laminating pouch, and there is definitely headway being made. At this point, however, biodegradable options are not readily available, and aren’t always reliable in standard laminating machines. I am sure the day will come when environmentally friendly options will be the better alternative, saving on paper and printing, but until then, paper is the go.
And then there is always the question we should ask. “Do I actually need this?” Sometimes we get a little trigger heavy with the PRINT button, or we print and then it gets picked up accidentally by someone else before we get to the printer to pick it up. Do you have a “secure print” function on your printer at school? USE IT! You’ll save so much paper and so much time!
Will you join me in this challenge? Imagine how much difference it would make if even a tenth of the teachers in our country pledged to get through a year without laminating! This is a change that is easy to make. We can do this! All we need to do is ask ourselves, EVERY TIME, what is the cost of my choice to this planet?
#walkthewalk #banthelaminator #teachershavethepower #fixthefuture #shinierisnotbetter