Simple, Affordable Tips for Educators and Students
Autumn is a season full of fun activities but these festivities often generate waste and emissions. As climate educators, we can model sustainability for our students by getting creative with fall traditions. Here are affordable ways to reduce your carbon footprint this fall:
1. Decorate with reused materials.
Give cardboard rolls, bottles, and jars new life by crafting them into decorative pieces. Upcycle old decor into new Halloween costumes or Thanksgiving centerpieces.
This article shares creative ideas for recycled Halloween crafts that you and your students can make. Some examples include:
- Crafting pumpkins out of old book pages
- Making luminary lanterns out of recycled materials
- Using plastic bottles to create Halloween planters
- Turning trash into decorations like mummies, spiders, bats, and more
By repurposing materials in fun ways, you can get festive with sustainable Halloween crafts! These projects help give recyclables new life while sparking creativity and imagination.
2. Rake and mulch leaves instead of burning or throwing them in the garbage.
Have a school or home garden? Raked leaves make excellent compost material. Rather than removing them, let the leaves decompose and nourish garden beds. This article shares how fallen leaves can supercharge a garden. Put this year’s leaves to work for next year’s garden using these tips:
- Mulch leaves around plants to insulate their roots from cold weather. The leaves will decompose and fertilize the soil over time.
- Add leaves to your compost pile to provide carbon that balances nitrogen-rich food scraps. Leaf compost creates nutrient-rich “black gold” for your garden beds.
- Improve your soil texture and drainage by tilling shredded leaves into garden beds. The leaves add beneficial organic matter to clay and sandy soils.
- Create leaf mold by damping down a pile of leaves over time. Leaf mold makes a free, natural fertilizer that is great for container plants too.
This fall you can see leaves as an asset, not a nuisance!
3. Use pumpkins for more than jack-o-lanterns.
Enjoy pumpkin seeds as a snack, purée leftover pumpkin for soups and baked goods, or feed pumpkins to backyard livestock — or even just your local squirrels — once the holiday is over.
This article suggests that after Halloween you can give those jack-o-lanterns new life in creative ways by:
- Composting them –– Scrape out the candles, then break up the pumpkin to add to your compost pile or bin. The pumpkin will enrich the soil as it decomposes.
- Donating them –– Local farms, CSAs, or zoos may want your pumpkin to feed their animals.
- Making a bird feeder –– Fill your carved pumpkin with bird seed and hang or place it outside for feathered friends to enjoy.
- Trying a foamy science experiment — Mix baking soda and vinegar inside the pumpkin for an explosive reaction. Add food coloring for extra fun!
- Using it for a nutrient-rich face mask –– Pumpkin is loaded with vitamins and minerals that improve skin. Blend it up for a treat for your face!
With a little creativity, carved pumpkins can have a new purpose before going to the compost heap. What other ways can you reuse them?
4. Bundle up instead of cranking up the heat.
Break out the sweaters and blankets to stay cozy and reduce energy consumption. Lower your thermostat a few degrees during the day when possible.
There are a plethora of ways to cut down on your energy consumption over the colder months. This article offers helpful tips to lower consumption:
- Keep air vents clear so heat can circulate freely.
- Only run laundry and dishes with full loads.
- Unplug electronics when not in use to avoid phantom energy drainage.
- Place rugs on hardwood floors to retain warmth. And more!
5. Carpool to fall activities.
Gather a group to go apple picking, to a football game, or on a leaf-peeping drive. Carpooling cuts emissions and saves on gas money.
This article discusses how sharing rides lightens your environmental impact by combining trips and mileage, but how it also:
- Saves money on gas and maintenance costs from less wear and tear.
- Allows you to go longer between auto service appointments.
- Reduces the overall number of cars on the road.
Look at routine trips that could become carpool opportunities –– grocery shopping, school pickups, or weekly errands. When we share rides, we split costs, strengthen community, and shrink our carbon footprints. What fall carpool trips will you arrange this year?
6. Shop at farmer’s markets for seasonal produce.
Buying local fruits and veggies that are in season reduces the carbon footprint of your meals.
Farmers markets are a one-stop shop for local, sustainable foods. This article shares ways that shopping locally at farmers markets not only reduces your carbon footprint, but also benefits your community. Here’s how:
- Locally grown produce travels fewer miles to your table, cutting emissions.
- Money that is spent with local farmers and food producers stays in the community and is reinvested in the community which benefits everyone. Connecting with neighbors and friends at a farmers market builds relationships that strengthen the community. Plus walking and getting fresh air is good for your body and soul!
- In-season produce is a great opportunity to try new recipes bursting with flavor.
- Peak season fruits and veggies provide more nutrients which can help protect against cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. And they just taste better!
Farmers markets offer organic, sustainable food while shrinking your environmental impact. And they build community! What’s your favorite farmers market find?
7. Get creative with costumes.
Shop second hand stores or reuse items you already have for costume pieces. Host a costume swap to circulate garments.
The E-Center at the University of Colorado Boulder provides tips and advice to help students have an eco-conscious Halloween. From costumes to decor, check out ways to be more environmentally sustainable over the spooky holiday, including:
- Creative costume ideas to thrift and upcycle instead of buying new.
- Suggestions for sustainable decorations, like making fake blood and cobwebs from natural materials.
- Dos and don’ts for reducing your environmental impact during Halloween season. For example, use LED lights instead of incandescent bulbs.
Let’s inspire our students by creatively reducing our environmental impact this season and all year round!
Focus on Sustainability This Fall With Climate Science
Looking to engage students in reducing their carbon footprint while meeting standards?
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One Step’s project-and-video-based climate program for grades 4–12 empowers students to drive solutions through hands-on learning. With our video lessons, activities, and real-world projects, educators can:
- Teach engaging climate concepts aligned to standards
- Inspire student-led initiatives to reduce emissions on campus
- Encourage sustainable practices
- Motivate students to make environmentally-conscious choices all season long
Sign up for a free 30-day trial to access ready-to-use resources. Let’s connect to discuss fall programming!