BC Green Games Guide #2: Zero Waste

We should all be working toward a zero waste lifestyle for a better future. The good news is that simple changes you can make in your classroom and at home can have a big impact on reducing waste.


What does it mean to be zero waste?

The Zero Waste International Alliance defines zero waste as “The conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health.” This simply means we should reduce what we use, reuse what we can, recycle or compost what we can’t, and most importantly, put nothing in the garbage bin to go to a landfill.


In other words, we need to work on creating a circular economy where the resources we take to make products are continually reused or remade, in an environmentally friendly process, and never end up in a landfill or the environment. Just like natural ecosystems recycle nutrients, and nothing goes to waste, we need to do the same with manufactured products.


Now that we know what it means to be zero waste, why is it important?

A lot of natural resources, like trees, water, minerals and oil, are collected and processed into all of the products we use every day. Most end up in a landfill when we are done with them. This is wasteful and unsustainable, as we only have so many resources available on this planet. A lot of manufactured materials, like plastic, that end up in landfills can be quite harmful to the environment as they may leak toxins or be consumed by wildlife.


In addition, the processing of all of these products requires a lot of energy, much of which comes from non-renewable energy sources. By reducing our waste, or going zero waste, we are reducing the amount of harmful chemicals entering the environment via landfills and the material production processes. We are also reducing the energy consumption used in these processes, therefore cutting carbon emissions and saving money as we buy less. By simply working toward a zero waste lifestyle locally, we can make a huge difference globally to reduce climate change and create a more sustainable future.


So, what can you do?

Start small and make it a habit. Don’t worry about doing it perfectly, we need lots of people trying imperfectly because collectively we will make a difference. There are so many things you can do, both in the classroom and at home, to work toward going zero waste.


Start as simple as always carrying a water bottle, reusable bag, utensils and straw, then learn more! What products can you buy that can be reused instead of thrown out? What can be recycled or composted instead of thrown out? Can you repair it instead of throw it out?


Single-use plastics are a big issue. Find ways to support banning single-use plastic or do a beach cleanup to remove waste from the environment!


There are a lot of resources out there, including a list at the bottom of this blog to get you started at home and for your BC Green Games project. Together we need to work on reducing, reusing and recycling instead of throwing products into the garbage bin.


What could your zero waste BC Green Games project look like?

Do a waste audit

  • See what is ending up in the waste bins, then make a plan to ensure materials are going in the right bins and see what you can do to create less waste.


Participate in Waste Reduction Week

  • Have your school participate in this annual October program.


Enjoy a litterless lunch

  • Encourage your class or school to have a litterless lunch day where nothing from your lunch ends up in the trash bin.
  • Discover lots of great tips on how to do that and why it’s important here.


Recycle pens and markers

  • Set up a marker recycling bin in the classroom or school office with programs like Crayola ColorCycle.


Recycle soft plastic

  • Check out all the locations where you can now recycle soft plastic.


Collect batteries and e-waste for recycling



  • Set up a classroom or school-wide compost bin to prevent food scraps from going into the waste bin and not properly breaking down.


Organize a clothing swap

  • Don’t buy new things when you can reuse what someone else would have otherwise thrown out.


Reduce plastic

  • Although plastic can be reused and recycled, a lot of it still ends up harming the environment so we should work towards going plastic free.
  • Carry your own metal water bottle, use reusable bags for shopping, carry reusable utensils, use a metal or bamboo straw, etc.


Educate others on what you’ve learned

  • It’s important to share what you’ve learned and encourage others to work toward going zero waste.


Curriculum Connections

  • Curiosity and wonder lead us to new discoveries about ourselves and the world around us (K)
  • Healthy communication recognizes and respects the diversity of individuals and helps us care for the local environment (1)
  • Local actions have global consequences, and global actions have local consequences (2)
  • Individuals have rights and responsibilities as global citizens (2)
  • Materials can be changed through physical and chemical processes (2)
  • Living things are diverse, can be grouped and interact in their ecosystem (3)
  • Earth materials change as they move through the rock cycle and can be used as natural resources (5)
  • Everyday materials are often mixtures (6)
  • Complex global problems require international cooperation to make difficult choices for the future (6)
  • Economic self-interest can be a significant cause of conflict among people and governments (6)
  • Media sources can both positively and negatively affect our understanding of important events and issues (6)
  • The biosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere are interconnected, as matter cycles and energy flows through them (9)
  • And more!


Core Competency – Social Responsibility

Contributing to community and caring for the environment

  • I contribute to group activities that make my classroom, school, community or natural world a better place.
  • I can identify how my actions and the actions of others affect my community and the natural environment and can work to make positive change.
  • I can analyze complex social or environmental issues from multiple perspectives. I can take thoughtful actions to influence positive, sustainable change.


Sustainable Development Goals

12 – Responsible consumption and production


Resources and Potential Community Coaches

10 000 changes

31 Day Zero Waste Challenge for Kids

Baker Creek Enhancement Society

A Beginner's Guide to Zero Waste Living

City of Surrey

Earth Overshoot Day

Family Living Today

Green Chair Recycling

Leap Into Action: Environmental Action Guide

Love Food Hate Waste

Northern Environmental Action Team

Pack a Waste-Free Lunch

Planet Protector Academy – free if you register your green team before the November 30 early bird deadline!

Science World Resources

Scientist and Innovators in Schools

The Story of Stuff

Waste Reduction Week for Schools

Waste Less in the Classroom

Zero Waste Classroom Challenge

Zero Waste Challenge