Auspen refillable whiteboard markerAs a teacher, I know how much waste a school produces in the name of education – trees give their lives to childrens paper, party cups, paper towels. School-discarded plastic fills the landfill. Markers last a few weeks at best, and their useless carcasses are quickly tossed, and another $2.99 is spent on a new rainbow package without hesitation. I can estimate that one class of kids (25) goes through about 100 disposable pens over the course of the school year. Multiply that by every classroom in the country, and you can see the impact.

The modern teacher will need writing instruments of all varieties: expo pens of all sizes – for white board and small boards, vis-a-vis pens for over heads, permanent markers for labeling, washable markers for kids to use on projects… and this list goes on for number 2 pencils, crayons and colored pencils. As a lifelong environmentalist, it has been very disturbing – and I mindfully double side photocopy when I can.

It seems that is the only thing I can really do to make a difference in my school. How can we not use markers? I have heard that you can buy and insert acetone to prolong the life of a marker, or spin them by their tip to squeeze out some ink, but this effort shows the true purpose of these pens – to be thrown out and replaced. They are the historical universal tool alongside paper for most communication, presentation, and education in school.

Auspen refillable whiteboard penAt my current rich school in Marin County, California, I am able to see how small districts, involved parents and teachers can work together to achieve a greener school. We use 30% Post consumer paper for the copiers and compostables to distribute school lunches. Currently, the PTA is campaigning for carpooling, walking and biking to school.

One day, Bay, a 4th grader, approached me about AUS Pens – which described an entrepreneurial dream I had recently as a result of reluctantly trashing a tub of now-useless plastic markers. I smiled ear to ear as he enthusiastically told me that I should get some immediately. Finally, a refillable whiteboard marker. I followed my students directions, and ordered 6 markers and refilling ink to be shipped to my doorstep all the way from ausssiland (Australia) for about $60.00.

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The time perhaps has come for schools to fully green themselves. If it has the cash and parent support, that is. In my experience in the Bay Area, poorer urban schools are the most behind. Working within a large public school bureaucracy, it is difficult to change the ordering behavior of that entire district – whether it be bulk paper or government lunch distribution (which can be so bad as to use the all-evil Styrafoam!).

These schools will need an extra push to catch up to say, a small school in Marin. AUS pens, I hope are the beginning of a new school materials era – where materials are respect by kids, kept, reused and a very important lesson is learned – the finite earth is not only our wasteland, but our home.

Today’s guest blog post is brought to us by my sister, Nicole LaCount, who is a grade school teacher in the Marin School District.