Author Archives: Bernadette Noll

Zero Waste Classroom

Students need adult models and they need to be empowered to make the choices and ask the questions that help them find solutions. Start the conversation on day one and use it as a lens for all you do and use. Ask simply, “How can we consume less? Where and how can we reuse more?”

For students, the experience of a Zero Waste classroom is a real and empowering step towards approaching the greater environmental challenges of plastic pollution and the climate change; students learn that their choices do matter. Use math to help them understand the compounded impact. i.e. One classroom uses 100 less pencils, there are 22 classrooms in our school, there are 30 schools in our district, etc.

Recycling is great but it’s not the answer. It is a last resort, not a first option. Change the known triad of REDUCE REUSE RECYCLE to REFUSE REDUCE REUSE RECONSIDER REPAIR RECYCLE.

Classroom Challenge

  1. Remember why it’s important. Ask the kids for their own reasons of why it’s important to reduce and reuse.
    1. “I love the ocean and pounds of plastic end up in the ocean…”
    2. “Our landfills are filling up.”
  2. Refuse what you don’t need.
  3. Reduce what you do need.
  4. Reuse where you can. Share resources with other classrooms.
  5. Recycle minimally and view this as a last option, not first.
  6. Create classroom challenges such as the single pencil challenge wherein each child is given one pencil and encouraged to use that one for as long as they can or zero waste lunch challenges.
  7. Install a Creative Reuse cabinet in your school for teachers and staff to use.
  8. Collect compost.
  9. Before you buy, ask parents and teachers for items they may already have.


  • Pack reusable utensils for breakfast and lunch.  
  • Use reusable lunch boxes or bags.
  • Use reusable water bottles instead of plastic water bottles.
  • Find reusable containers instead of baggies or foil.
  • Thrift stores are loaded with options for lunchbox vessels taking reuse to another level.
  • Discuss zero waste lunch options with the kids.

School supplies:

  • Ditch the plastic mechanical pencils and use wooden ones instead or buy one good mechanical pencil that can be refilled.
  • Avoid plastic binders and find cardboard ones or eco-friendly ones or find used ones at thrift stores or at Austin Creative Reuse.
  • Don’t buy new plastic pencil boxes. Use cardboard or canvas ones. Old makeup bags or cigar boxes make great pencil cases. Buy or find good quality cases that can be used year after year.
  • Many notebooks have only a few pages used. Rip these out and encourage reuse.
  • Encourage using both sides of a page.
  • Use recycling bin contents as scrap paper
  • Check Austin Creative Reuse for your back-to-school shopping needs where you can get great quality materials for less than cheap materials elsewhere.

For art projects:

  • View all waste as possible fodder for projects. What’s in the trash? The recycling bin? Ask the kids how they might use what is there. Pose the question to them, “what materials do we already have that can be used as an alternative to new supplies?” i.e. pencil shavings for collage, broken crayons and crayon wrappers for art projects, tissue boxes for dioramas, bottle caps for manipulatives or mosaic, etc.
  • Cardboard is a multi-faceted art material and is literally everywhere! Cut it, draw on it, peel off the top layer to expose the corrugation, or let kids rip it into shreds as a fidget.
  • Shred/cut any plastic or cardboard for confetti art.
  • Use plastic containers like yogurt or fruit cups to hold your paint.
  • Dried out markers can be used for collage or building projects.
  • Use the surplus that is all around us.
  • Put the reuse lens on everything you do.


  • Create a classroom party box with reusable plates, cups, utensils for class parties. Parent volunteers wash and return.
  • Use decorations and bulletin board decor that is or can be reused.
  • Use fabric table cloths or drop cloths that can be washed and reused.
  • Create a classroom compost.
  • Ask the custodians not to change the trash bag daily.
  • When assigning classroom jobs of the week, create a sustainability or green team.
  • Create share boxes of used crayons and markers for each table or group vs. individual boxes

What ways have you incorporated reuse into your classroom? What challenges do you face in regards to new vs. reuse. Email us! We want to know!

Interested in installing a Creative Reuse Center in your classroom? Email us for more info!

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Classroom Clean-out!

Hey Teachers! It’s the end of the year! And Jessica of our educator team has created this great list for helping you clear out for the summer! Hats off to you!!!

Classroom Organization



Save & reuse

next year

Austin Creative Reuse

1.       Organize supplies in containers and label everything!   ACR has containers to help organize, sticker labels, and markers.
2.       Take down bulletin boards & wall décor.


Save or donate Donate to ACR if you can’t use it next year.
3.       Clean out desk and make a list of items/supplies for next year.


Save or donate ACR carries most items.
4.       Clean out student files. Save and reuse file folders or donate ACR carries more if you need for next year!
5.       Remind students to take home journals, portfolios, etc.


Recycle what you can Donate any extra to ACR.
6.       Clean out all binders. Save and reuse binders.

Recycle what’s not reusable

Donate any blank paper to ACR.
7.       Take home all personal items (coffee mugs, frames, etc.)


Save and reuse Or donate to ACR. How many mugs do you really need in your classroom?
8.       Thoroughly clean classroom and unplug all electrical devices.


use rags such as old t-shirts or towels Got some devices or tools you don’t need? Donate them to ACR!
9.       Fill out necessary end-of-year paperwork. Sorry about this! ACR can’t help you with this one.
10.   Turn in your keys and enjoy your summer! YAY!!! Visit ACR to collect supplies for your summer crafting needs!



How to green up your classroom party

Tis the season for classroom parties and the volunteer positions are filling up. It’s easy to hit the dollar store or the party aisle at your local grocery store but with just a little planning, and a bit of effort we can save a classroom’s worth of party detritus from going to the landfill. It’s not always simple to choose reusable items over disposable, but it’s simpler than an entire society trying to figure out what to do with all its garbage. I encourage you this year to take a few minutes to think green when you are planning your holiday party and choose reusable where and when you can.

  • Cover the tables with table cloths, fabric pieces or drop cloths. Simply wash the cloths after the party. Skip the disposable plastic table cloths as that is a lot of garbage for just one party. Austin Creative Reuse has vinyl banners, bolts of different fabrics and other things that can be made into table coverings.
  • Use real cutlery. Pretty much everyone has a dishwasher. It’s just as easy to gather up all the silverware and throw it in a bag to be brought home for washing as it is to throw it away. Don’t have enough? Hit the thrift store for a party pack of used silverware.
  • Use real plates! Seriously, it’s not that much harder than using disposable. Find some reusable melamine or small plastic dishes at the thrift store that can be used as regular party plates or have everyone BYOP. Choose a color theme or have the theme of randomness! Want to make it schoolwide? Create a party pack which can be checked out by teachers for classroom parties.
  • Having a big school wide party? Ask attendees to bring their own plates and cutlery. Bring it in a plastic bag so that it can be brought home dirty. To make this even more palatable, offer guests a rinsing station so they can rinse their plates before packing them up to take home.
  • Make the decorations things you can reuse. Skip the paper streamers and hang some ribbon and ornaments instead. Make the décor part of the activities and watch it grow as the party continues. Simply hang string or ribbon around the perimeter of the room and using tiny binder clips or clothespins, clip on origami, paper snowflakes made from the recycling bin, photos, ornaments or whatever other item you create. Pop into Austin Creative Reuse party section for lots of décor ideas and even some used decorations  from classroom parties past!
  • Serving food? Again, the thrift stores are loaded with the serving vessels you need. Real cake stands, trays, baskets and platters can be found for the same price or less than disposable ones. Don’t want to keep them? Simply wash and return to the thrift store when finished. Austin Creative Reuse has plenty of baskets and other large serving platters as well.
  • Serving drinks? Use a large water cooler and fill it with the beverage of your choice. Skip the juice boxes or water bottles and opt for reusable/washable cups instead. Find cups at the thrift store or even buy a sleeve of new reusable cups for the classroom at the beginning of the year. Let each kid decorate their own cup with permanent markers or paint. For schoolwide events, offer a commemorative cup to be purchased and used at each event.

Austin Creative Reuse Center is a great place to look for supplies and tools for your next classroom party. Come for traditional items such as streamers and plates or expand your decor with the many non-traditional items available. Need some ideas? Just ask the employees, volunteers or even your fellow shoppers!

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Creating Creativity in 4 Easy Steps

We want our kids to be creative and so we buy them all kinds of craft kits and maker kits. It’s true these kits are designed to help our kids create, but they are not designed to encourage our kids’ creativity. Usually the kits are designed to make one thing and one thing only, with implicit instructions on how to do so. This is fine if you want to make one thing and one thing only, but why teach our children to merely assemble a product when we can teach them to dream up something unique?

How then can we provide our kids a make/craft experience that will truly foster creativity? What if we’re not creative ourselves? How can we allow them to interpret the materials using their own ideas and ingenuity without getting in their way? It’s easy really. Way easier than trying to control it! And when we get out of their way we will be amazed at what they come up with.

To get you and your family started, here are four simple steps for fostering creativity in your house or classroom:

  1.       Have simple tools handy. If we give them the tools, they will build stuff. To get them started on many projects have a small “maker” tool box handy. This can be kept in a cigar box or other small box that is easy to grab. The easier it is to grab the tools, the more likely it is they will be used and the easier it is to clean up! Some basic ideas: glue, decent scissors, a hole punch, a large-eye plastic sewing needle, and a glue gun if you are working with older kids.
  2.       Provide the materials. Put an assortment of materials in a box and give it to a child. The container will make it feel like a kit, but the materials inside will get them pondering all the possibilities as seen through their own brilliant imaginations. It is said that childhood is the time our imaginations are the most vivid, and if we don’t use our imaginations then, we never will. We can foster imagination by staying away from instructions and instead providing open-ended materials that will allow their minds to wander. Some ideas for your creativity box: fabric sample book, wall-paper sample book, sheet protectors, colored cardstock or scrapbook paper, a ball of string or yarn, cut-up pieces of corrugated cardboard, burlap, buttons, chop sticks or kabob sticks, embroidery floss (I recommend the pearl style floss that can’t be separated and is easier for little hands to work with) and some type of simple fasteners such as brads. All of these things and more can be found at Austin Creative Reuse for less than $2.00 total! If you’d rather stay at home, search around for items you could use such as scraps of denim, magazines, the plastic coated postcard mailers, snaps cut from a discarded garment, old keys, or items pulled from the recycling bin.
  3.       Let go of the outcome. If you have an outcome in mind, feel free to offer it as a serving suggestion but then step back and let your child go wild. If you really can’t let go of the outcome, sit down and make it yourself but stay away from dictating your child’s project. By sitting down next to them and working on your own stuff, your child will be inspired by both your ideas and your own desire to create.
  4.       Have fun. If you can’t let go, walk away. If you’re not finding it fun, walk away. Creativity should be fun, not stressful so do whatever it takes to set yourselves up for success. Work outside if the mess makes you wiggy. Cover the table with a drop cloth if you can’t take your eyes off the glue dripping out of the bottle. Close the door if you feel triggered by the chaos. Whatever you do, keep it fun.


Make a field trip to the Austin Creative Reuse Center the first step in your family’s road to creativity! Come solo or bring the kids. You’ll be amazed at what you find. If you need ideas for projects or materials, just ask! Both the employees and customers at Austin Creative Reuse are happy to share ideas and inspiration. Check out the website for hours and project inspiration:

If you have questions about projects or ways to bring Austin Creative Reuse into your classroom or school, email Bernadette at If you’d like to volunteer at our center click here to find out how!

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2005 Wheless Lane, Austin, TX 78723
Hours: Mon/Tues Closed, Wed to Sun 10am-8pm
Tel: (512) 375-3041