Refillable White Board Pens and Teaching Green

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.

Comments 8

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  1. Everything said here is so true! As a teacher I, and my students, create so much waste. To start even recylcing paper at a school in LAUSD is a huge hassel. You would think as the 2nd largest district in the nation it would see the impact it could have of it just put policy in place to promote “green” teaching, purchasing, and materials.

    Great Blog!!

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      Thanks Liz!

      Yes, you would think those who could have the biggest impact would move the quickest, especially with all the cuts in funding to schools. These could be a great way to cut costs and be green at the same time!

  2. Pingback: Can I use a wet erase Vis a Vis marker on a dry erase board?

  3. Been using the AusPen markers for two years – in North America they are distributed by – and as you, it was a student who alerted me to their existence.
    It does feel great not throwing away markers anymore, but just as big for me has been the health side, as I didn’t feel good around the disposable markers and the smell and chemicals. These are non-toxic markers and make a huge difference for me. No more headaches, etc. …good for the kids too.

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  4. That is some insane math there. Going green in the class room is defiantly the way the world needs to start going. Even more so the is the surface on which a pen writes on. I can’t even begin to tell you how many boards get tossed out due to teachers having a hard time getting all the stains off the board from students, or even all the writing they do in a weekly / daily basis on them. So it all adds up.

    Actually I have a ready to go article on Glass White Boards, that is a direct connection to pens and there longevity. If your interested please let me know, would love to share with you and your readers.

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