A look at the first Zero Waste October Challenge

By November 1, 2017 No Comments


Lots of wonderful Zero Waste projects and initiatives are emerging around the globe. One in particular caught my eye: I shared it on social media, but I think it deserves more attention:  To tell you more about it, I give you the lovely Kathryn, of



Hey y’all! I’m excited to share with you a recap of the very first annual Zero Waste October.

Zero Waste October is a month long challenge that’s geared towards elementary and middle school students. Each day comes with its own challenge like saying no to straws or picking up litter.


photo credit: @GoingZeroWaste


Rebecca Newburn, a middle school teacher in Northern California, came up with the idea. She enjoyed my 30 Day Zero Waste Challenge in June and approached me about crafting a curriculum for October specifically for kids. She found October to be the perfect month because kids are settling into their new school routines, and it’s right before the craziness of the fall and winter holidays.


So how was the first Zero Waste October received?

I’m happy to report that it was a huge success! The year started with three schools in the Larkspur Corte Madera School District. Beyond just reading the announcements and going through the curriculum, teachers and students got creative!

One school had a zero waste station set up in the cafeteria. For every reusable utensil and cloth napkin brought to lunch, the student was entered into a drawing. Each week two students were picked from the drawing for the grand prize of getting to go first in the hot lunch line -it’s apparently a really big deal! 😉  

Students were also encouraged to collect their trash for 31 days and make zero waste projects in art class like a reusable produce bags, cloth napkins, and even utensil holders.


This 7th grade boy proudly displays the utensil carrier and matching napkin that he sewed (photo credit: @RebeccaNewburn)


Just listen to what these 6th graders have to say about the challenge:

“I didn’t realize how many cheese wrappers I used until I started doing the challenge. I’m looking at alternative snacks.”

“I’m so used to throwing things away and not even thinking about it. Now, every time I go to throw something away, I realize it actually doesn’t go away. It’s made me think about what I use and buy.”

“I love the DIY products part of the project. I didn’t realize how easy it was to make toothpaste. It’s super fun.”

“I’m learning a lot about the waste I create. I’m going to continue to do the challenge after the October is over.”


photo credit: @RebeccaNewburn


How can you participate next year?

photo credit: @RebeccaNewburn

It’s super easy to get involved! If you’re a teacher, download the Zero Waste October booklet, and take a look at the morning announcements. You can also use this handy proclamation template to go school wide and have Zero Waste October officially declared by your city or organization.

And don’t be afraid to think beyond these resources! Other great ideas include partnering with the art teacher to make zero waste crafts, making it an incentivized school challenge, having students collect their trash, and even hosting a school wide clean-up day.

If you’re a parent, of course, you can do the challenge any time at home with your kids, but I’d encourage you to take it one step further. Chat with your child’s teacher, the principal, or even the school board. Individual responsibility is amazing, but community action can make a HUGE impact.

Now you have a whole year to prepare and I really hope you’ll be joining us for Zero Waste October next year!




Thank you Kathryn for sharing your wonderful Zero Waste October Challenge with us!

In conjunction with next year’s challenge, feel free to schedule a Skype call with me, if you are a teacher: I’m always happy to share my family’s zero waste lifestyle with students and answer any questions that they might have. I have done so with schools and classrooms all over the globe (and as far as China). I am also one to appreciate youngsters’ straightforwardness as I too, have “no filter” so it makes for one interesting conversation! 😉

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