Getting to school
School divisions’ transportation looks a lot different this year. Due to physical distancing, bus capacity is dramatically reduced, and families need to find ways to get kids to school on their own. Here are some ways to make the trip to school a success!
- Bus: children 11 and under ride for free on Winnipeg Transit, with a fare-paying passenger (no capacity restrictions, masks are recommended)
- Create a socially-distanced walking school bus – get a few families together who can walk together, with a rotating parent supervisor schedule. It gives you a break sometimes, and gives the kids a chance to spend time with friends
- Map a route – map a route for walking or biking to school. Practice the route together a few times on a weekend or evening. Check out our mapping activity to help you and your kid find a safe route (it works for biking and walking)!
- Buddy system – encourage your kids to walk, bike, rollerblade or scooter with a buddy, or with a friend or family member. If cycling:
- Walk-a-block – if you need to drive, try dropping your kid off a block away from the front of the school. This gives your child a chance to have some independence and helps to reduce traffic congestion.
- Advocate for Safe School Streets! Isaac Brock was a school that wanted to make drop-off/pick-ups of students safer by closing down the street in front of the school and had great success with a pilot School Street in 2020-21. Think your school could benefit from a safe school street? Bring it up with your school administration, talk to your local city councillor, or email us with any questions!
Whether you’ve been walking and biking to school forever, or are trying to break the car habit, we have lots of resources for you. Check out the Active and Safe Routes to School Program!
Active school travel also increases mental and physical health, can help with concentration in the classroom, and reduces your environmental impact – that’s a win-win-win whether you do it once a week, one month out of the year, or for the entire school year.
- Microwaves are unlikely to be an option this year. If you want to bring warm foods, preheat them and store in a thermal container!
- Make sure your children are able to open their own containers. Screw-tops, for example, can be tricky for small hands or students with disabilities. Test out whatever lunch kit you end up with to be sure it can be used independently.
- Stuck with disposables? We’ve got a few suggestions for lower-impact options below!
- Make sure you choose something easily washable, for your own sanity!
- Water fountains in most school divisions are unavailable, so check in with your school whether water bottle refills will be an option. If not, make sure to pack more than one, or send a large enough water bottle to last all day!
Here’s a few ideas for how to pack a low-waste lunch:
- Wrap dry items in beeswax wraps. Many stores carry these now, including Generation Green, The Nature Shop at FortWhyte, Jardins-St-Leons, Crampton’s Market, Humboldt’s Legacy, The Refill Market and many more. Your grocery store or supermarket may even stock them now!
- Use what you have! If you have food storage containers at home already, and your child can open them easily, put these in a reusable bag you can wipe down (schools may require a plastic or other hard-sided container that can more easily be sanitized).
- Try a bento-style box. These are especially good for younger children, as they’re appealing and help you to portion food appropriately. These can be found everywhere these days, from Winners and Staples to Generation Green and Humboldt’s Legacy. Decide whether you need a leak-proof box or if you’ll only be adding dry goods.
- For hot foods, a thermal container is handy. MEC carries great quality thermoses, but you can also find them in most stores selling school supplies these days.
- Consider leaving out single-use wrapped items, especially for younger children. Juice box straws, yogurt tubes, granola bars, and similar products can prove tricky to open, requiring assistance from teachers. This leads to less distancing and more touching of items!
- Need straws? Consider silicone straws for younger kids, as glass breaks easily and stainless steel concerns some parents and teachers for its potential to jab students. Plus silicone comes in lots of fun colours!
- Water bottles: occupational therapists and speech-language pathologists seem to mostly be recommending open-cup or straw-style bottles (and suggesting we avoid the style of bottle where you bite the straw to suck). We encourage you to do your research, and think the best water bottle is one kids will use! (and is leak-proof). Klean Kanteen stainless steel bottles come with a lifetime warranty, which may appeal to those of you with kids who are particularly…shall we say, “creative”?
- If your child can use utensils well, include some reusable ones. Thrift stores often have good quality utensils for very cheap, and you don’t have to worry about your good ones getting lost. Or if you prefer something lighter, bamboo is a great alternative. Titanium sporks may appeal to the goofier kids!
- Don’t forget a freshly washed cloth napkin – and some hand sanitizer too. Cloth napkins can simply be rags or cut-up old sheets or blankets. Make sure you have enough so they can go in the wash between uses!
Gotta go disposable? Try something recycled and recyclable like these If You Care paper sandwich bags, instead of non-recyclable filmy plastic zipper bags!
According to the loosened restrictions, masks will no longer be mandatory and only recommended. Check with your school regarding their mask requirements. Carry some on hand just in case. Here’s a few reusable options:
- Make your own! Winnipeg Sews offers independently-made patterns for them. Just make sure you use a tightly-woven fabric with at least two layers or they won’t be effective.
- Buy them locally-made: there’s a lot of small makers who make masks. A few we know of who make masks for smaller faces include EMK, Anne Mulaire, Colibri (also a great source for snack bags!), Itty Bitty Baby Boutique, The Cutting Edge (a social enterprise!). Etsy and Facebook Marketplace are two other excellent sources to search for locally-made masks for kids (and their parents!).
Don’t have the ability to sew and can’t afford locally made? Mutual Aid Society is offering free masks to parents who cannot afford a mask at this time for their children. Please contact them through their Facebook group to get one. Remember, reusable still trumps disposable for the environment, no matter where you get it from!
Schools often provide very specific lists of supplies you need to purchase. Make sure you check in with a teacher if you are hoping to deviate from the supply list. That said, students in older grades (like highschool) or those who have a generic item on the supply list like “pocket folders” will have some leeway. Here’s a few options that may fit your needs – and hey, if you’re buying crayons, consider getting a pack that offers many shades of “flesh” tones!
- Recycled notebooks. You may be surprised what you can find at standard school-supply stores like Staples. Chapters-Indigo carries Canadian-made EcoJot brand made from recycled paper, you can order tree-free Eco Paper reams and notebooks online at http://www.ecopaper.com/journals/journals-html.html. For some more options check out TreeHugger’s article!
- Staples carries a number of recycled-paper products like lined paper, copy paper, paper portfolios and pocket folders, exercise books, spiral-bound notebooks, paper pads, etc. These reduce the number of new trees needed to produce school supplies! These are widely available in many retail outlets.
- Need highlighters? Highlighter pencils produce a lot less waste than highlighter pens!
- Avoid printing out a school supply list and request it be emailed to you instead.
- If you have to print, try to print on recycled paper and print on both sides.
- Check with your child’s school if you have to pay a fee for school supplies or if you need to provide your own.
Not in a position to afford new school supplies? Mutual Aid Society is offering free supplies to parents who cannot afford any at this time for their children. Please contact them through their Facebook group.
Not everything has changed! Kids still grow out of clothes and want or need new ones for the new year. Second hand is always the lowest-impact option – on the environment and your wallet! Try thrift stores (small one-offs can have the best deals often), or reselling platforms and stores like Once Upon A Child, Plato’s Closet (for older students/larger sizes), PoshMark, Facebook Marketplace. There are also a number of smaller, online-based consignment stores such as ChildCycle Consignment and Sweet Pea Threads. Friends and family may have hand-me-downs too. Can’t find what you need second hand, and have some budget left? Try seeking a few quality pieces from more ethical clothing companies. Locally, EMK makes a children’s line, and The Nest in Winnipeg carries some smaller sizes of more sustainably-made clothing items for kids. Know more great sources? Share with us in the comments! Textile production is rife with environmental and social challenges (check out Fashion Revolution Winnipeg to learn more), but it’s possible to mitigate those. Know more great sources? Share with us in the comments!
If you have a younger kid, you may need to send a change of clothes to school, as well as a wet bag to put them in (especially if bathroom accidents are a possibility). Colibri and AMP Diapers both stock excellent locally-made wet bags that can be used for storing swimsuits, dirty clothing, and more.
Did you know many school supplies are recyclable? Notebooks can be taken apart and the paper put in your blue bin. Electronics, as mentioned above, are recycled through the Electronic Products Recycling Association (EPRA). Batteries (present in all too many kid items) can be recycled for free through Call2Recycle. Pens, pencils, crayons, etc. can be dropped off at the recycling stations at Staples locations, as can lightbulbs, printer cartridges, and more. Check-in with Staples if they will be restarting their collection efforts, now that restrictions are slowly lifting.
Remember: do what you can, not what you can’t. Every action makes a positive difference!
*This is not a sponsored article, and we do not specifically endorse any store or product. Please do sufficient research to determine that products will meet your needs.