Every one of my 175 students has at least one vinyl 3-ring binder. I have several myself: one lesson-plan binder for each of my preps, one first semester grade record binder, one one second-semester grade record binder, one binder of parent-contact information, three large binders of articles from various interlibrary sources, one large portfolio of my writing that my students enjoy looking through, one binder of grammar and syntax exercises, and at least a dozen (now empty) binders I’ve gotten from various professional development trainings — and this is after I recycled the contents of more than fifteen binders last summer and gave away the gently used ones to students for whom purchasing a binder is a real hardship. The empty ones I have on hand now are to replace binders students lose when their backpacks are stolen (it doesn’t happen often, but it does happen).
Of course, plastic binders, except the ones that spend most of their time on shelves, don’t last long. My students and I use our binders regularly, so about halfway through the year, we’re all using my packing tape and duct tape to hold our binders together, adding yet more plastic to an already hard (if not impossible) to recycle plastic product.
Enter Naked Binder. I’d actually been eyeing the product for a while as a more sturdy alternative to my flimsy (yes, even when they’re labeled “heavy duty”) binders, but it wasn’t until I started going plastic-free that I got that final push to purchase them. They do offer a generous teacher discount, and I was impressed with the customer service when I asked for it.
Because I have so many binders in use at a time, I decided to get ten one-inch, square binders (there are a variety of options) and one small notebook binder (I use a small notebook to write my agendas and announcements for each class each day because otherwise it’s easy to forget important information when you’re teaching five classes, and no two of the same class in a row; currently I’m using a small, plastic-covered notebook from Daiso, but it’s almost out of paper). I also got a few sets of dividers and labels.
I brought them to school on Thursday and let my students check them out, and they were just as excited as I was. First of all, they’re 100% recyclable. You can easily remove the metal binder section from the board to separate them for recycling at the end of the binder’s life (I’ll have to ask Naked Binder if they’d appreciate having the metal innards sent back to them for reuse to save on production waste and cost). But more importantly, it looks like the end of the binder’s life is going to be a long way off. These things are sturdy. My students and I particularly appreciated that aspect.
My students also liked that the surface can be drawn on. I’m not very artistically inclined, but I think I’ll have some of my students decoratively label my binders.
The only negative I see is that, because of the material, inside pockets are an impossibility. I frequently slip IEP accommodation records or other academic contracts into the pockets of my binder, but I’m sure I can come up with a new system. To help with that, I also bought ten two-pocket folders. I actually see the lack of pockets as a positive for my students because way too many of them, rather than keep their handouts and classwork organized, stuff everything into their side pockets and can’t find anything when they need it, despite my having them number every single page we create so they can easily stay organized.
I’ve only just started using them, so I’ll post when one finally dies. On average, it takes one of my plastic binders that gets heavy use (like my attendance and grade records) 4-5 months to start falling apart to the point where I have to start taping. That’s a pretty short useful lifetime for something that will remain on this planet for hundreds of years (or more). Plus, that vinyl is leaching toxins into my skin and the skin of my students several times a day. The Naked Binder seems like the right choice for our planet and our health. If it lasts longer than the traditional vinyl binder, that’s just icing.
*I am not associated with Naked Binder and these are not affiliate links. I’m just a happy customer.