Millions of children and adults will soon be starting another school year, meaning the back-to-school shopping has already started or will soon begin. This year, think green when heading back to the classroom. Here are a few tips to help you head back to school in great GREEN style:
- Supplies: Sort through the school supplies on-hand. Many things, like notebooks, pens, pencils, and backpacks can be reused. You can share your used books and other school supplies with friends, relatives, or younger schoolchildren. Avoid backpacks made of nylon or new plastics, especially PVC (vinyl), and look instead for bags made from recycled materials or natural materials, such as hemp. Choose recycled paper and paper products made from alternative fibers like hemp or kenaf. You can also get cool pens, post-its, scissors and so on with recycled content or use refillable pens and pencils. Did you know you can get pencils made out of recycled jeans or money! Make your own bookmarks.
- Clothes. Hand-me-downs are a great place to get started, and thrift stores can be a fun (and cheap!) way to send your kiddies back to school in low-impact duds. Organize a clothes swap with your friends. If you have to buy new, go for well-made, high-quality choices made from more sustainable fabrics like organic cotton or bamboo. Donate last year’s clothes instead of throwing them away.
- Paper: Buy paper products with the highest percentage of post-consumer recycled content possible, that is processed chlorine free (PCF). Print on both sides of the paper, using paper already printed on one side for drafts and filling notebooks from cover to cover before purchasing a new one. And it never hurts to ask teachers if you can email in your work. Remember to turn your computer off when you’re not using it.
- Miscellaneous Supply Overload: Bigger items, like glue sticks, colored pencils, and markers, are still necessary in many cases, but, because they don’t get used every day, you don’t need them in the larger quantities typical of printer paper, pencils, and pens. Don’t be tempted by the better deal on a dozen bottles of glue if you know you’ll only need three bottles between now and next spring.
- Transportation: Before children can start learning and interacting with peers, they need to get to school. And how they do has an enormous impact on our environment as well as their health. You may be surprised at which modes of transportation are the safest for kids. Take a close look at school buses, walking and biking, “walking school buses,” transit and driving and find out what is best for you. Be sure to carpool to sporting events..
- Breakfast: Resist the trend to eat the most important meal of the day at the drive-through. Instead of filling up on high-fat sandwiches, overcooked eggs or sugary doughnuts, try money-saving DIY breakfast bars or easy fruit smoothies, portable sandwiches and organic coffee.
- Lunch: Use an actual lunch box or reusable sack, cloth napkins and reusable dividing containers. Use reusable water bottles instead of plastic. Forget the mini-packs of Cheetos and Doritos; apples, oranges, bananas, and other fruit are heathful, waste-free snackables that come with their own compostable wrapping. And, don’t forget: Kids need snacks as well as lunch. Try vegetable sticks and a couple of slices of cheese.