Green Your Back-to-School Shopping List with These Ideas

By Ashley Ess in Thinking Sustainably

While back-to-school shopping, it’s easy to get caught in a whirlwind of options across each aisle. But big sales and new supplies carry a bit of a burden: they’re not always eco-friendly. This year, seek out green back-to-school supplies and clothing! Your children will learn the importance of the choices you make as consumers while you support companies and practices that care about the health of the Earth.

Here are tips and ideas to help green your back-to-school list with good-for-the-planet merchandise.

Reusables and Swaps

First, look through what you already own. Chances are you have a decent number of supplies that went unused from last year. If the previous year’s backpack is in good shape, why not reuse it? Simply give it a good washing and “dress” it differently by adding buttons, key chains, patches, or even some fabric paint. Setting aside a few moments to take stock of your reuseables removes a major load from your back-to-school shopping list.

Another way to green your back-to-school errands is by seeing what you can swap. Connect with friends and family during the summer and trade outgrown clothing and extra school supplies. Not only will this save money, but it’s a fun way to inspire others to green their back-to-school lists as well. Highlight your interest with a get-together including a simple, earth-friendly feast of local, organic, or sustainable foods that can be included in healthy school lunches.

Make the Basics Greener

First on the list are your basic supplies. Many school supplies such as paper, notebooks, binders, and even pens are made with recycled materials that have become much easier to find. You can even find tree-free paper in stationery stores and online. Recycled markers that are refillable with non-toxic ink are an alternative to the typical non-biodegradable markers that end up in landfills.

For pencils, consider those made from recycled newspapers. A few other important items to look for: pens with water-based or vegetable inks, computers that are ENERGY STAR compliant, and solar-powered calculators.

Upgrade the Lunchbox

Aim for a waste-free lunch this year. There are a variety of reusable lunchboxes and bags made from green materials, and they’re a wonderful way to ditch the wasteful “brown bag” lunches for good. What’s inside your child’s lunchbox is just as important; instead of plastic bags, pack you child’s food in reusable stainless steel or glass containers. Another alternative is to make or purchase reusable sandwich bags designed from cloth or recycled materials. Avoid plastic containers, as many include toxic chemicals and eventually end up in landfills. You might even choose BPA-free recycled plastic if you can.

Utensils and water bottles are also available in reusable forms, and their use will help the environment since a whopping 86 percent of plastic water bottles in the US become trash.

back to school shopping

Change How to Buy It

To keep your child’s body and mind as healthy as possible during the school day, steer clear of highly processed foods like simple carbs and sugars. Go even further by not using juice boxes or prepackaged foods. Processed items are typically packaged with wasteful materials like plastic that end up in landfills and often the ocean. Support companies that use less packaging and that make an effort to use recycled or biodegradable materials. Buy in bulk when you can, and choose locally manufactured items to put money back into the town that your kids’ school depends on!

When Planning Outfits

Hand-me-downs are a way to save money and time (think of the hours you won’t have to spend at crowded shopping centers). Raising just one child? Check in with friends and relatives to see if they’re looking to donate any outgrown clothing. Set a goal to repurpose at least a few items in his or her closet for the new school year.

For buying new clothes, try shopping local or online for Earth-friendly stores that avoid using toxic dyes and materials in their clothing. Not only will those made from higher-quality materials last longer, but they’ll make great hand-me-downs for younger family members and friends. Look for clothing made from materials like industrial hemp, bamboo, tencel , wool, and organic cotton. Many of these materials also use far less water and energy to produce, and their crops don’t require the use of pesticides.

What green products do you plan on buying this back-to-school season? Tell us on Twitter.

Image sources: Flickr | Flickr

This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.

Why It’s Good

With the growing demand for greener, safer products and food, eco-friendly back-to-school shopping is simpler than ever. Rest easy knowing there are many alternatives to the typical toxic school supplies offered that will fit within your budget, honor the environment and, as a bonus, teach your children about being a responsible consumer.