Make Back to School a Little Greener

By Andrea Davis on August 24, 2023

As the summer winds down, thoughts inevitably turn to back-to-school shopping. And while it’s exciting for kids to get some cool new stuff which takes a little of the sting out of having to head back to the classroom, the whole process can get downright environmentally unfriendly. Here are a few tips for keeping back to school as green as possible.

  1. Seek out secondhand clothing. Kids grow out of clothes so quickly, usually while there’s a lot of life left in them. Consider passing an older child’s clothing on to a younger sibling, exchanging hand me downs with another family or shopping at a secondhand store for gently used clothing. There’s actually a good chance at finding items that are still in style that can be used for a long time (or at least until your kid starts growing again).
  2. Buy only what you need. It may be tempting to check out the latest sale on school supplies and stock up, but you could end up with a drawer full of things you’ll never get around to using. Before you go shopping, check out what you have left from the previous year. If half the pages in that notebook are still blank, why buy a new one? If last year’s backpack still works well and isn’t threadbare, do you really need to buy another? After your inventory is finished, make a list of things you truly need and stick with it. Don’t allow yourself to be wooed into collecting unnecessary items with clever marketing or impressive-sounding sales.
  3. Select supplies carefully. Look for items that are made from recycled materials. Pens, pencils, backpacks and notebooks all come in recycled varieties. You can buy pens made from recycled milk jugs, pencils made from recycled newspaper and backpacks made from recycled water bottles. Additionally, look for items with limited packaging, non-plastic packaging and/or packaging made from recycled materials.
  4. Invest in items that will ultimately result in less waste. Spend a little more money to get quality items that will last longer. A well-made backpack or lunch box could last several years. Purchase reusable lunch bags and containers to replace disposable containers and convenience food and drink items. For example, buy a reusable bottle or thermos for drinks and ditch those juice boxes. Grab a family-sized bag of pretzels instead of a single-serving one and select a reusable container instead of a plastic baggie.

With just a little effort and some small changes, you could make back to school more earth friendly. And even if you spend a bit more money on longer lasting products, you’ll probably end up spending less in the long run.