Green Back to School Tips
Top Green Back to School Tips
- Get off to a Good Green Start
Before hitting the malls or online shops in search of green back to school gear, plan out your day (and your year) at school, and ask yourself some questions. Are you really going to ride your bike enough to warrant buying a new set of wheels? Are you going to be diligent enough about bringing your lunch each day (or most days) to require a new lunchbox or other reusable vessel? Do you really need a new ruler (the measurements haven’t changed over the summer, you know) or a package of 68 pens? Make a list of what you absolutely know you need, what you think you might need, and what you want, and carefully consider which items go in which section of the list. Once your list is made, it’s time to…
- Take Inventory and Avoid Duplicates
Once you’ve gotten in green back to school mode, most of us will be faced with the reality that getting ready to go back to school requires stuff — school supplies, clothes, backpacks, etc. — but it doesn’t always require new stuff. Take a careful inventory of what you already have that can be used again — think more durable items, like clothes and shoes — and what’s still waiting to be used for the first time — extra packs of pencils, notebooks, etc. Avoid last-minute impulse purchases by making a list of what you need (and sticking to it!) before you head to the store. Following these steps will save materials as well as your dollars.
- Find Green Clothes
Almost half of the money spent on back to school shopping goes to buying clothes, but new threads don’t have to come with sticker shock. Hand-me-downs are a great place to get started, and thrift stores and events like Swap-o-Rama-Rama can be a fun (and cheap!) way to send your kiddies back to school in low-impact duds. Style-conscious teens can find gently used (but still ultra-hip) clothes at stores like Buffalo Exchange. If these options are exhausted before your list is done, and you have to buy new, go for well-made, high-quality choices made from more sustainable fabrics like organic cotton or bamboo rather than disposable fashion that’ll wear out (and wear down the planet’s resources) before spring graduation.
- Write this Down: Choose Greener Pens and Pencils
Believe it or not, writing implement technology has improved since we were trudging uphill (both ways!) in the snow to get to school. The days of package upon package of disposable pen and pencil are gone, replaced by biodegradable pencils, refillable pens, and recycled versions of both. Once you have greener options in hand, encourage your youngsters to hang on to each pencil ’til it wears down to the nub, and to each pen as long as possible. The Green Office has a handful of handy kits that’ll cover most bases from kids in kindergarten through eighth grade.
- Don’t be a Paper Pusher
Although many kids are internet masters, e-mailing homework is uncommon in most K-12 schools, where paper is still king — for taking notes, writing papers, and making airplanes. But that doesn’t mean that you or your child can’t take steps to cut down your paper consumption. Buy products with the highest percentage of post-consumer recycled content possible, that is processed chlorine free (PCF), such as New Leaf Paper for printers, and Mead Recycled Notebooks for use in school; learn more about paper options on TreeHugger. Next, use these products to their maximum efficiency by printing on both sides of the paper, using paper already printed on one side for drafts (or better yet editing all drafts in the computer itself), 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.
- Beware the Miscellaneous Supply Overload
Bigger items, like backpacks, and stuff that doesn’t get used every day, like glue sticks, colored pencils, and markers, are still necessary in many cases, but, because they either last longer (in the case of backpacks) or usually don’t get used every day (with things like art supplies) 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. If it doesn’t have to come out of the backpack every day (or it is a backpack), think twice about loading up at the beginning of the year. See TreeHugger’s back-to-school advice for more supply-related tips.
- Think Outside the Lunch-Box
Don’t brown bag it; instead opt for a washable, reusable container to tote your lunch too and fro. Just make sure to avoid vinyl lunch boxes which have been shown to contain harmful levels of lead. Instead, invest in a PVC-free, thermally insulated lunch bag, one made from recycled juice boxes or from organic cotton and keep lunches cool by freezing water or juice in a reusable container and putting it in the bag. Instead of using baggies and plastic wrap for sandwiches and snacks, use reusable plastic containers or an easy to clean Wrap-n-Mat. The Laptop Lunch box system is also a solid choice for reusable lunch-packing, and includes individuals containers and beverage holders. For other beverages, beware of plastic bottles which may contain Bisphenol A (BPA), a hormone-disrupting chemical. Instead go with metal ones such as Klean Kanteen or Sigg which come in kid-friendly sizes and designs.
- Don’t Start a Food Fight
When it comes to the actual food that goes in the lunch box. Make extra for dinner the night before, leftovers make great lunches. Pack healthy green lunches kids will want to eat, and get them involved in choosing lunch ingredients, since they’ll be less likely to pitch stuff they want to eat. 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 homemade granola bars (see the recipe in the Getting Techie section) rather than individually wrapped purchased bars. Or send them with fruit or vegetable sticks and a couple of slices of cheese.
- Walking, Biking, Busing: Green Transportation to School
Going green while getting back and forth to school offers a familiar refrain: human power — walking or biking — is best; riding the bus is next; driving alone is last. Events like Walk to School Month and activities like the Walking Bus are making it easier and safer for kids to get to school under their own power; if you don’t live close enough to walk, and finding a safe bike route to school is a green way to go, too. Beyond that, even though most school buses get single-digit miles per gallon, they can also hold upwards of 60 or 70 youngsters, making them a cleaner option than single-occupancy cars. If walking, biking, or busing aren’t in the cards, be sure to divide the ride and start a parent carpool.
- Do This Stuff All Year
Greening your back to school experience is a great way to start the year, and a great way to make progress toward a sustainable lifestyle, but there’s no reason to stop after the year has just started. Apply the lessons you’ve learned preparing to go back to school to other parts of your non-scholastic life, and, when it comes time to re-supply, follow the tips to stay prepared, organized, and green.
Source: Planet Green