Going School Supply-LESS
With August upon us, it’s time to savor the last bits of summer and, for the parents among us, to start preparing for the school year ahead (ugh). That usually means trekking to the office supply store to join the hordes of people getting school supplies (double ugh). But here’s a way to avoid that trek: join me in the Everyday Eco-Habit of Going School-Supplies-LESS! Let’s REDUCE, REUSE and RECYCLE any school supplies we can to help protect our environment and our kids’ health - and also save a little $green$ while we’re at it. Don’t have kids, or don’t have kids in school? That’s ok. You can use most or all of these tips at work or in your home office too.
When my kids started elementary school, I was astounded by the amount of school supplies needed for each kid and that students were asked to buy kits of brand-new supplies instead of using their leftover supplies from the previous year. I was also shocked to learn how many toxins were in traditional school supplies. I thought there must be a more eco-conscious way to provide school supplies – so I did some research. I discovered there are really good options forreusing school supplies, for donating used school supplies to schools or programs in need and, if needed, for buying new eco-friendly school supplies. I thought this info might be of interest to other parents too, so I worked with the school to educate parents and students, as well as move the whole school to more eco-friendly alternatives. Fortunately, the school and parents were very receptive, and we were able to drastically reduce waste and toxins.
I sympathize with that euphoric feeling you and your children may get about going back-to-school with shiny, new school supplies, but you should know a few things that may make them seem a little less shiny. First, imagine all the pencils, crayons, markers, binders, notebooks, books and other items needed for all the kids going back to school. Now imagine all the plastic, toxins, and natural resources used to make those school supplies – it adds up fast! According to the EPA, Americans throw away about 1.6 billion– yes billion - pens a year! And that’s just pens! We also use about 90 million tons of paper each year! Bottom line, buying brand new school supplies every year adds up to a LOT of waste.
Another thing to consider before you go to the dollar store is that many school supplies are not only bad for the environment,they’re bad for you and your children’s health. A recent study tested the amount of toxic phthalates in children’s school supplies. Phthalates are a type of chemical that soften vinyl plastic. They have been linked to birth defects, early puberty, infertility, asthma, ADHD, obesity and diabetes. The study tested 20 children’s items, including backpacks, binders, and lunch bags, at random. About 75% of these items had high levels of toxic phthalates (including that cute princess and super hero backpack)! If you have time, check out the entire article. Its mind blowing!
But my goal is always to enlighten you, never frighten you! There are many eco-friendly alternatives to consider and I am going to break them down so you can easily adopt the 2Everyday Eco-Habit of Going School Supplies-LESS.
Here are 4 simple ways to Go School Supplies-LESS this school year:
1. Reuse and repurpose what you already have.
As always, the best place to start is with the 3R’s: 1st, Reduce, 2ndReuse, and 3rd, Recycle. Reduce the school supplies you need by first seeing what you can repurpose. A few easy and fun ways to do this include:
a. Clear out your old binders and reuse them. Are they ripped? Buy some colorful, nontoxic tape to patch them together. Simple!
b. Rip out the used paper in your notebooks and use the rest. Or you can make cute, “new” notebooks from old ones. Easy!
c. Look through and pick out the functioning pens, pencils and crayons that you have and reuse them. You can even make it a game by sharpening the pencils as a family or upcycling old crayons into something new! Fun!
d. Give new life to your old backpack by washing, repairing and re-stitching it (maybe with a fun new patch!). Save the Environment!
e. Make sure to Go Clothes-LESS this school year too. Wash and use clothes you already have or shop at your local thrift store. Need something new? Try to avoid “fast-fashion.” Done!
2. Buy non-toxic, recycled or reusable products.
Once you’ve exhausted the schools supplies you can repurpose and have determined you still need to purchase something new, consider these tips:
a. Make a list and stick to it. Again, start with the first of the 3R’s: Reduce overbuying on impulse. You’ll be more likely to make wise, eco-friendly purchases, thereby reducing your waste and saving you money.
b. Do your research: Before you buy any new school supplies, research brands that are eco and health friendly. Here are some great resources:
iv. Earth Hero
f. Look for recycled content in supplies like paper, pens and pencils. I love these pencils made from recycled newspaper.
g. READ THE LABELS! Avoid phthalates and PVC plastics. Healthy Child Healthy World, one of my go-to eco-kid-books, describes PVC as the most toxic plastic. Look for items that say BPA free, non-toxic, and made from recycled content.
h. Purchase good quality items that will stand the test of time. And consider how they may be reused or repurposed when you are done using them as a school supply.
3. Purchase waste free/non-toxic lunch supplies.
The average school-age child generates an average of 67lbs of waste each year with disposable lunch bags. Be part of the solution to reduce lunch waste: when buying new lunch box items, choose non-toxic and reusable. A few of my favorite waste-free lunch products include:
c. LOVE Reusable Lunch Munch bags. Founded by My Green Friends, Joe and Tina Rogers, this company has the most stylish prints. And they have backpacks too!
d. Funkins. These are reusable cloth napkins that are so cute.
e. ECOlunchbox. Non-toxic and very functional.
f. Planet Box. A VERY eco-friendly, stainless steel lunchbox that was my staple when my kids started school.
g. Go Green Lunchbox. Started by one of My Green Friends, Kim Castner, these lunchboxes are not just reusable, but kids love the designs.
h. Wisdom School Supplies.They really are the Go-To of waste-free school supplies. They have every sustainable item you can imagine, and they are truly passionate about reducing waste. That is why this month I am partnering with them in our School Supplies-LESS pledge! Find out how to enter by following me on my social accounts.
i. Check out this PDF I made from Going Wrap-LESS on some other great alternatives!
4. Help your child’s school Go School Supplies-LESS.
A great way to really Go School Supplies-LESSis to get the entire school involved! I took the lessons I learned at my kids’ elementary school and created a Grades of Green Activity anyone can implement at their school – check out the Green School Supplies Activity here! And start thinking about what you can do with your school’s used school supplies now. Grades of Green also has a Used School Supply Activityhere that walks you through how to start a collection for used school supplies to donate to schools or programs in need. In addition to Grades of Green, there are many other amazing organizations that can help you make your child’s school more eco-friendly, like the Green Schools Initiative. They have a take action page that makes it super simple to get started.
See how easy it will be to adopt the Everyday Eco-Habit of Going School-Supplies-LESS? First, see what you can reuse. Second, be more mindful of your purchases to reduce your waste - only buy what you need. Third, if you must buy new school supplies, choose eco-friendly, non-toxic, quality brands that will last for many school years. Simple. Easy. Save the Planet. Done. Take My Pledge to Go School-Supplies-LESSwith me this school year to help take back the health of our children and our earth. When you Pledge, you will be entered into a raffle to win some “Kids Kanteen” reusable lunch school supplies from Klean Kanteen, one of my favorite Green Friends! The power is in the consumer’s hand – YOUR hand, my Green Friend. Let’s continue to make the world a cleaner, brighter place one Everyday Eco-Habit at a time. Are you in? For more information, be sure to sign up for my monthly newsletter which delivers Eco-Tips like these right to your inbox. And follow me on my social to learn even more at: