It’s that time of the year again: it is late summer, time for everyone to head back to school. Before you head out the door to do your shopping, you might be thinking about purchasing products that are eco-friendly. There is no need to go overboard to do your part for our planet. Below are a few simple ways you can go eco-friendly on those back to school supplies:
Pens and Pencils
Do you know that Americans throw away six billion pens every year? It’s true. Americans also have a tendency to throw away refillable pens and pencils. Before you buy any more pens or pencils, have your children go on a scavenger hunt to find every pen and pencil in the house.
You will probably be amazed at how many of each you already own. Let your kids choose a few of each and put the rest away for future use. Highlighters have some incredibly toxic ingredients, but this year we have discovered something wonderful … Eco Highlighting Pencils! These are one of those items that just feel good to use. These beeswax crayons and recycled newspaper pencils feel pretty good too.
How many people realize that there are 220,000 sheets of paper in one ton? Knowing this fact, it is simply mind-boggling to know that most schools throw away 40 tons of paper every year! That much paper came from 650 trees. With this in mind, think about these ideas:
* Have your children take out last year’s spiral notebooks. They can either remove the filled pages (to save or toss into the recycle bin) or the blank pages (which they can put in a folder and use throughout the school year.)
* Teach your children to rely more on on-screen editing than on a printed rough draft. If they really need a paper rough draft, reuse it after the final copy is finished. Cut the paper into squares and use the blank side for note paper.
* Talk to the schools and ask them if they could implement a recycling program. Children are always happy to do their part for the environment, and will gladly throw paper into a recycle can.
We have found an incredible book geared especially towards teens, called Generation Green. This book is comprehensive, fun to read, and chock full of educational tidbits.
Does your child really need another plastic pencil case? Is that flashy, sparkly backpack necessary? As you go down the list of school supplies your child will need, think “eco-friendly” again. Just like they did with the pens and pencils, have your children round up as many school supplies as they can find.
You might be surprised to see 4 pencil cases, 3 hard loose-leaf binders, 6 rulers, 10 empty folders, and a host of other odds and ends. Have your children sort through this stash to find school supplies. Make it fun and allow them to choose something that was not theirs last year. (Do not do this if your child is fond of a particular object. Let your children keep what makes them happy.)
If your little one really wants a pencil case but you have none at home, it is easy to create a customized case. Instead of buying a pencil case, purchase one of the thin, flat packages of baby wipes. Use up the wipes (or store them in a ziploc bag if your child really can’t wait) and then wash and dry the case. Give your child markers and stickers and let them customize their own pencil case.
If your child needs a backpack, first check to see if last year’s model still fits and is good condition. If it is, awesome…money saved! If you need a new one, think about using something you already have at home. Some children may even prefer to carry a cloth bag instead of a backpack. Make your own custom bags and save even more.
Most adults remember the metal or plastic lunch boxes from the past. Maybe yours was decorated with pictures of Mickey Mouse, or Cinderella, Star Wars, or Smurfs. No matter the character, children took pride in carrying their lunch to school in a special box.
Times change and most kids don’t carry metal or plastic lunch boxes anymore. However, children still bring lunch from home. Now they pack that lunch in a reusable, insulated bag. Of course, thermoses are still practical for cold drinks or hot meals.
If your child simply must have a lunch box, thrift shops in your area will probably have just what your child wants.
The most eco-friendly way for your child to get to school is to walk. Young children should have an accompanying adult with them at all times. Older children should always remember to walk with a group of friends. Here’s a weird fact: walking to school with your friends is now called “walk-pooling”. Who knew?
If your child is old enough to ride a bike to school, and can do so safely, then let them do so. Biking is great exercise, and a quick way to get to school.
Some children live too far from their school to walk or ride their bike and so must take the bus, or get a ride from their parents. Although buses are gas-guzzlers, they do transport a lot of children at one time. If parents are driving their children to school, it would be wise to talk to other parents to see if you can set up a car-pool to get all the children to school and back home.
Going eco-friendly with your back to school supplies does not need to be hard, nor does it need to break the bank. Use what is available right now. Most people really are surprised at how many left-over school supplies they have hiding all over the house. Have your children find them and put them back in use.