It’s time for back-to-school shopping. This year there are more choices than ever for environmentally friendly products, so it’s the perfect time to make a conscious choice to shop green!
Instead of nylon, plastic, or vinyl backpacks, look for bags made from recycled or natural materials, such as organic cotton or hemp. Solar backpacks are now available and can generate enough wattage to charge a laptop, iPod, or cell phone.
- Pencils: Look for tree-free pencils or ones made from recycled materials such as newsprint or old denim. Mechanical pencils are another great choice since they can be reused. If nothing but a traditional pencil will do, buy ones made from sustainably-harvested wood.
- Pens: Buy refillable pens to cut down on waste. If you must buy disposables, choose ones that are recycled. Better yet, look for refillable pens made of recycled materials.
- Paper: Purchase notebooks, folders, report covers, printer paper, and sticky notes made from recycled materials.
- Crayons: Go with soy crayons instead of traditional crayons made with petroleum-based paraffin wax. Not only are soy crayons biodegradable and made from renewable resources, they also glide smoother, don’t flake, are less toxic, and have brighter colors.
- Other Supplies: Select items such as binders, scissors, and paper clips made from recycled materials. And remember, these products can be used over multiple school years. Reusing is always preferable to recycling.
Twenty-five percent of the world’s pesticides are used in the traditional cultivation of cotton. Look for clothing and shoes made of organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, and other natural fibers. Some companies even use recycled zippers and buttons. Turning your kids on to stylish vintage clothing from a thrift store is another great earth-friendly option.
Instead of disposable paper sacks and sandwich bags, invest in a lunchbox with reusable containers. Reduce lunchbox waste by sending organic fruits and vegetables and healthy sandwiches instead of prepackaged meals. Instead of juice boxes and individual serving size bags of chips, opt to buy food and beverages in larger containers and transfer them into reusable containers and bottles. Tuck a cloth napkin into the lunchbox. There are a variety of fun kid-themed cloth napkins available.
Solar powered calculators eliminate the need for batteries. If you are in the market for a new computer, look for one with the Energy Star label, and remember laptops are more energy efficient than desktop computers.
Students headed off to college will need to furnish dorm rooms or apartments. Thrift stores are a great place to start and allow you to give furnishings a second life. Organic cotton linens are luxuriously soft and are friendly to the environment. Stock up on compact fluorescent light bulbs, and go with biodegradable cleaning supplies. And don’t forget the bicycle for an eco-friendly mode of transportation around campus.
Green back-to-school shopping is a wonderful way to help protect the planet, but don’t stop there. Get involved in promoting green initiatives at your child’s school. Suggest planting trees on campus at the start of each new school year, start an on-campus recycling program, request local organic foods be served in the cafeteria, and encourage the use of non-toxic cleaners and recycled products. The best thing about making green back-to-school choices is that not only are you being friendly to the environment today, you are also teaching your children how to live green for the future.