10 Super Green Back-to-School Ideas

10 Super Green Back-to-School Ideas

It’s that time of year again, as busy mothers round up the necessary pencils, pens, paper and protractors, and kids look forward to seeing old friends and making new ones.

The purchasing power of moms (and more than 80 million kids) is nothing to sneeze at, which is why we’d like to see the going-back-to-school shopping ritual giving more than a nod to environmental concerns. To that end, we’ve rounded up a set of tips and tricks for making the back-to-school process greener.

Tip #1:
Before you run out to buy anything, line up what’s left of last year’s school supplies. This is especially important if you have more than one youngster, because the pencils the oldest one needed last year (but not this year) can be used to fill out a must-have list for a younger sibling. This is, in fact, one corner of the 3R triangle recommended by the EPA; reduce, reuse and recycle.

Tip #2:
Be a savvy shopper and buy from a store that advertises green goods. For example, buy pencils made from old blue jeans and binders made from old shipping cartons. If you can’t find a green or recycled product store in your area, consider getting on the Internet. Shipping is a matter of days, and if you start early you can have all the school supplies delivered, meaning you don’t actually have to wage war with other mom-shoppers. What bliss!

Clothing purchases are as much a part of going back to school as paper and pencils, but this is an area where you can make your buying power send a message to corporate America, thanks to the sometimes overwhelming cost of clothing and shoes. Of course you’re going to buy blue jeans – the most ubiquitous item of clothing ever invented. But this year you’re going to buy them green (and we’re not talking about color). To do that, you need to find a supplier who shares your commitment to sustainability. Alternatively, you can buy used or vintage jeans, from a thrift store or a recycling store, and (surprisingly enough) this will please even your fussy little princess, because vintage clothing is uber-cool.

Tip #4:
Once you finish shopping for supplies and clothing, you can turn your attention to food. For example, instead of letting your offspring buy sodas at school (or even water in a BPA bottle), consider a stainless steel beverage container that keeps hot liquids hot and cold liquids cold for a surprising amount of time. Send juice or, for the highly health conscious, strawberry kefir. And when the beverage is gone, your kids can rinse the bottle and refill it from a drinking fountain.

Tip #5:
You will also want to pack lunches rather than buying hot lunch (hugely expensive) or prepackaged food items which generate huge amounts of container waste. In fact, according to the EPA, packaging waste is responsible for more than 30 percent of all the waste generated each year. More important, what you pack is likely to be more nutritious than hot lunch, and you know where it came from. Choose raw veggies and blue cheese or ranch dressing dip, 100-percent fruit juice boxes, a handful of grapes or a wedge of cantaloupe, and a pita wrap of sliced egg and cheese garnished with fresh basil, sliced cucumbers and tomatoes and salad greens. Pack it all in a reusable lunchbox. Cool this year (even among the high school crowd) is the round lunchbox or food carrier made from stainless steel. Eminently affordable at $24.95, and studies show stainless is a natural bacteria weapon.

Tip #6:

Recycled Bike Tube Backpack

Recycled Bike Tube Backpack

For that one child in your brood who should have been named Destructo, don’t just buy another backpack to replace the one he or she trashed last year. Spend up to $50 more for a backpack designed to take the rough with the smooth. To find one, bypass the aisle in your favorite big box store and head to an online location (ours, virtually speaking) for a durable and very green product. If said offspring absolutely has to have an Avenger’s backpack, buy an iron-on decal and DIY. Anything else is a waste.

Tip #7:
If you take your kids to school instead of letting them ride the school bus, make sure your vehicle has its annual fall tune up, oil change and tire check. This will improve your gas mileage (and, as a result, your environmental footprint). Earn extra green points by carpooling that chore, including after-school sports where possible.

Tip #8:
Once you have your green groove going, consider rounding up some equally eco-conscious moms to form an environmental club for your school. You can use this to influence friends and neighbors, and also for bulk buying of green products. Manufacturers listen when consumers talk with their credit card or checkbook.

Tip #9:
Think ahead to the holidays; Halloween, Christmas and New Year’s. Candy (especially chocolate) is not every sustainable. Surely you are smart enough to think of an alternative and make it happen. I live in a small community, and our solution to the chocolate crisis was strawberry-flavored popcorn balls, substituting pure beet sugar for corn syrup. Still high in calories and tooth-decay potential, but far better than the alternative.

Tip #10:
To make it easier to stick to your green goals, allow yourself one or two deviations. Vintage is good for grownups, too, but not recycled sleepwear. Buy an organic cotton nightshirt and matching socks and curl up in your favorite chair with hot chocolate after Destructo is safely asleep.


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