Sustainable Saturday - 5 Tips for Back-to-School (The Eco-Friendly Version)

Every year beginning in what seems like early July, Retail Stores begin advertising Back-to-School sales.  The prices are usually low for certain items at certain stores and can be very enticing. As the last few weeks of August are approaching, the reality of Back-to-School is here.

In the event you have not yet started or even completed, here are some Tips on making the most of your Back-to-School adventure.

5 Tips for Back-to-School (The Eco-Friendly Version) 

1.  Take an inventory of the items from the previous school year.  Sort items into reuse (backpacks, lunch sacks, crayons, etc.) or recycle (items like papers, plastic containers, cardboard based items, etc.)

If you are wondering what to do with some of these items that can be reused or recycled, check out Recyclebank:  Supply Chain 101: Reusing and Repurposing a Year of School Supplies.

2.  Take a closer look at the ingredients, packaging and scents that any new school supplies may contain.  For example common crayons often contain paraffin wax, which is made from crude oil.  Look for alternatives like soy and beeswax.  Be wary of plastic-encased crayons or scented markers -- scents encourage kids to sniff them, and the chemicals used in the fragrances are not listed on the label.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has a list of great tips available here.  You can download their pdf EWG’s Green Back-to-School Guide for K-12 here.  Many of these items are available in select stores (Whole Foods) and - Eco-Friendly School Supplies.

3.  Consider purchasing products that will last several years.  An example would be backpacks.  Purchase backpacks that are not so specific (Disney Princesses or Toy Story) so that your kids will want to reuse the backpack for several years.  Consider purchasing decals or patches to decorate the backpack, that can be easily removed and passed on to another child when you are done with them.

There are items such as Natural Fiber Backpacks are available on

4.  Consider purchasing reusable lunch containers that not only have a lunch box, but also have the containers and wraps for the food itself.  Companies like Kids Konserve offer reusable waste free lunch boxes at a variety of prices.  I really like their Waste Free Lunch Cost Comparison available here.

5.  Take inventory of clothing and only purchase what is necessary for Back-to-School clothing.  Sites like thredUP offer the ability to swap kids clothes with people virtually anywhere. 

As with anything that you may purchase for Back-to-School this year, keep in mind the number of trips you are making to multiple retail stores.  When purchasing online keep in mind where the products are made and shipped from to reduce your overall consumption.

Sustainable Saturday - 5 Tips for Back-to-School (The Eco-Friendly Version) was originally published by Saving Family Green in August 2010.

Note:  Some of the links referenced in this post are my referral links.  You can read Saving Family Green's Material Connection Disclosure Policy here.

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