Pop quiz: How can parents send their kids back to school while also getting a passing grade from the planet? Whether it’s all the plastic-packaged supplies that students need, the latest clothes they want, or the reams of paper that end up printed, distributed, and discarded, the start of the school year hardly amounts to a master class in eco-friendly or sustainable practices. Fortunately, we’ve done our homework and found a few tips to make this school season a little kinder to the planet.
The back-to-school season is a great time for kids to get excited for another year of learning while allowing them to express their unique style with a fresh wardrobe, new stationery, and fun initiatives. This year let’s take things up a notch and embrace a sustainable approach to BTS that shows your child’s smarts and commitment to the planet.
So, whether classes have already started where you live, or the kids still have a few weeks left of freedom before the bell rings, here are some ways to make this school year greener while also saving you money. From second-hand treasures to sustainable stationery, they’ll help ensure an educational, eco-friendly year ahead.
Don’t be afraid to thrift
Thrifting is an adventure where you can discover unique pieces that reflect your child’s personality while reducing your fashion footprint. It’s a win-win!
Thrift stores and consignment shops are bursting with one-of-a-kind back-to-school clothes, from cool jackets to trendy backpacks. Not only will you save money, but you’ll also divert clothing from ending up in landfills.
Consider pre-loved textbooks and supplies
Turn the pages of sustainable learning by opting for pre-loved textbooks and school supplies. Many students sell or donate their used textbooks after completing a course, especially in college, offering a wallet-friendly and eco-friendly alternative.
Then, visiting second-hand stores, you can often find unused notebooks, binders, and other necessary school supplies. Choosing second-hand textbooks and supplies, you help conserve resources and reduce the demand for new products. Plus, it can be a great way to discover notes and highlights from previous students!
Sustainable stationery for the win
Gear up for class with eco-friendly paper and classroom supplies this BTS season. Choose notebooks from recycled paper and pens made from sustainable materials like bamboo or recycled plastic. Embrace reusable alternatives like refillable ink cartridges and natural rubber erasers to minimize waste and carbon emissions. With sustainable stationery, your child will be the shining star of an eco-friendlier classroom!
Choose a backpack carefully
Your child’s backpack is not just a style statement; it will stay with them throughout the year (and hopefully many more to come!). Look for durable backpacks made from sustainable materials like organic cotton, hemp, or recycled polyester. Prioritize brands that practice fair trade and ethical manufacturing processes. You can check for these on product tags in stores or the product description online.
If your child’s backpack is already in great shape, wash it using eco-friendly laundry detergent to prepare it for another school year. To upgrade it from the previous school season, add fun pins and buttons or some sew-on or iron-on patches for a cool look. With a few creative tricks, it could look like a brand-new backpack, and your child’s fellow students wouldn’t suspect a thing! With an eco-friendly backpack, your young student will proudly carry their books and commitment to the planet.
Prepare sustainable lunches
Upgrade your child’s school lunch with more sustainable ingredients if you pack it. Prioritize homemade recipes and fresh fruits and vegetables from farmer's markets over ready-made lunch packs at the grocery store.
Buy a stainless steel or recycled plastic refillable bottle for water, juice, and other beverages instead of using single-use plastic alternatives. Avoid using single-use baggies and opt for reusable silicone bags instead.
Choose better back-to-school clothes
If buying new clothes for BTS, embrace sustainable fashion and accessories. Luckily, there are many ways to help your child dress more sustainably this school year. For starters, you can visit locally owned boutiques that use upcycled clothes or eco-friendly materials like organic cotton, linen, and wool.
Research brands online that are transparent about their sustainable model. You can check Good on You to see the sustainable ratings for almost any fashion brand.
And remember, greenwashing — a deception tactic companies use to make you think a product is eco-friendly when it’s not — is everywhere. So, always read up on the product materials and how and where it was made. Sustainable styling doesn’t only look better than synthetic materials, it’s also a powerful way to show you and your child’s commitment to a greener future!
Organize, reuse, and swap
Before rushing to buy new supplies, take stock of what you already have from previous years. Organize your belongings, and you might discover forgotten gems just waiting to be used.
Reuse and repurpose any items that are still in good condition. Organize a back-to-school swap with friends or your child’s classmates to exchange items you no longer need. By reusing and swapping, you save money and prevent perfectly good items from going to waste.
Choose greener technology
The school has come a long way from inkwells and wooden rulers. Technology is an integral part of the classroom, so seek energy-efficient laptops, tablets, and other devices that meet environmental standards. The upside of digital textbooks and e-ink? Less paper ends up waddled, crumpled, and trashed.
Furnish the dorm room responsibly
Have college students? Just because your kids are dorm-bound doesn’t mean their new digs should be filled with the latest stuff. Instead, furnish their dorm with an eco-friendly eye — opting for natural materials, efficient electronics, and second-hand furniture. And yes, that can include all the things you’ll doubtlessly be passing on to them. Not only is it sustainable, but it will leave them with a touch of home.
Encourage your child to join green programs
The back-to-school season isn’t just about supplies; it’s also a great time to get involved in exciting clubs and programs! Help your child make a sustainable splash in the school community by joining or creating a green initiative. Talk to them about school recycling teams, clean-up committees, and other programs available through the school. Not sure what’s available? Call the school and ask! Consider helping kickstart an environmental club or sustainability team if nothing sounds interesting!
There are so many ways to help your child be an eco-champion as they head back to school. So, let’s make this new school year an opportunity to express individuality while positively impacting the world — one sustainable choice at a time.