The summer season is still going strong but the bittersweet back-to-school season is just around the corner. That means parents will be getting ready to hit up the stores in search of new clothes, notebooks, binders and everything in between. All these goods may sound harmless, but have you ever thought about the impact this surge of material goods is having on the environment? It's the second-biggest shopping season of the year after all!
From the individually packaged lunch snacks to the many materials used to make school supplies and clothing, there are tons of things to be conscious about when heading back-to-school.
Take a look at these 5 back-to-school things to consider and how you can make them as green as possible:
It has been estimated that on average a school-age child using a disposable lunch generates 67 pounds of waste per school year. (Source)
Be sure to start the year off right by purchasing a reusable lunch box or bag and make sure to stock up on reusable containers, BPA-free reusable bottles, and cloth baggies or food wraps. You'll save money in the long run and a ton of waste from ending up in the landfill.
You can even aim to have lunches that create zero-waste by vowing to eliminate single serving food packagings such as pre-packaged yogurts and granola bars when grocery shopping. Instead, choose things that you can divide up into individual packages at home. Better yet, make things from scratch if you have time!
Look for eco-friendly school supplies made from recycled and/or biodegradable materials, are PVC-free, and products made from plants such as Elmer's Earth Friendly School Glue. These products may be harder to find in stores so you might have to do some research and order online but the options are out there. Choosing some second-hand items such as calculators and gently used binders is also a great way to save money and reduce waste.
Another way to make a big impact is to suggest the Crayola ColorCycle initiative to your child’s school. Students in K-12 schools across the continental United States and parts of Canada can collect used markers and send them to a conversion facility where they will be repurposed and kept out of landfills. Learn more about it and pass it on!
If you’re looking to stock up on some paper for school craft projects, seed paper is a great alternative to traditional card stocks. It’s biodegradable and grows into plants so that no waste is left behind.
The book bag
Make sure to avoid PCV polyvinyl chloride (aka vinyl). It typically has a strong chemical type smell, so you’ll know it right away. Instead, look for something hemp, linen, cotton, or made entirely from waste materials or recycled fabric. Also make sure to pick up PVC-free pencil boxes, and organizers. Find some great green options here!
Encourage your kids to ride their bikes or walk to school whenever possible. It's better for their health and will help reduce emissions. If their school is a bit too far or the weather isn't good, organize carpools with parents of kids that live nearby. Public transit is also a great option for older children.
Did you know the fashion industry is one of the biggest polluting industries in the world? When it comes to the clothes your children are sporting for the new school year, be sure to look for brands that are Certified B Corp, sustainably produced, use low-impact dyes, and/or use recycled materials. You can even opt for some gently used clothing rather than buying everything brand new—especially if they are likely to grow out of it with a year or two.
If your kids aren’t excited about the idea of wearing used items, explain to them how they can help the environment and educate them about the environmental concerns when it comes to fashion. They can be a leader amongst their peers by being a green ambassador!