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Back to school: 8 ideas for sustainable school supplies

As the kids get ready to head back to school, here are eight ways to start the year with sustainable and low-waste school supplies, clothes and lunches.

1.Take stock of what you already have

First things first. Before you start shopping, take stock of what is still usable from last year. Reuse leftover supply when possible. Donate items you can’t use to a school backpack program, Scraps KC, or teachers who like to keep extra supplies on hand.

Also, designate a storage space for school supplies to prevent overbuying every year.

2. Support reuse centers

Whether you’re donating or buying gently-used items, check out Scraps KC, a non-profit craft center that reuses, repurposes and resells materials that range from school and office supplies to textiles, typewriters and hardware. The store is located at in Kansas City, MO at 3269 Roanoke Rd.

3.Create recycling habits

Look for recycled paper options for notebooks and school paper. Also, put a recycling container in your children’s bedrooms to encourage them to start recycling now to help them make it a life-long practice.

4.Make plastic-free swaps

When you are buying new items, look for plastic-free alternatives such as cardboard or canvas binders instead of standard plastic binders. Also, consider supplies that have more recycling potential at the end of their life.

5.Look for refillable and recycled options

Select refillable or biodegradable pens and recycled pencils when possible. If you buy a new refillable pen, buy a refill cartridge too and store it with your office supplies so it’s easy to refill it when you need it.

6.Rethink crayons

Crayons are petroleum products that take many years to decompose in a landfill. Instead of buying new ones every year, look for recycled crayons or make your own recycled crayons.

There are also alternatives like soy-based crayons. Prang Soy Crayons are made from 100-percent renewable resources and are free of paraffin wax.

To help keep crayons out of the landfill, look for donation and recycling options. ScrapsKC does accept donations of unbroken crayons. To recycle them, check out the National Crayon Recycle Program. They accept every type of crayon and recycle them into new Crazy Crayons.

7.Shop secondhand clothes

When updating school clothes, take the kids to a thrift store to find slightly used, but still trendy clothes.

Local shop, Maypop, sells vintage and secondhand kids clothes online, on social media, and in-store.

Used clothing can also be found online at stores like Thred Up or Kidizen.

When clothes have been outgrown, donate the items that are still in good condition to local charities for continued reuse.

8.Make zero-waste school lunches

For school lunches, skip the disposable plastic sandwich bags and choose BPA-free reusable containers instead. Use a stainless steel or reusable lunch box. Pack a washable cloth napkin, thermos and reusable utensils.

When buying fruits and vegetables, choose fresh fruits and vegetables over pre-packaged foods.


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