As the kids get ready to head back to school, here are nine ways to start the year with more environmentally friendly school supplies, clothes and lunches.

  1. Before you head out to the store or online to buy new supplies, take stock of what is still usable from last year. Donate items you can’t use to a school backpack program or locate a place to recycle them. In the Kansas City metro area, RecycleSpot can help you locate a nearby recycler for many items.
  2. Whether you’re donating or buying gently-used items, check out ScrapsKC, 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 3269 Roanoke Road, Kansas City, MO.
  3. Buy recycled paper, and put a recycling container in your children’s bedrooms to encourage them to start recycling now to make it a life-long practice.
  4. Choose cardboard or canvas binders that can be recycled, instead of standard plastic binders. Designate a storage space for school supplies at home to prevent overbuying every year.
  5. Select refillable or biodegradable pens and recycled pencils.
  6. Look for soy-based crayons. Prang Soy Crayons are made from 100-percent renewable resources and are free of paraffin wax, which is derived from petroleum and can take years to decompose in a landfill. To repurpose old crayons, donate to ScrapsKC. To recycle them, contact the National Crayon Recycle Program. They accept every type of crayon and recycle them into new Crazy Crayons.
  7. Even dried-out markers, highlighters and dry-erase markers can be recycled. Individuals and schools can participate through ColorCycle at Crayola.
  8. When updating school clothes, take the kids to a thrift store to find slightly used, but still trendy and fashionable, clothes and uniforms. Used clothing can be found online at stores like Thred Up or Kidizen. As always, you’ll want to wash items before the first wearing. When clothes have been outgrown, donate the items that are still in good condition to local charities for continued reuse.
  9. For school lunches, skip the disposable plastic sandwich bags and choose BPA-free reusable containers instead. Use a stainless steel or up-cycled, 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, and buy from local farmers markets..

Photo: Lucelia Ribeiro / CC