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Go back to school in eco-friendly style

As you head out for back-to-school shopping, consider these 12 ideas for reducing waste, reusing and recycling to make it easier on you and the environment.

Here are a dozen tips for more sustainable school supplies, lunches, clothes, computers and even student desks for your home.

  1. Before you head out to buy new supplies, take stock of what is still usable from last year. Donate what you can’t use to a school backpack program or locate a place to recycle them.
  2. Designate a storage space for school supplies at home to prevent overbuying every year.
  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.
  5. Choose refillable or biodegradable pens and recycled pencils.
  6. Look for soybean-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 recycle old crayons, contact the National Crayon Recycle Program. They accept every type of crayon and recycle them into new Crazy Crayons.
  7. This school year skip the disposable plastic sandwich bags and choose BPA-free reusable containers instead.
  8. Pack a washable cloth napkin, thermos and reusable utensils.
  9. When buying fruits and vegetables for school lunches, support local farmers markets. Choose fresh fruits and vegetables over pre-packaged foods.
  10. Use a stainless steel or up-cycled, reusable lunch box.
  11. If this is the year for a desk or computer for your student, consider buying used or repurposed items. Surplus Exchange, 518 Santa Fe St., Kansas City, MO, sells gently used and refurbished computers, laptops, iPads, tablets, printers and other electronics. There’s also a big supply of desks, chairs, file cabinets and other furniture.
  12. The first day of school outfit can be a big decision for kids and parents each year. Make sure your students know that trendy and fashionable clothes can be found in thrift shops and second-hand stores. You can also find standard school uniform separates like white shirts and blue and khaki pants. Always check that each potential purchase is in its best condition, unless you plan on repurposing and restyling it. When clothes have been outgrown, donate the items that are still in good condition to local charities for continued reuse.

Photo: Lucelia Ribeiro / CC

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Joan Adm
Joan Adm
5 years ago

I no longer have school age children but these tips are really helpful in guiding people to better environmental choices.