4 Ways to Head Back to School, Eco-Friendly Style

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"Here are some tips to buy sustainably and smartly as we get ready to go back to school!"

With summer coming to a close and school starting again, back to school shopping is inevitable, even if you won’t be heading back to class in-person. With back to school shopping comes many, almost ritualistic, wasteful practices. Companies deck out their stores with colorful decorations and have large sales to lure customers into buying more than they need or big fancy items that are unnecessary.

On top of this, these items get more and more expensive every year, and you might find that you spent hundreds of dollars on each child (or yourself) at the end of your trip! Whether you or your kids are going back to school online or in person, here are a few tips to help you shop more sustainably and even save some money.

1) Don’t Buy What You Don’t Need

Don’t buy things you don’t need. Say no to the locker chandeliers and the cheap, but brightly colored, markers that run out of ink in a week. These items are often impulse buys and usually don’t last very long. It’s easy to get swept up in new trends and sales but staying away from plastic “fashionable” fad items is the sustainable thing to do.

Before buying something ask yourself,  “Do I really need this?” or “Am I still going to have/want this in six months?” Chances are the answer is “No.” Doing this also will help you start building stepping stones to reducing what you use in your everyday life.

2) Reuse, Reuse, Reuse

If you have dozens of pencils at home or all of your folders leftover from last semester, why buy more? These things still work perfectly fine and it doesn’t make sense to throw them away. Using items until they cannot be used anymore makes sure that the item is fully utilized. This does not waste the materials in the items or the materials used to run the factory that made the items. It also keeps the items out of landfills, and therefore, helps reduce the number of things we throw away.

Keep in mind items do not have to be reused in the way they’re intended to be used so try to find creative ways to repurpose certain items. Maybe an old pencil case can be used as a locker room essentials kit for after gym class? There are no rules for reusing items!

3) Buy Second-Hand

If you do need to buy something, consider buying it second-hand. Whether it be clothing, electronics, or textbooks second-hand shopping is cheaper and more sustainable than buying things new. Like reusing items, buying second-hand extends the life of an item so it’s used to its full potential. In addition to reducing waste, buying second-hand also can save you plenty of money.

Recycling electronics can be very difficult so most people just throw them away– this is incredibly harmful to the environment. Buying electronics second-hand reduces the amount of e-waste that ends up in landfills.

4) Buy From Sustainable Companies

When buying second-hand is not an option, try to find companies where sustainability is an important part of their practice and production. While you’re shopping think about buying things like refillable pens and reusable notebooks. Here are a few places to buy products for school:

  • Back Market is a wonderful place to buy electronics second-hand. I recently bought my IPad Pro from them and it works and looks perfect. When you check out they also inform you of how much e-waste you prevent from being thrown away with the items you purchase.
  • Onyx & Blue have all the stationery items you could need. They have refillable pens made from wheat straw and glue made from plant-based products. Their items can also be found for purchase on the eco-friendly one-stop-shop Earth Hero.
  • A Good Company is another company that creates sustainable stationery and they also carry phone cases and self-care products. They are very meticulous about researching the exact impact every product has on the environment and are incredibly transparent about everything from materials used to information about suppliers.
  • Klean Kanteen is perfect for lunches. They have stainless steel food canisters and water bottles with interchangeable lids. They are 100% carbon neutral with both their manufacturing and delivery processes.
  • If plastic wrap is something you use, Bee’s Wrap is a great alternative! The wraps come in various sizes and patterns and can last up to a year with proper care. When they have reached the end of their life they are 100% compostable or can be used as a natural fire starter.
  • Apple Park has adorable backpacks and lunch boxes that your kids will love. All bags are made from 100% recycled fabrics and are water resistant. They create products safe for children and the Earth.
Here are some tips to buy sustainably and smartly as we get ready to go back to school!

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