Green Back to School Tips

Summer is almost over! It’s time to reclaim your sanity and send the kids back to school. But before you head to the store for your back to school shopping, take a few minutes to consider how you can make this time of year a little more eco-friendly. Here are a few tips that can help you get back to school the green way:

School Supplies

First of all, find out what school supplies you are responsible for, and which the school will provide. There is no point in doubling consumption by buying what the school is already providing. Get a list from the school, and avoid over-buying.

Next, before you buy items that are on your list, check to see if you have some of them already. You might have some leftover supplies from years past. There’s no reason to purchase those items you already have.

For items that you do end up needing to buy, see if you can get post-consumer products that are made — at least partially — from recycled materials. Binders made of cardboard or canvas can be purchased; you don’t have to get plastic. You should try to avoid plastic, especially those containing BPAs, whenever possible with your school supplies.

Lunch Time

You can make your child’s lunch time greener, and healthier, by following a few tips:

  • Use a reusable bag or box. There are plenty of bags and boxes that come BPA-free.
  • This applies to drink containers as well. Send a thermos, instead of sending something in packaging that has to be thrown out.
  • Food can be kept in reusable containers as well. Just wash each day.
  • Send reusable utensils, rather than disposable forks and spoons.
  • Consider buying a few high-quality cloth napkins. These can be washed with the laundry, and reused.

You can make lunches healthier by using locally-sourced food when possible. Additionally, if you plan lunches ahead of time, and pack them the night before, you won’t be so rushed and tempted to use pre-packaged foods.


As with school supplies, the first thing you should do is see if there are clothes from last year that can be worn this year. Try not to buy a lot of new clothes if you can help it.

When you do go shopping, consider checking out a thrift shop or consignment shop. Find out what day these shops normally put out “new” items. If you know when the most recent stuff is going out, you can get best pick from the best items. The clothes look new, and it can freshen your child’s wardrobe without increased consumption.

Don’t forget to donate your clothes to a thrift shop, or to hand them down to someone who could use them, instead of just throwing them out.


Finally, consider ways to reduce your environmental impact in getting to and from school. If it’s a possibility, the best option is to walk or bike to school. However, if that isn’t feasible, take the bus, or carpool to reduce emissions.

With a little thought and planning, it should be possible for you to have a back to school season that is a little more eco-friendly.

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