Back To School “Green” Tips & Tricks

Inside of a classroom with back to school on the chalkboard

Here we go again-it’s back to school time!  That means shopping for new supplies, setting new schedules, and (probably the kids’ favorite) buying new school clothes.  Here are a few ideas on how you can “green-up” your back to school routine this year.

Supplies: First, take inventory at your home, find leftovers from last year, and make a list of what you need after gathering everything you have already.  We know that shopping for new school stuff is fun, but that pencil purchased last year and never sharpened will work just as well this year!

Buy notebooks made of recycled content, with paper that is processed without chlorine and use both sides of every page before moving on to the next clean notebook.

Lunch boxes: Use a washable, reusable lunch box rather than a brown bag everyday. Use reusable containers instead of baggies or plastic wraps for your sandwiches and snacks-you can reuse them and your food won’t get squished!

Generally, packing healthier lunches will produce less waste; an apple or orange is better for the kids and will leave only compostable ‘wrappers’ left.  Also, remember that buying in bulk rather than individual packages will save you lots of money and reduce waste!

Packaging makes up 30% of the weight and 50% of trash by volume. Buy juice, snacks, and other lunch items in bulk and use those reusable containers each day.

Recycling: If you don’t already have it set up, now is a great time to get a couple paper recycling bins in your home.  Put one near where your child does their homework and where you pay your bills.  Notebook paper, office documents, unwanted mail can all be recycled.  You can probably recycle more paper than you think-about 21% of household garbage in the Twin Cities metro area is recyclable paper!

Clothes: The best green tip for school clothes is to shop at second-hand stores.  You can find great used and unused clothes at low cost to you and the environment.  Buy quality clothing that won’t wear out and can be handed down, whether to other kids in your family or on to a thrift store.

Water Bottles: Avoid clear or tinted hard-plastic water bottles (made from #7 plastic, which may contain the hormone-disruptor Bisphenol A), unless they are labeled “BPA-Free.” High-quality stainless-steel and coated aluminum bottles are increasingly available, from companies such as Thermos, Klean Kanteen, Sigg, New Wave Enviro and The Safe Sippy.

Make a lunch a little greener: When food shopping for lunch items, avoid over-packaged pre-made lunches and opt for fresh, organic whole foods.

Sandwiches made with whole grain bread can be filled with hummus and veggies, or more traditional options from the deli counter, where hormone- and antibiotic-free, or organic meat and cheese options may be found in many mainstream supermarkets.

Fresh organic produce such as apples, bananas, mini-carrots and grapes are also easy and quick to pack on busy mornings. Raw organic nuts as well as yogurts in soy or dairy versions make great snacks. Keep in mind that organic foods have been shown to protect children from exposure to several harmful pesticides.

Don’t forget: Shopping locally is eco-friendly: Shop smaller stores to support local business and vote with your wallet by requesting items you’d like to see stocked.

There are plenty of greener, affordable choices at major retailers and specialty Websites that are better for human health and the environment. While price may be an issue, considering what products are healthiest for our children may be critical in the long run.

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