If you have kids that are old enough for school then you’re already well aware that it’s back to school time! Most kids already started this week if not before the holiday weekend. It’s a great idea to teach your kids to be aware of their effect on the environment so why not incorporate eco-friendly rules for heading back to school? You should probably avoid the word “rules”, though. Your son or daughter will surely ignore you. Try “guidelines” or “suggestions” perhaps.
Guidelines for Classroom Supplies: No matter what age they are, your kids will come home with a list of mandatory supplies. When filling your shopping cart, be sure to keep an eye out for eco-friendly products that fill the school requirement. Biodegradeable or recycled products should make up most of your purchases. Why wouldn’t you pick these green products? Many times they’re cheaper (especially the recycled notebooks and paper) and still just as trendy. PaperMate has products that are made from recycled plastic or wood and also pens and pencils that decompose! If you visit the PaperMate website they can help you find where products are sold. You can also read about their TerraCycle program that your school or non-profit could use as a fundraiser while helping to rid landfills of writing utensil castoffs! Pilot BeGreen products are also good options for green writing implements. Need more help with supplies? Visit the Huffington Post website for their 71 Best Eco-Friendly Products for Back-To-School. Their list was outstanding!
Eco-friendly Fashion Forward: Back to school isn’t just about pens and pencils, it’s about shopping for clothes, too! Don’t forget that the clothing industry isn’t always doing what’s best for our planet. Many of our clothes are made from cotton, but growing the crop conventionally requires the use of enormous amounts of pesticides. This is bad for the environment and not very safe for the farm workers either. This is why it’s best to choose organic cotton or other eco-friendly fibers instead. Sometimes this can be pricey so it’s best to look for deals all year round and, if possible, anticipate a growth spurt when clothes are on sale. This way you’re not left with a high credit card balance and Billy isn’t left with pants that are 2 inches too short. Believe it or not, the Disney Store has organic cotton clothing that will occasionally go on sale. Hannah Andersson is also a great store for organic cotton clothes, PVC-free backpacks, and more. Check their website often because different items go on sale or clearance at different times. I just love their Star Wars shirts! Oh, and I can’t forgot thrift shops. The most eco-friendly and budget-friendly option is still a thrift or consignment shop. You can get back-to-school items that other children outgrew for a fraction of the price!
Hitching A Ride: Now that you’re all packed, dressed for success, and ready to walk out the door, what’s the best way to get to school? Some kids live close enough to walk to school but the others have to take the bus or get dropped off by a parent. The greenest option by far is to walk. If you live close enough, don’t drive your child to school. Walk with them! It’s a great opportunity to burn a few calories before you have to run off to work. If you aren’t close enough to the school then stick with public transportation rather than driving your son or daughter in your car. Yes, you get some extra quality time together in the car, but why spend the extra money on gas and release extra toxic emissions into the air? If you have a teenager who insists on taking their own wheels to school, have them pick up a friend on the way. They’ll get used to carpooling and will hopefully continue to use it in the working world someday.
Mealtime Mindfulness: It’s lunch time! Are the kids packing their lunch or buying it? I don’t think twice about packing my own lunch for work rather than ordering out so it is second nature to pack it for my family. Unless the school has a discounted school lunch program, it really is cheaper for you to pack a lunch for the kids. It’s also healthier. Remember to avoid those brown bags! Reuseable lunch bags come in tons of shapes and colors and they’re almost always easily washable. Try not to use plastic baggies for sandwiches and sides, either. It all ends up in a landfill! There’s no reason why you can’t have a sandwich container and other snack cups that you can wash and reuse. If there’s a field trip or another event where you’re sure your offspring will leave everything behind, go for biodegradeable bags like the ones by PrideGreen that are sold at Target or on Amazon.
Now that you’ve read through this list of “rules” I’m sure you feel like you’ve been through a busy day of school yourself! Make one small change at a time and you’ll make a big difference. You and your family will be helping to save the earth! Hopefully the kids will spread the word to some of their friends, too (even if it’s just to brag about their cool new organic cotton t-shirt). It’s a start!