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6 Ways to be a good person when you shop back-to-school

I've been writing with Goodshop for over a year, working to spread the word about how people can directly impact the causes they care about most every time they shop online.

While picking up school supplies, earn some karma points at these stores that give back

The kids might be back in the classroom, but that doesn't mean that moms are off the hook with their back-to-school shopping. Everywhere I look, ads continue to tell me that I still absolutely need that new pencil case. In fact, I absolutely need two pencil cases, in matching patterns with GPS locators and a three-pound supply of lead — just in case my pencils run out mid-test.

While it can be easy to get caught up in the whirl of zebra-print notebooks and triple-rainbow highlighters, what all of this advertising fails to acknowledge is that there actually are back-to-school items that I really do need — textbooks, calculators, binders, pens, shoes — and there are a lot of people who can't afford to buy even the simplest of these classroom necessities.

nter a variety of merchants who are attempting to put a dent into this inequality by pairing up school supplies with school supply fundraising campaigns — at no extra cost to you. It makes perfect sense: if you absolutely have to buy a new backpack, why not buy one that also donates money to children's health? When you buy those new fancy shoes — wouldn't it feel better to know that 25 percent of your purchase was being donated to a children's literacy program? These are easy, simple steps we can take to improve not only our own lives, but the lives of everyone around us. So, this fall, make your school shopping matter. Here are six brands that, with your help, want to do amazing things this season:

1. Garments for Good: J.Crew

With slogans like “helping teachers help students” written in pencil scrawl under an illustrated Mead notebook and a collage of school supplies forming a heart, the six T-shirts in J.Crew’s Garments for Good shop are as cute as they are impactful. For every shirt you buy, a donation is made to either donorschoose.org, a website providing invaluable support to teachers and classrooms in need, or Teach for America, a program placing recent college graduates in under-resourced communities nationwide. The T-shirts come in three different styles for each cause, and range from $25 to $32.

2. TOMS Stand Up Backpack Collection

When you buy one of the cool new backpacks from the TOMS Stand Up collection, the company promises to put resources toward helping provide a safe birth for a mother and baby in need or toward anti-bullying campaigns. Ranging from $39 to $54, these chic backpacks have a padded laptop pocket and come in four different patterns. It doesn't stop with backpacks: TOMS offers a variety of great products that all pledge to help both you and someone in need, whether that need be shoes, glasses or water. Studies show that when children have proper shoes and glasses, school attendance rates go through the roof. Browse their chic seasonal designs, and feel good knowing you made it a priority to put other people first — and get cute shoes.

3. Give Back to Schools With Office Depot and Office Max

Everybody has to buy school supplies, and there's no better place to buy them this season than Office Depot/Office Max. For every dollar you spend on school supplies, 5 percent will be donated in free credits back to your school. The best part? If you've already purchased your school supplies, it isn't too late to earn those credits! Fill out this form to request the credits be sent to your school retroactively. All you need is your school I.D. — and a little school spirit! Just think of all the cool things your teachers can use to bulk up their classrooms now.

4. The Ralph Lauren Children's Literacy Program

Launched this month by Ralph Lauren, The Ralph Lauren Children's Literacy Program aims to support children's literacy and education worldwide by donating 25 percent of the purchase price of everything sold in the collection. Find all the hottest new school clothes and help fundraise for Reach Out and Read — a Scholastic Corporation program that prepares America's youngest children to succeed in school by partnering with doctors to "prescribe" books and encourage families to read together. As they say on their landing page, "Books open windows to the world and have the power to transform lives." Amen.

5. Schoola

You may not have heard about Schoola, but I doubt that that anonymity will last much longer. The thrifty start-up has figured out the perfect fundraising solution for schools — easy, green and requiring incredibly minimal sales-savvy. Schools register with Schoola, parents send in extra clothing as donations, people around the world shop the site for the upcycled clothes and each school gets up to 40 percent of each purchase made. Talk about making a community fundraiser viral. Through Schoola, you can buy an entire new school-year wardrobe and fundraise for your school at the very same time. Take it from Forbes, "Bake-sale cupcakes are nice. But Schoola is better."

6. Goodshop.com

If you plan to buy your Back-to-School supplies and clothes online, you should buy your items through Goodshop.com, an online coupons site that donates a percentage of all qualifying purchases straight to the nonprofit of your choice. The site lists thousands of coupons, is hooked up with just as many nonprofits, and works with all of the Goodshop merchants to ensure each purchase you make gets you great savings and earns a donation. Sign up and register your account with your school or an anti-inequality nonprofit near you — then start shopping!

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