Back to school items that are better for the environment

A new school year brings the excitement of new teachers, new friends, and new learning opportunities. It also comes with another shopping list for school supplies.

If you’re trying to start a more environmentally responsible household or encouraging your children to adopt sustainable practices themselves, look at the back-to-school season as an opportunity to make different choices. From plastic-free school supplies to recycled products, sometimes it’s so easy to swap out one product in your shopping cart for another.

However, it is important to note that individual choices are not the solution to the global climate crisis. Also, as a parent, you should never feel embarrassed if you can’t replace the products you buy with eco-friendly alternatives. Just take these suggestions as is and consider other ways to bring the conversation about global climate justice into your children’s education and daily lives. Keep scrolling to learn more about it.

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1. Find sustainable materials for backpacks, clothing and more

While reducing overall consumption is ideal, this is often a difficult task for young children and families just trying to get through the school week. (How many pencils have we lost as a society altogether?)

Instead, consider buying products made from recycled, natural, or locally sourced materials to offset those purchases, including new clothing and fabric items like backpacks. For example, backpacks made from natural fibers like cotton — there are even some made from banana plant fiber — are a renewable option and are often more durable and easier to care for than plastic backpacks.

Debate on the environmental impact of cotton has grown with concerns about the water and energy requirements to produce the material. But it is the better option to reduce non-degradable waste in global landfills. To shop cotton more carefully, look out for products and brands made under the Better Cotton Initiativea program established by the World Wildlife Fund that sets global standards for cotton production.

Choosing more durable fabric products can benefit your budget in the long run. Check out backpacks from a brand like Terra Threadswhich offers colorful backpack options made from recycled materials and also supports the national non-profit Feeding America. Other options include this entirely recyclable nylon backpack by Jem & Bea and recycled bags from big brands like JanSport.

Although your child may want a brand new backpack to match their personality in the new school year, simple backpacks can be a blank slate for customization. Offer to add it to your child stains, pins and even drawings to reflect their own personality. When in doubt, try a bag brand such as Fjallraven that offers lifetime warranties and repairs This way you can extend the life of your child’s items.

And if you must go the plastic route, look for bags made out of it Polypropylene non-woven fabrica more durable plastic that lasts longer, requires fewer uses to offset traditional plastic production, and is more easily recyclable.

You can also try pencils, pens and markers made from recycled materials such as those sold by Eco Pen Club (they have highlighters too!), Wisdom Supply Co. (including unpainted pencils and crayons) and TreeSmart, a brand that started recycling old newspapers and water bottles into fresh school supplies more than a decade ago. For older kids and teens, check out refillable pens that can be reused for years. Most big brands like pilot Offer pencil leads, or you can Switch to old-school fountain pens like those by lamy.

That National Crayon Recycling Program rescues pounds of old crayons from landfills and recycles them into new art supplies available for purchase. They also offer Instructions on how to host your own crayon recycling campaign.

Eco-friendly colored pencils offer alternatives to commonly used paraffin wax pencils, such as these beeswax sticks from Eartheasy. Crayola has made commitments also reduce its environmental impact by committing to use sustainable wood sources. The brand previously hosted a Marker Takeback Program for customers who have been disrupted during the pandemic. It currently offers tips on recycling or even Reusing last year’s art materials.

2. Choose plastic-free school supplies for everyday use

An easy choice is to try some non-plastic lunch boxes or stainless steel bento boxes for your kids’ school lunches. PlanetBox, an eco-friendly school brand, sells three sizes of stainless steel lunch boxes and even a lunch tray as well packed lunches, Lunch tote bagsand snack bag made from recycled materials.

Plastic-free pencil cases are a creative alternative to the plastic overload in classrooms. Stainless steel, wood, or fabric bags are good, durable options for students. Check out Wisdom Supply Co “Zero-Waste” pencil case or his recyclable aluminum housingor browse the company’s Sustainable paper supply set These include the pencil case, a binder, notebooks, and binders. Terra Thread also sells cotton-based items pencil case. When shopping at the store, look for bags made out of materials like canvas and polyester, rather than plastic.

Reusable sandwich and snack bags may already be part of your household’s daily routine, so try to use them for your kids’ lunches too. Popular brands like stasher offer a variety of sizes and types of reusable bags, as well as private label reusable bags from places like target and Walmart are a good exchange.

3. Prioritize products made from recycled paper

While recycling isn’t as easy as it seems, thanks in part confusing, inaccessible recycling processesstill most the most effective climate protection measure, Paper is one area that the recycling industry has come closest to to find out, with at least or more than 63 percent of paper products are recycled Year. So you can feel good about recycling your kid’s used paper products and buying recycled paper products.

Try to only buy notebooks, workbooks, note cards, and folders made from recycled paper and cardboard. Sustainable shopping mile earth hero sells several brands of fully recycled paper products, such as eco-friendly notebooks and lined filler paper made by the brand Decomposition. This is a good option if your kids are also drawn to fun patterns and prints. decomposition also sells folders made from 85 percent post-consumer waste materials. Other brands like EcoPaper Offer notebooks and paper products made entirely from non-tree materials such as banana plant waste. And popular stationery brands like Five stars and Oxford Also offer notebooks made from recycled paper, which you can most likely find in your local stores.

If you have an older student who is interested in technology or wants to invest in reusable products, you can also swap out paper notebooks for alternatives like that rocket bookwhich allows you to digitally store handwritten notes and then delete the pages for repeated use.

4. Balance back-to-school shopping with activism and education

More important than any of these products is using the back-to-school season as an opportunity to educate yourself and your child about the legacy of environmental activism, the state of global climate change, and activists fighting the crisis.

Consider including volunteering related to environmental protection and activism in your child’s after-school hobbies. This can be as simple as composting at home, gardening, or participating in recycling drives. You could also look for (or start) an environmental activism club on your child’s school campus. guide like This one here from WeAreTeachers might be helpful, or you can reach out to local groups from nationwide groups such as a Sunrise Movement Hub.

If you have the means, donate to organizations advocating for change at the highest levels, in government and business, to address the climate crisis. youth organizations like that sunrise movement, created by youth activists Sara Blazevic and Varshini Prakashand uprising of the earthfounded by 17 year olds Alexandria Villasenor, gather the next generation of activists. Other organizations like that Alliance for Climate Justice, Indigenous Environmental Networkand the Sierra Club also do critical work. Many also offer free educational and organizational resources.

Remember to model positive environmental behavior for your children. For back to school, avoid buying from large, for-profit companies such as Amazonwhat contributes to it global waste and transport emissions. It can be difficult, but try to patronize shops in your own neighborhood if possible. You can use websites and apps like Good buya resource that connects shoppers with local small businesses.

Finally, expand your child’s education to include environmental and climate science classes and consider joining other parents and educators in the fight for broader climate education in schools. Many activists across the country are actively working on changes to state curricula that would make climate education a mandatory aspect of your child’s education because – shockingly – it is not yet widespread. If you live in a state with minimal climate education (or not), consider supplementing your child’s learning with environmental education as well. You can find resources on the US Environmental Protection Agency websiteCash NASA’s Climate Kids websiteor read Common Sense Media’s guide to climate education tools. You can even listen science and news based podcasts for kids how The activatorswhich presents the work of young environmental activists and researchers.

Try these conversations Avoid climate change and fear and focus on stories of young people paving the way for the future. Encourage your children to make changes and intervene where necessary to make sustainability a priority. The destiny of our planet and the start of a new school year aren’t exactly on the same level, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to quell both fears at the same time.

About Rachael Garcia

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