I love back to school time! It was always so exciting for me both as a student and as a teacher (and I love both of those roles!). Unfortunately, Back to School was also often a time of large expenses and lots of things that aren’t particularly environmentally friendly. I made it a point in my own classroom to try to encourage parents and students to employ eco-friendly ideas whenever possible. Here are five suggestions:
1) Buy local and organic when possible. You’re not only giving your children the best nutrition possible but you’re helping to support local farmers, the local economy, and the environment.
2) When making purchases for the new school year, the first question you should ask yourself is “do I really need to buy this new?”. Often, with my own daughter, she had plenty of school supplies left over from the previous year that could still be used. Like many kids (and me!), she was thrilled by those bright shiny new school supplies that surround you in every store but we’d usually come to a compromise. “I’ll buy you a new set of your favorite markers in the big pack with TONS of colors but you’ll have to use the pencils and binders leftover from last year” – that kind of thing. If we could, we’d also try to spruce up some of last year’s stuff – cover the old pencil box and binders with Contact paper/Mac Tac in a design of her choosing, sew bright colorful patches onto her book bag to cover the worn spots (this was a great way to make use of the souvenir patches we had collected on summer vacation) and so on. When getting rid of some of the old school supplies, we recycled what we could by donating it to community organizations and put as much as possible of what could no longer be used out for recycling pickup.
3) When you must buy new supplies or clothing for the school year, look for items that are eco-friendly and produced with green materials and processing practices. You can even find eco-friendly backpacks with solar charging devices right in them! Instead of disposable ones, buy pens and pencils that are refillable. Look for items with the least amount of packaging as well.
4) Walk, take the bus, or carpool to school whenever possible.
5) Instead of paper bags and plastic wrap, use reusable plastic containers and lunchboxes for your kids’ lunches. You can even find reusable water bottles that are made from stainless steel and BPA free.
I also suggest you see if there are ways that perhaps you help encourage your child’s teacher/school to become more environmentally conscious. For example, when I was a Kindergarten teacher, one of the parents purchased all the supplies and set up a worm composting system in my classroom. The kids loved being able to see the worms and all the tunnels they created and we were able to significantly reduce the amount of food scraps going into the trash. Other parents donated recycling bins and created picture based labels for them so that all children knew exactly what went where.
What school related ideas do you have for living a more eco-friendly life?