back to school already

Back-to-school time always seems synonymous with September, but in South Louisiana, it's already that time! Many children are already back in school, and others are gearing up to go back, including the college students (oh, the memories).

The beginning of the school year always means new school supplies! And some of us love new supplies even if we're not in school anymore. But either way, greening your school supplies is easy and just takes a little extra looking and knowledge.

The main ways to make your supplies greener are through paper, pencils/pens, binders, backpacks, lunchtime supplies and art supplies.

When shopping for looseleaf, notebooks or computer paper, choose recycled! Recycled notebooks and reams of computer paper are very common and easy-to-find. Just check on the tags to find a mention of recycled content. And a tip: if you ever see a recycled content note, 'pre-consumer' means the material was recycled within the plant (from scraps) before going out for retail purchase, and 'post-consumer' means the material was previously used by a consumer and deposited at a recycling facility, then used by the factory. 

These notebooks are a clever take on those classic composition books. Named decomposition books, they are made of recycled paper and printed with soy ink. They are available in stores as well as online; I believe I've seen some at Barnes and Noble.

Pens and pencils made with recycled materials are becoming increasingly available. Some pencils are made of recycled newspaper, some are made of recycled denim and some are made with reforested wood

Pens are made with recycled and/or biodegradable materials. Papermate sells pens made of recycled materials and biodegradable materials. They also partner with TerraCycle to upcycle pens you collect and donate. Pilot makes an ink pen made from water or soft drink bottles.

If your children are using ink pens (whether recycled or not), teach them about conserving the ink by always capping or retracting the pen when it's not in use. 

Once you have the recycled paper, it's important to have something eco-friendly to store it in. Naked Binders are one brand of eco-friendly binders; made of FSC-certified recycled cardboard. Earth Binders are another brand made of recycled materials, and they sell index tabs.

Backpacks are available in recycled PET (soft drink bottles). They may be available in more specialty-type shops, but are definitely available online. Prices vary, depending on the backpack. Recycled backpacks are as strong as regular backpacks as well.

If your child is allowed to bring a lunch to school, do it the green way! Skip the paper bags in favor of insulated reusable lunch bags or bento box-type kits, put drinks in a reusable mug and place sandwiches and snacks in reusable bags

Crayons, sidewalk chalk, modeling clay, paint, glue and colored pencils all come in nontoxic alternatives. Eco Kids is a company dedicated to providing eco-friendly, nontoxic art supplies. Stubby Pencil Studio sells soy-based crayons, drawing books made from recycled paper and scissors made with recycled plastics.

Because school supplies cover so many products, there are tons of options for anything you could want or need to buy. This list is really only the beginning and not comprehensive, but should give you plenty of ideas. When it comes time to stock up on school supplies, just remember to do a little looking and research beforehand so you can figure out where to get eco-friendly alternatives. And don't forget to take the opportunity to educate your children on their eco-friendly supplies and explain why being eco-friendly is important and good for the planet! This will help complete the cycle of being a good environmentalist yourself - from choosing green over conventional to educating others on green practices. And come back on Friday to see more links to places where you can purchase eco-friendly school supplies!

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