Back to School... Back to Realityyy

If you hear a giant, collective groan this week, it's probably the thousands of students (and teachers) heading back to school. If you hear another giant, collective groan, it's probably the rest of us remembering how crappy school-year commutes are.

Oh well, we can't avoid the inevitable! The new school year is upon us, and just in case you haven't stocked up on school supplies yet, now is the time to go green for school!

Save some money and a lot of resources by reusing where possible and buying environmentally friendly supplies - from paper, pencils/pens and binders to backpacks, lunchtime supplies and art supplies.


Start your supply be reusing what you may already have! If you've got some clean paper or folders in good condition left over from last year, use them again instead of stashing away to buy new.

When shopping for looseleaf, notebooks or computer paper, choose recycled! Recycled notebooks and reams of computer paper are very common and easy-to-find.

Expert tip: There are two kinds of recycled content: '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.

Need a traditional composition book for class? Be unique with a decomposition book! Made of recycled paper, printed with soy ink and not processed with chlorine, decomposition books are available in stores as well as online.

Teach your children to make the best use out of their paper supply. Get them in the habit of taking notes using both sides of the paper and recycling any paper they don't need anymore.

As a parent, recycle any take-home papers you don't need to keep or return.

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 pocket folders and index tabs.

Oxford makes EarthWise pocket folders as well, made with 100% post-consumer recycled fiber. AND they come in more colors than just brown!


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

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

If your children are using ink pens (whether recycled or not), teach them to conserve ink by always recapping or retracting the pen when they aren't writing with it.


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.

Timbuk2 uses recycled PET fabric and even recycled foam padding left over from other products in their backpacks.
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, stainless steel cases or bento box-type kits, put drinks in a reusable mug instead of single-use juice boxes, 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. The brands mentioned are by far not the only ones who sell sustainable and environmentally friendly school and office supplies. When you're shopping for supplies, take the time to do a little research beforehand so you can figure out which brands to look for and where to find them. You'd be surprised how many options are available at your local office supply store.

And don't forget to take the opportunity to educate your children on how their supplies help the planet and why being eco-friendly is so important for planet and for people. If children make sustainability a habit at a younger age, they're much more likely to advocate for sustainability as they grow up!

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