The old adage “out with the old, in with the new” carries a hefty price when it comes to back to school shopping.
The annual ritual of throwing out all the old shoes, old binders, old pens and pencils and other school supplies puts a real dent in a family’s budget and creates a carbon footprint a mile wide.
As summer winds down, it's time for parents and kids to start thinking about heading back to school. Here are some tips and tricks to get ready for school in a cost-effective and eco-friendly way.
Schoolteachers may think of the 3 Rs as reading, writing and arithmetic, but if you’re reading this, we bet you know the eco-friendly translation of these Rs, right? The first stop to savings is reduce, recycle, and reuse.
Reduce Your Supply List
Before reflexively stocking up to the max, think about which supplies you can reduce the use of. What do you really need? Make a list.
When buying school supplies, it can be tempting to buy enough paper, notebooks, tissues and pencils for an entire year. However, you don't know how much your kids will actually use. Instead, buy enough for the beginning of the school year and then if and when your child runs out, you can purchase more.
Be sure to make sure your reusable lunchboxes are ready to go in a location that is easy for your kids to access.
Make sure your lunchboxes are non-toxic, BPA-free and long-lasting for maximum positive impact on your budget and the planet. Avoid soft plastic carriers that contain lead, PVC, or containers treated with the antibacterial agent triclosan. According to a study by ECOlunchbox, families can save hundreds of dollars annually and dramatically reduce waste by packing a waste-free lunchbox.
Recycle Last Year’s Supplies & Swap
If you need to throw away old school work, clothing or supplies, be sure to recycle what is too worn out to reuse yourself or trade with friends.
And, it’s obvious to point out that if you do need to buy new notebooks or other supplies, shop for products made from recycled materials. If you don’t find green back-to-school gear at the store, ask the manager to order green for your future purchases.
Reuse Your Own Stuff & Ask Your Friends
Before heading to the store, take inventory! Which supplies do you have on hand that can be reused from last year?
Most families have enough pencils, crayons, glue, tape and markers left over from the previous year to start the new school year just fine. Use up what you have on hand before buying more. Encourage your kids to reuse last year’s backpack, (lead-free) lunch bag, and pencil case.
Does anything need to be cleaned, sharpened, or adjusted? Don’t ditch it! Fix it!
Next step is to check in with your friends. Know anyone who wants to swap supplies? Before heading to the store for new clothes and backpacks, see if you can swap items with other families. Some schools organize supply swaps. Otherwise you can contact a few families in your neighborhood via social networking apps like Nextdoor.com to see if they're interested in trading items.
Another eco-friendly choice is shopping consignment and thrift stores! We all want nice things, especially for our children. I’ve found thrift stores in more affluent zip codes tend to have nicer items. Doing a quick Google search of thrift stores near wealthy neighborhoods helps me determine where to shop first.
With these tips and tricks in mind, you can send your kids back to school while saving some green and being green, benefiting both your wallet and the planet.