Back to School

The start of a new school year is almost here, and for parents and students that means one thing—it’s time to stock up on school supplies.

School supplies are an essential part of every student’s life, but all those colorful folders, plastic binders and dividers, markers and crayons, staplers, glue sticks, and backpacks, not to mention the never ending supply of hand sanitizer, don’t always fit in with a zero-waste ethos.

However, that doesn’t mean that a waste-free school year is out of reach.

When figuring out what to buy, consider that ‘reduce’ and ‘reuse’ are at the top of the zero-waste hierarchy, and the best zero-waste school supplies you can get are likely the ones you already own. Rather than shopping for new items, see what you already have at home and use it up before buying something new.

I mean really, just count the number of pens you find in your kitchen, desk, purse…

Once you’ve shopped your own closets and drawers at home, it’s time to draw up a supply list of reusable, recyclable, and sustainable back-to-school supplies.

Let's talk stationery first. There are plenty of planet-friendly options available. Look for plastic-free items made from FSC-approved or recycled paper and without any glossy or plastic coatings on the covers, and of course metal, not plastic, spirals on spiral-bound notebooks.

Writing utensils. Classic pencils, without the foiled decoration, create the least amount of waste and there are more and more refillable (non-fountain) pens on the market today. Search out Pokka Pen as a good, affordable option. And don’t forget about erasers. Many are made of virgin rubber, latex, or synthetic materials, so look for recycled or natural rubber erasers instead.

To store writing utensils, metal cases make a great durable alternative to the usual fabric or plastic pencil pouch, which is likely made of synthetic fabric with a plastic zipper and will eventually wear out.

Lunch. As discussed in a previous post, get a metal lunch box, reusable drink bottle and food containers, utensil set, and cloth napkin. No need for waste here!

Lastly, buy quality where you can. Snatch up some used quality items when you come across them. They will last longer, work better, and you will feel good using them.