The summer months are coming to a close and students and parents alike are looking towards the start of a new school year. Typically, back to school time entails lots of shopping and preparation. The “starting on a clean slate” mentality engenders cravings for new school supplies and clothes. However, in today’s day and age, it is becoming increasingly important and fashionable to save resources, monetary and otherwise. Luckily, with the development of new and more creative ways to conserve it’s easier than ever to go green while remaining on a budget. Approximately 56 million children will attend elementary and secondary schools this year and each one will produce approximately 240 pounds of waste, so it’s important to save and reuse where we can. Here are some helpful ideas and products to help you save this school year.
The first important step to leading a greener lifestyle is to stay organized. Make a list of all the things you need (or think you will need) before doing any shopping. This will keep you from going overboard when you see all the shiny new equipment offered at Target or Staples.
Secondly, take stock of what you already have. Most times, at some point another, you’ve overbought pencils, pens, paper, notebooks and other school supplies. Using them now will not only save you money this year, but will also free up the house of a little clutter.
If you must purchase new back to school products, there are plenty of ways to go green. Everything from lunch boxes and pencils, to clothing and backpacks exist in an environmentally-friendly form and include such developments as a solar paneled backpack from Voltaic that can charge your cell phone, laptop or iPod while you walk. Big name brands have also embraced the green trend; just check the labels and avoid excessive packaging.
Avoid PVC when buying new items like binders and lunch boxes. This chemical is both harmful to the planet and to children’s health. It is an unnecessary toxic plastic that is dangerous at every point of its lifecycle so just by looking for products that are not made of plastic, you’re maintaining the environment and your child's health. For a complete list of PVC-free products and how to further avoid products containing PVC, download the Center for Health, Environment and Justice’s Back-to-School Guide.
Leftovers from last night’s dinner make great lunches. A little over preparation the night before will guarantee a lunch that your child will not only look forward to eating the next day but will also cut down on waste. Additionally, eliminating pre-packaged foods will save a lot of landfill space and are typically a healthier decision in the long run.
Walking, biking and carpooling are simple and easy way to save gas money, time and the environment. Using a single-occupancy car to drive your child the short distance to school is an incredible waste of resources. Talk to families in the area and see about organizing a carpool system, or even a chaperoned walk to school. Biking is always a good option for longer distances too, and your children will get some exercise in the process. And last, even though buses get less than a mile per gallon of gas, they still have large capacities, making them another environmentally friendly option.
Lastly, don’t set up your new eco-friendly lifestyle to fail. Getting too ambitious can often lead to disaster, so start small and set goals that you can accomplish throughout the year. While we would all like to single-handedly save the planet, it is true that small changes can make a big difference over time.