Though it happens every year, we still seem programmed to equate going back to school with buying tons of new stuff. According to the National Retail Federation, the average family with school-aged children will spend $594 on back-to-school purchases each year. Supplies may be a necessity , but we often turn to disposable supplies to do the job. Here are some suggestions for making this process more environmentally-friendly.
First, look for supplies made from recycled material. Especially when it comes to paper. The average school tosses 38 tons of paper every year – that’s the equivalent of 644 trees – so purchasing post-consumer recycled paper, and making sure that it gets recycled again, can make a big difference.
Next, take a careful inventory of what you already have that can be used again. Items like clothes, shoes, and book bags can be reused but also look out for items still waiting to be used – things like extra packs of pencils, glue sticks, or notebooks from last year. Avoid last-minute impulse purchases by making a list of what you need before you head to the store. Also consider longevity – a cheaper product may not last as long as a more environmentally friendly one.
Lastly, it’s reported that only 31% of kids who live less than a mile from school walk regularly; half of those within a mile of school usually go by car. Look for safe routes and encourage students to walk or ride bikes together. It’s great exercise for them and will cut down on pollution in the neighborhood. If driving is your only option, start a carpool and take turns with other parents.