Ready to head back to school in a healthy, happy, eco-friendly way? Here’s how to prep for a planet-friendly back-to-school for your family. 1. Purchase Eco-Friendly Back-To-School Supplies Sit down with your child’s list of school supplies for the new school year and start making some notes for yourself. You will want to take these points and tips into consideration:
- Choose recycled pencils, pens, markers, paper goods, and notebooks.
- Look for crayons that are made in the United States. Some brands, particularly those imported from China, have been discovered to be asbestos-contaminated.
- Choose binders and backpacks that are PVC-free. Look for backpacks that are constructed of natural canvas or reconstructed PET. Purchase binders that are PVC-free (check labels).
PVC, or vinyl, is comprised of harmful chemical additives that have been linked to learning disabilities, asthma, and several more chronic health issues. A growing number of retailers are becoming more and more environmentally aware. As a result, they are selling more recycled and chemical-free items. 2. Pack A Packed Lunch Purchase a reusable lunch box with a reusable drink bottle and pack your child’s lunch every day. School lunches are famously unappetizing and nutritionally deficient. You can pack a lunch each day that you can be sure is healthy and tasty. This will reduce the amount of food that is wasted in schools (approximately 10 tons of food waste per year per elementary school alone, including packaging). Create a stash of healthy lunch options and let your child choose what they want for lunch each day. This will ensure that they eat what is packed. 3. Take Stock Before You Shop Before you set out to begin your school shopping, take stock of the supplies you may already have on hand. The backpack from last year may still be perfectly good. This is a great way to save yourself some money, including avoiding the dreaded unnecessary spur-of-the-moment purchases. Naturally, a lot of kids will balk at using the same backpack or lunchbox two years in a row. Get creative. Get your other parent friends together for a back-to-school swap meet. Have everyone gather together their extra or unneeded school supplies make a list of the things they need, and arrange for everyone to get together to trade lunch boxes, backpacks, coats, binders, any items that kids need for school that can be traded for “new” ones. It’s a great way to get the kids new items without spending a dime! 4. Buy Used Textbooks Whenever Possible Textbooks can cost hundreds of dollars when purchased new. Websites and most campus bookstores offer used books for half the price of new ones – sometimes even cheaper. Websites like Booksrun offer an extensive collection of used books in a number of subjects. You can even rent textbooks from many bookstores and websites. When you rent textbooks you save even more money. Not only does buying used textbooks save money, it also saves trees by cutting down on the volume of books that need to be produced! 5. Lose The Chemical-Laden Hand Sanitizers Liquid hand sanitizers have gained popularity in classrooms everywhere. They are now a commonly requested item on school supply lists. However, this is an item that is heavily laden with chemicals that have been shown in studies to severely impair the immune system and thyroid function. They can also result in bacteria and germs becoming immune to antibiotics. These harmful chemicals include phthalates, triclosan, and parabens. Instead, use a safe and natural homemade hand sanitizer (recipes can be found online) or wash hands using the tried and true method with soap and water. 6. Reduce Air Pollution By “Eco-Friendly Commuting” To School Get together with parents on the same school bus route and create a school commute schedule with a fun twist. If you live within a one-mile radius of the school, put together a walking group and have parents take turns accompanying the students to and from school every day. This will reduce smog emission from vehicles, help to save money on gas, and encourage everyone to get involved and get some healthy fresh air and exercise. 7. No Idling Cars, Please Idling cars create a huge amount of toxic pollution at the very point where students must enter and exit the building. The smog that is created by idling vehicles has been shown to:
- Induce and irritate allergies
- Cause respiratory infections
- Cause more severe and more frequent asthma attacks in asthma sufferers
These conditions can all cause absences from school. Also, allowing cars to idle for just 10 seconds uses more gas than turning off and restarting it does. 8. Teach Your Kids By Example Talk to your family about the importance of taking care of the planet and the environment. Some schools teach about recycling, pollution, etc, but there are a lot of things you can teach them at home that can be applied to everyday life. Don’t just tell your kids about these things, teach by example. Let them see you reading ingredients list and choosing chemical-free products. Choose all-natural cleaning products, shampoos, etc, with biodegradable packaging for your home. Turn off your car rather than letting it idle which causes smog emission and adds pollution to the atmosphere. Use every opportunity to initiate a conversation about green living choices and to make those choices yourself. In this way, the next generation will begin to create a healthier, sustainable world for the future. 9. Shop Second-Hand When it comes to shopping for back-to-school clothes, thrift stores have become nearly as popular as department stores, if not more so. Since kids outgrow clothing seemingly overnight, shopping second-hand is a smart choice that will save money and cut down on the degradation of the environment due to toxic dyes used to make clothing items, synthetic clothing fabrics that are oil-based, and GMO crops. It also helps to fight sweatshop labor by cutting down on demand. Along with shopping at thrift stores, you can also get together with other environmentally-conscious parents and plan a “swap meet”. Gather your child’s gently-used clothing items that they have outgrown or no longer wear. Choose a Saturday afternoon when everyone is free, and arrange a few hours for a clothing exchange. IN this way you succeed in cleaning out your own closets a bit while “shopping” for new items your kids will like and can use. Want to make it even more helpful? Bring along any unused school supplies that your child won’t be needing and swap those as well. Many schools have supply lists that differ, so what your child may not need can save another parent some money, and vice-versa! 10. Organize An Environmental Awareness Day Get your street, block, or the whole neighborhood involved in an Environmental Awareness Day. Throw a block party and hand out pamphlets with helpful information about recycling, chemical-free cleaning and health products, green commuting, anything that will encourage them to become more environmentally conscious. Set up some games for the kids and hand out eco-friendly prizes, like packs of recycled pencils, PVC-free vinyl book bags, etc. Get your neighborhood excited about improving the environment. Conclusion Experiencing an eco-friendly back-to-school can be accomplished with a bit of simple and enthusiastic planning!