Back-to-school shopping can put a real dent in a family’s budget and create a carbon footprint a mile wide. Here’s how you can green the shopping beast and save money, too.
Eco Cheap Shopping Strategy
• Shop at home first. Most families have enough pencils, crayons, glue, tape and markers left over from the previous year to start the new 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.
Best Lunch Boxes
• Avoid soft plastic carriers that contain lead, PVC, or containers treated with the antibacterial agent triclosan. You’ll find good options at: ReusableBags.com , Laptop Lunch Box , Mimi the Sardine lunch “bug” bags , or Cool Totes Insulated Lunch Bags. Gigglefish sells lunch boxes shaped like animals.
Get more information on safe lunch boxes here.
Osprey’s Resource Series backpacks - Made from almost all recycled materials, including 100% recycled PET plastic.
Ecogear and Ecotech Organic cotton bags - Made with non-toxic dyes, sustainable wood and organically-grown accessories, zippered internal organizer pockets, dual side pockets and adjustable shoulder straps. Ecogear bags are named for endangered animals and are made through planet-friendly practices.
Simple’s Hangover Bag - Fashioned from recycled plastic and organic cotton
Passchal Messenger Bag - Snazzy despite the fact it’s made from recycled inner tubes.
Fleurville’s PVC-free Backpack - Roomy, but I’m not wild about the camo-colored skull and crossbones design.
And in case you want a bag that can double as a cell phone or iPod charger, check out:
Look for paper made from post-consumer waste and bleached without chlorine. Some brands to consider:
For fun recycled and nontoxic notebooks, EcoJot is hard to beat You might be able to find NewLeaf's notebooks on the shelf at Office Depot. DolphinBlue's notepads are chlorine-free in addition to using all postconsumer recycled paper.
Go "treeless" with EcoPaper's chlorine-free notebooks made from banana paper.
Pencils and Pens
Forest Ethics recommends Forest Choice or Greenline Paper Eco-Writer pencils made from recycled wood instead of Ticonderoga’s standard #2 model made from California’s Sierra Nevada forests. A better option? A mechanical pencil that can be refilled, not landfilled.
Woody ballpoint pens from The Green Office refashion wood scraps from forests certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Their recycled and refillable cartridges contain nontoxic ink.
Miscellaneous School Supplies
For a new computer, review the recommendations at the Green Electronics Council. Keep in mind that a laptop uses far less energy and materials than a desktop. Improve the efficiency of all your student’s electronics by plugging them into an energy-saving power strip.
Still want more? See Nature Mom’s recommendations:
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