It’s back to school time. I don’t have kids in school yet but wandering through the aisle at the office store, I realised that next year my oldest will be going to school! When she was first born we never thought about school days, it seemed so far away. How quickly the time has flown. I can be a real planner, so already I am thinkin g of what to send her to school with. What are the greener choices to start her school journey and how can I avoid getting green-washed products? After doing a lot of research I’ve come to a few conclusions.
Firstly, to be truly green, school supplies should be made from natural and/or sustainable materials and, ideally, be reusable.
The best options for packing lunch are stainless steel or glass food containers. Of course, glass containers should only be used by older children, while stainless steel is good for all ages. These items will last many, many years and will not leach potentially harmful toxins into your food. Both stainless and glass are very hygienic. While you can get lunch supplies made of recycled plastic I would still suggest choosing stainless steel and glass over plastic where possible to keep potential toxins from plastic getting in your child’s food or drink. Furthermore, the stainless steel container can be passed on to future generations if well-taken care of, while the plastic containers will have cracked or become stained within a couple years of use. Once you have replaced your plastic a few times, you will have paid more than your initial investment for the stainless steel container.
Other lunch products to consider would be reusable snack bags, cloth napkins, lunch bags made of recycled material or fabric, and stainless steel drink containers.
When it comes to classroom supplies, only buy what you need. Already have 100 colored pencils in the house? No need to buy more. Do you have containers of broken crayon bits and pieces? Group them by color and melt them down to make your own uniquely shaped crayons using candy molds, muffin tins etc.
Buy paper made from 100% post-consumer products and vegetable based inks. Many writing implements are now available that are refillable, made of recycled materials, or sourced from responsibly harvested forests. Pens made from recycled computers, stainless steel refillable mechanical pencils…
What about backpacks? I remember my mom only bought us new backpacks if we needed them. Nowadays many backpacks fall apart before the year is out and end up in a landfill. Consider reusing last year’s backpack, buying second hand or investing in a high quality pack that will last for many years.
Try to choose items made with natural, responsibly-sourced materials, rather than man-made ones. Scribblers and binders with cardboard covers rather than plastic are usually a greener choice.
Some great questions to ask when considering your options are: How was it made? Is it recyclable or recycled? Is it sustainable? Will it last longer than other options and how long will it last? 9 times out of 10 the investment in a greener product will pay off in the long run both for the use you get out of it and its smaller environmental footprint
Get your child involved in the selection process and talk about why one product is more environmentally friendly than another. Depending on the age you may even encourage them to do their own research. After all, this is the earth they will inherit and it is never early to teach our children to nurture it.