“When it comes to clothing, cheaper is not better and new is not always necessary.” —Darlene
Back-to-school can be a busy and expensive time, but it doesn’t have to be wasteful or cruel. With a little planning, research and resourcefulness, it can be a GREEN time too. Here are 9 ways to green things up this year!
- Take Inventory & Reuse School Supplies:
Start with an inventory of last year’s school shopping. If you bought extra because it was a great sale, check it off your list first. What about last year’s backpack? At the end of last year, my son came home with a backpack full of folders and binders with a lot of use left in them. He took a little bit of time at the end of the year to wipe off the ink and pencil marks with lemon essential oil and reused what he could this year. Book covers are cheap, but some are also washable. If they aren’t torn, consider gently hand washing, drying and reusing them this year instead of buying new. It’s a win for you and the environment too.
- Thrift or Trade for Gently Used Clothing:
Where I live here in Ohio, it is impossible to find eco-conscious, fair trade clothing and even with the internet, it’s still really, really hard to find affordable, eco-conscious, fair trade clothing anywhere without a lot of research. If you’re not willing to go on a super-green hunt, it doesn’t mean you should hit the big Old Navy sale either. When it comes to clothing, cheaper is not better and new is not always necessary. The clothing industry in general is a huge environmental consumer with little (or no) care for those often enslaved for it’s production.
Resale, thrift and consignment shops are a great place to hunt down some great gently used and good quality clothing. For my youngest, going into preschool this year, I shop eBay for “lots” of the next season’s clothing. It’s simple, it’s greener than new and he still looks great.
Does your child need uniforms? Check with your school. Our school offers a trade/resale uniform swap making it super easy to pick up their school wardrobe cheap and often free for the younger grades. If your school doesn’t offer a uniform trade/swap, maybe talk with the PTO or teachers to see if you can help organize and start one.
To learn more about WHY we need to be consciencous about clothing, check out this documentary on the fashion industry: True Cost Movie.
- Host a “Buy, Sell, or Trade Gently-Used School Supplies Party”
Based on the same idea as the uniform swap, why not organize a similar event with school supplies? Even better, offer to coordinate one for the school a few weeks before school starts. With a simple flyer sent in the school’s orientation packet, you can invite everyone from the school to bring their gently used and clean school supplies, backpacks, lunch boxes, uniforms and clothing to buy, sell, or trade. One child’s boring leftovers might be another child’s hot new year find!
- Don’t Over Buy
How tempting is it to buy 10,000 sheets of paper, just because they are on sale? I’ve been there and I’ve done that — then “organized” them away so well that I couldn’t find them for three years and had to buy more anyway! (Resist, you can do it!) Buy only what you need and buy more only when you really need it. What seems like a savings, really isn’t when you realize that you spent $25 more than if you would have if you had kept to the list. Let’s face it, what we’re really doing is feeding our need to over-consume. (The more we have, the more likely we are to waste.)
- If you have to Buy, Purchase Eco-conscious and Recycled whenever Possible
More and more eco-friendly and green-er products are becoming available and many are American made. Now is a great time to seek them out. For more information on why and how to buy Green school supplies check out this link to the Green Schools Initiative. They say it so much better than I ever will be able and are great resource for parents, teachers and schools!
- Buy Quality
Again, cheaper isn’t usually better and it’s not green or fair trade. Cheaper usually means low quality, low lifespan, and disposable. When you buy better quality, do it with the expectation that it will be used by more than one child. It could be another one of your own children, a cousin, neighbor or others when you do a clothing swap, garage sale, eBay or consignment shop. It can also be an opportunity to be charitable and donate gently-used, great-quality clothing and supplies to others in need, in your local area or across the world. Battered women’s shelters are always in need and they will appreciate them very much!
- Green & Healthy Lunch
Skip the throw away brown bag and paper napkin! There are literally hundreds of options for reusable drink bottles, lunch boxes and cloth napkins including many eco-conscious ones making a “waste-free” lunch easier than ever.My family has been using these stainless steel reusable Together Bottles for about a year. I bought them in a four-pack from Amazon and they work great for lunch, cross country practice and work. The company boasts that their stainless steel bottles are BPA, non-toxic and will last for years. So far after one year, I agree. They have a few dents from frequent use, but otherwise they have worked out great. There are a few different snack and lunck box options available including PlanetBox, Onyx and Eco-Lunchbox, all which review well by other eco-friendly moms. I haven’t tried it yet, but this PlanetBox kit is in my shopping basket for my preschooler. I think it will be great for school, the zoo and road trips. I’ll post a review soon!Here is yet another great link to the Green Schools Initiative to their article with practical suggestions and recommendations now how you can make waste-free lunches a reality.
- Green Up the Community Supplies Too
As we change our lives and make more eco-friendly, green, and healthy choices, we have to remember that “we” includes everyone else too. Our preschool supplies list included Clorox wipes. I know our school is trying their best to keep everyone healthy and clean, but even our educators might need some additional education on the problems of Clorox wipes and their part in growing antibiotic resistant “superbugs.” Here is a good article from the EWG titled “The Trouble with Disinfecting Wipes” to help us (and our teachers) better understand why it’s best to skip the Clorox and choose greener options.How can we help? Along with a copy of the EWG article above, offer to replace the Clorox wipes with reusable rags and a spray bottle of Poofy Vesta or a homemade cleaner. You can continue to support her by offering to refill the bottle for your teacher and wash the rags as often as needed. Even better volunteer to do the cleaning — your teachers will love you!
- Educate Our Kids
“But Mom, I’m the only one!” This is probably the most important way to green up back-to-school now and to help make long-term change for the future. Let’s educate ourselves and our kids so they understand why it’s important to be eco-conscious and fair trade, so they they can become “environmental, fair trade pioneers” and not the “odd kid out.” Help them grow in environmental and social commitment through education. Give them and children around the world, hope for a better future. Here are a couple of sites to help you:
- Fair Trade in the Classroom
This site has a few broken links, but the ones that work have a lot of great information including study units for homeschool and sharing with your teachers.
- Fair Trade USA
This organization boasts that they are the leading third-party fair trade certifier in the United States. Their well organized website is full of information.
I’m doing my best to make my family’s back-to-school a bit greener every year. Next year, I’m hope to write a post titled, “15 Ways to Green Back-to-School.” I’d love it if you would help me fill in the blanks for numbers 10-15 by sharing your green back to school practices in the comments below.