7 Tips for Back-to-School Sustainability


Ah, August. The time when summer break comes to an end and the new school year begins, bringing with it new teachers, new friends, new knowledge, new experiences, and new supplies! Back to school shopping is often an exciting time for students, but it can be costly for parents and can lead to unsustainable waste before all is said and done. Additionally, the act of getting kids to school can contribute to air pollution in addition to your stress levels. By keeping the following sustainable back to school tips in mind, you can help your wallet, your serenity, and our environment, while providing an opportunity for memorable experiences for your kids.

  1. Take inventory. Although it’s tempting to just get all the shopping over with and out of the way, go through any leftover supplies from the previous school year and see what was never or barely used. More than expected may be able to be used in place of brand new items this year.

  2. Shop for recycled and reusable materials. For those items you can’t avoid buying, see if you can find products made from recycled materials. Also, consider refillable pens and biodegradable pencils.

  3. Buy reused tech. Consider buying refurbished electronics. In addition to being less expensive, a refurbished purchase helps reduce landfill waste and decrease pollution.

  4. Thrift shop or swap. When shopping for back to school clothes, consider hitting up thrift shops or organizing a clothing swap within your community. Can’t get the kids on board with the idea? Frame it as an opportunity to own unique, vintage fashions and point out that even the most fashionable celebrities love the thrill of thrifting.

  5. Hop on the bus. If you live close to the school bus route, consider taking advantage of it. Letting your child take the bus to school will result in one less task for you, will likely create fond memories for your child, and will help reduce air pollution.

  6. Bike or walk. If you live within biking or walking distance to school, consider having your child’s bike or walk to and from school. Depending on their age, you could accompany them or make sure they are in a group on their trips. If biking or walking daily isn’t an option, consider making it a weekly tradition to bike or walk to and from school together once a week.

  7. Engine off in the drop off and pick up lines. If driving to school to drop of your children is the only option, remember to take steps to reduce idling. Turn off your vehicle when waiting to pick up your children after school, as emissions from idling are harmful to children’s respiratory systems and contribute to air pollution.

Take the opportunity for back to school to be a lesson itself by teaching your children about some (or all!) of these environmentally friendly practices, and let us know how it goes in the comments. Here’s to a new year of learning for all!

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