By the end of the holidays, the back-to-school frenzy is in full swing in every department store. It's fun to stock up on new supplies, but it's also a good time to remember that stores want you to buy everything you need, along with the things you didn't even know you wanted until you got there. This time of year can also be especially difficult for freshmen college students who can't wait to buy everything they need to live independently.
Recycling is an important part of being green, but consuming less in the first place makes it that much easier. Whether your children are going to elementary school, high school, or their freshman year of college, there are many ways you can help them make environmentally smart decisions when shopping for school supplies.
Tips for Elementary and High School Students
With so many cute notebooks, binders, and pencils, it can be hard to say “no” when your kids add lots of loads of supplies to the cart. Here are some tips to keep it simple:
- Take an inventory of the supplies you already have and reuse the supplies left over from the last school year. Kids may complain about this, but if they have an empty notebook, or even a partially empty one, see if they can get more out of this year. The same goes for pencils and folders. If your old supplies are completely unusable, now may be a good time to recycle them properly.
- At the store, they stick to the list of teachers it provides. Fortunately, most elementary school teachers will tell you everything students need for the school year. Unless there are big sales in bulk purchases, try to buy only what you need. If the kids run out of supplies, you can always come back later in the year to restock.
- When choosing supplies, check out eco-friendly options, like notebooks made from recycled cardboard or backpacks made from natural fibers.
- If your kids eat lunch at home and usually use paper bags, consider upgrading to a reusable bag. Over the course of a school year, imagine how much paper this can save! You can take it even further by using reusable containers instead of plastic bags.
- If your school allows your children to have water bottles in class, skip the single-use bottles and buy a reusable one. There are various materials available, but it's probably a good idea to go for stainless steel or BPA-free plastic over glass.
Tips for College Students
Whether your children live on campus, attend online classes, or go to technology school, there are many ways for them to make sustainable decisions when shopping for college.
- Teens can have a lot of fun shopping for college supplies, as they are likely preparing to live alone for the first time. Even if your student is traveling to school from home, they may want to start living more independently. At the store, encourage them to be realistic about what they really need rather than go overboard with the endless organization, bedding, and decor items department stores sell to college students.
- Consider getting your student a good set of plates and kitchen utensils. Encourage your child to cook in their bedroom or eat in the dining room rather than relying on takeout or pizza deliveries. Pizza boxes cannot be recycled when greasy, and many takeout boxes are made from Styrofoam or other materials that cannot be easily recycled.
- Buy your teen a reusable coffee mug. Most campuses have a cafeteria on-site or nearby, and using a cup year-round can prevent countless paper or worse Styrofoam cups from being used.
- Buy recycled printing paper or paper from companies that support sustainable forestry. On top of that, encourage printing on both sides of the paper or using online mailboxes or emails if teachers allow it.
- To complete the cycle, don't throw away unnecessary items at the end of the year. While some campuses don't allow you to dump electronics or furniture in trash cans, others may not mind. Consider donating usable items instead of throwing them away.
Original article (in English)