Buying hundreds of pencils over your child's school career gets expensive and you're not the only one paying the price – all of those pencils had to come from a tree somewhere. Consider making some of the following eco-friendly changes when shopping for your child's school supplies (and even for your own personal office supplies) in order to minimize the impact you make on the environment.
Then: Disposable plastic sandwich bags
Now: Reusable sandwich holders
Sending your child to school with a bagged sandwich every day for one school year means about 200 plastic bags will be thrown away. If you buy one or two sturdy containers, you can reduce that number to zero.
Then: Plastic binders and bright white looseleaf paper
Now: Eco-friendly binders and recycled paper
When buying new, try to look for notebooks and binders with covers made from recycled cardboard. If last year's binders aren't falling apart, make recovering them a project you can work on with your kids. They'll feel like they have brand new school supplies and you won't have to replace perfectly good materials. Then, fill those binders with recycled paper for a truly eco-friendly book!
Then: New clothes from a big box retailer
Now: Locally made clothes and thrift-store shopping
Many independent Canadian clothing companies pride themselves on the organic cotton and natural materials they use in their products, so check out local shops for eco-friendly and fair-trade items. If you're looking for deals, thrift stores offer the opportunity to make someone else's trash your treasure before it actually piles up as garbage.
Then: New ink cartridges for your printer
Now: Ink refills
Reusing something as small as an ink cartridge can save a lot of plastic from clogging our landfills. Refill your original cartridge with new ink and eliminate the waste and extra packaging that comes with a replacement.
Then: Disposable pens and pencils
Now: Refillable pens and pencils
By purchasing one pack of refillable pencils, your family can avoid adding to the unnecessary numbers of wood pencils produced each year – enough to circle the planet 62 times. It's a cheaper alternative and you won't create nearly as much waste.
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4 more eco-friendly supplies
Then: Brand new sports equipment
Now: A friend's gently used gear
Kids grow out of their shoes and shorts like weeds, and sports equipment is no different. If your child is starting a new sport, ask around for gently used skates, cleats and shoulder pads. One of your friends or acquaintances could have some perfectly good gear that you can buy or trade for, extending the life of the equipment.
Then: 24-packs of water bottles
Now: One reusable bottle per family member
While the plastic in water bottles is recyclable, the manufacturing and recycling processes use a lot of energy and many people – especially kids – can't be depended upon to actually put the bottle in the blue box. Reduce your waste – and save tons of cash – by picking up some sturdy reusable water bottles and filling up with tap water from home every morning.
Then: Sandwich meats
Now: Veggie lunches
If 10,000 carnivores skip the meat just once a week, we can save the same amount of carbon dioxide that's produced lighting 42 houses in a week. Every so often, try sending your child to school with a vegetarian meal of cut-up veggies, mixed nuts, milk and an egg-salad sandwich to leave a lighter footprint.
Then: Oil paints and wax crayons
Now: Water-based paints and soy crayons
Paint the town green with eco-friendly art supplies. Oil paints are made with toxic heavy metals and take some harsh solvents to remove from small hands (or your walls, tables, floors…). Watercolours and acrylic paints aren't perfect, but they are much easier on the earth than oil. For crayons, try soy-based, which biodegrade easily and produce more vibrant pictures.
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Click here for 10 eco-friendly school-supply picks you can buy online.