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Green Your Way Back to School

2009 August 6

As the end of summer approaches, I find myself not basking out in the sun, but preparing for the school year. While most of the nation’s children head back to school in September, in our neck of the woods school starts in August. With four school age kids in our household, the list of needed school items is quite extensive. This year I decided to get ahead of the game. With some careful planning, we are greening our way back to school.

As with previous years, the girls will be wearing hand-me-down uniforms. I usually buy one new uniform a year for one of my daughters and the rest are traded with a colleague whose daughter goes to the same school. A pair of shoes will be refurbished for one of the girls.

This year I decided to look first for the required school supplies at home instead of hitting the mall. So far, my eldest daughter’s backpack will be reused and our youngest daughter will use her older sister’s rolling backpack from the year before last. One quick cleaning was all it took to make it look brand new. Pens, pencils, rulers, staplers and binders, among others are being reused from last year. I was surprised to learn that six billion pens are thrown away every year!

Since books are another big ticket item in the “back to school” budget, I buy them from online retailers that specialize in used books. Only updated editions of specific books and workbooks are being bought new.

Furthermore, I have decided that all new items we purchase this season will be made from recycled or sustainable sources.

Here are some brief pointers to make your back to school a green one:

  • Take inventory before going to the stores–this will save you time and money and it will be good to our Earth.
  • Buy quality materials when available, (i.e. backpacks, shoes, etc.) to ensure durability.
  • Refillable pens and pencils are a small change with a large impact. Fourteen billion pencils are manufactured every year, some from ancient trees.
  • Reuse everything that remains in good condition. Limit disposable supplies.
  • Make your kids a greener, waste-free lunch.
  • Use recycled paper to protect our trees and cut down on waste.

About the author: Brenda Reyes Tomassini joined EPA in 2002. She is a public affairs specialist in the San Juan, Puerto Rico office and also handles community relations for the Caribbean Environmental Protection Division.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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4 Responses leave one →
  1. Green News permalink
    August 8, 2009

    This is a great subject. With school starting back up this month in most states, there are so many ways to be eco-friendly this time of the year. Some other points: try and save paper, use organic pencils/paper. Imagine if 1,000,000 student used less paper during this year?

    Excellent information as always. Thanks!

  2. Marisa permalink
    August 10, 2009

    Great information. I also wonder to what extent schools to do a little bit more. Why is it that the school supply lists have “scissors” every year, but they aren’t sent home at the end of the year. Where do those go?

    I also add spiral notebooks to your list. At the end of every year, they send home their spirals which through grade 6 are often quite empty. Most years they only used the first 10 pages or so. We saved them, tore out used pages, and reused them for the next year.

    And things that are usable but not of use to you could be donated to programs that collect school supply items for needy people who can’t afford it. Check with your local school district.

  3. Voyage.Home.LoansCA permalink
    August 19, 2009

    Great article! Thanks for all the examples for helping back to school be greener. The refillable pen and pencil ideas is an avenue I’ve never considered I will defninitly include it in all my daily mortgage business practices.

    Omar Atebar

  4. Loan Modification permalink
    March 20, 2010

    I like the article, great source of information for parents. Thank you.

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