How To Go Green And Go Back To School At The Same Time

By Stephanie Nicholson

What time is it? SCHOOL TIME! Parents and teachers with summer coming to an end it’s time to load up on pencils and crayons. This year while shopping, keep in mind the 3 R’s: reduce, reuse, and recycle. As a general rule, buy durable and recyclable goods, and when possible reuse old supplies. Before shopping, go through everything you have left from last year and make a list to prevent unnecessary purchases. Back to school shopping can be hectic, but if you follow my top three green tips for parents and teachers you can rest easy knowing you minimized your footprint.

Tips for Parents:

1.    Buy durable, sturdy backpacks that last for years
I still use the same backpacks I used for all four years of high school when I travel, and in the one instance the zipper broke the popular outdoor outfitter replaced it free of charge. You can even pass down durable backpacks to your younger children.

2.    Kick the classic “brown bag lunch” to the curb
If you pack your child’s lunch, reduce waste and invest in a reusable lunch bag. Not to mention, your child will have fun picking out his/her lunch bag from the extensive collection with popular characters and cool designs.

3.    Buy smart! Purchase products made from recycled materials
Many supplies are made from recyclable materials such as pencils made from old blue jeans and binders made from old shipping boxes. You can also reuse items like refillable pens, rechargeable batteries, and scrap paper for notes.

Tips for Teachers:

1. Reuse old supplies
Take an inventory of what you have left over before you buy. You will most likely be able to reuse things like crayons, scissors and glue from previous years.

2. Promote recycling in the classroom
Place recycling bins in the classroom for paper, cans, and plastic. Encourage your students to use them. You could even make a game of it, and when a goal amount is collected the class wins a prize.

3. Reduce paper usage
Use the blackboard or whiteboard to reduce paper usage. If possible, set up a class webpage where students can access assignments from home and ask questions.

This is just the beginning, check out these EPA tips for back to school. Do you have any of your own green tips for the back to school season?

About the author: Stephanie Nicholson is an intern with the EPA Office of Environmental Education. She is a senior at Towson University in Baltimore, Maryland and will graduate this winter with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies.

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