Shopping Green for Back to School

By Stephanie Nicholson

While many kids dread the idea of summer coming to an end, I was always excited for one reason: back to school shopping!  And, of course, I was excited to see all my friends again. I begged my mom to take me to the store at least a month ahead of time to ensure I could pick from a large selection of binders, pens, backpacks, lunch bags, and new clothes. The second I got home, I hauled my new finds into the house, packed my backpack, and staged my own fashion show.

When back to school shopping this year, it is important to keep in mind how our choices affect the environment. I suggest buying durable and/or recyclable goods. Choose a backpack that is well-made and will last for many years. I still have the one I used for all 4 years of high school, and in the one instance the zipper broke, it had a lifetime warranty and the company replaced it free of charge. Not to mention the popular outdoor outfitter has been dedicated to environmental stewardship since its foundation. Instead of packing the traditional “brown bag lunch”, choose from the extensive selection of lunch bags that you can use again and again. Buy recyclable paper, and if possible use last year’s binders and folders. If you need new ones, buy cardboard or canvas instead of the usual plastic.

As a teenage girl, I always looked forward to buying a new wardrobe for back to school. For as long as I can remember, I have never thrown out my old clothes; I collect what I do not want and donate them to charity.  Another option if you usually purchase the popular brands is to take them to stores who will give you cash or a store credit in exchange for your gently worn clothes.  My friends and I also quickly realized we always loved each other’s clothes, so we organized clothing swaps. It’s quite simple: collect all the things in your closet you’re tired of, have a get together with some great food, and swap clothes. You get to go home with some cool new pieces without spending a dime. Back to school can be hectic, but with a few simple changes it can be easier on the environment.

How will you “go green” during back to school shopping?

Stephanie Nicholson is an intern with the EPA Office of Environmental Education in Washington, DC. She is a senior at Towson University near Baltimore, MD and will graduate in December 2012.

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