Back To School

Top Four Ways to Have a Sustainable Back-to-School Season

Since becoming aware of the negative environmental impact of plastics and over-consumption, back-to-school shopping has been a stressful endeavor.  Even before I woke up to the environmental impact, it was not a walk in the park. Back-to-school shopping for a blended family with five kids and long lists of brand- and color-specific items was an anxiety producing event.  After trying to convert to a lower waste lifestyle, it only got harder. I wanted to consume less and these lists were asking me to purchase huge amounts of disposable plastic.  The following are 4 ways that I try to make back-to-school season less wasteful and more sustainable.

1. Shop At Your House

 It seems that many of the items that we send at back-to-school time are not completely consumed and come back at the end of the year.  Over the past several years, I have worked on minimizing our belongings. As I’ve sorted through the strata, I found many long forgotten and unused school supplies.  Discovering the problem, I began to herd the unused supplies together and organized them in a more dignified location. As I transitioned to low waist living, I asked our kids to fulfill as much of their back-to-school lists as possible from our home supply store.  Some of the young ones were rather horrified. “What do you mean we have to take pencils to school that have already been used?!!!”  “The list says Ticonderoga.  My teachers will be mad!”  I let them know that I thought their teachers would recover and we continued on down the list.

2. Shop Second-hand

Did you know that thrift stores often have 3 ring binders and folders as well as lunch boxes and even backpacks?  Shopping the thrift store or second-hand websites for back-to-school clothes can also save a ton of money.  My family will attest to my obsession with thrift shopping.  Not only does thrift shopping save us lots of money; it is also very eco-friendly.  Second-hand items have a tiny footprint.  They have already been produced and by purchasing them you are ensuring that these resources are fully utilized.
Pro Tips
  • Wash and sanitize all items as soon as you enter the house.  Even before COVID-19, I dropped my purchased garments in the washing machine first thing and sprayed other objects thoroughly with disinfectant.
  • Don’t forget your reusable shopping bags.  If you do forget, you can pick one up cheap.

3. Buy Reusable

You don’t have to buy new items each year. Save money. Why should we have to buy brand new items each year? A pair of scissors, a backpack, a lunch box, and many other items can last for a number of years. Choosing durable items that are made to last is better for the environment… and your wallet.  I had to set the expectation with my kids that certain items such as backpacks were made to last for a couple years. We chose durable backpacks with warranties.

4. Buy Sustainable

Avoid plastic and buy recycled and ethically made products.
 
 As I’ve scanned the shelves in the back-to-school sections of my local stores, I have had a hard time finding environmentally friendly products. In an effort to rectify the problem, I have put together a Make Less Trash back-to-school section.
 
I have put together many sustainable back-to-school items that are plastic free, recycled, and ethically sourced.  I know that  it can be financially challenging to buy sustainable products.  I also know that, when funds permit, I feel better investing in sustainable products.  I had fun putting this section together for you.  Check it out, and see if any of the items I have found will help you to fulfill your list more sustainably. It’s challenging to find sustainable objects in the stores. If time permits, invest in sustainable choices with makelesstrash.com .

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