Oh yes we know it well, the time of year when hot summer beach days turn into hot summer school days (or at least in the 818 where I grew up.) What you might not realize though is how much buying traditional items for “back to school” can significantly increase your footprint. From buying new school supplies such as binders and folders to backpacks and lunch sacks, the materials that these items are made from can definitely take a toll on you and the planet. Fortunately we’ve sorted through a bit of the back to school consumer machine to bring you our picks of best in green for back to school.
*Before though, we’d like to ask you to take a look around your home and office, make sure you can’t reuse something you already own. Often times, only half of notebooks are used up before they are discarded, etc. Rather than buying mindlessly—take a look around and you might be surprised at how much you can shop your own home.
For Waste Free Lunches
To-Go Ware: At a certain age, I no longer found it cool to bring a lunch pail to school and forced my mother to buy me disposable brown paper sacks (If only I would have been wiser back then.) Now, there is no need for paper sacks or plastic lunch boxes when you can use To-Go Ware. To-Go Ware offers stylish stainless steel containers that are multi level so you can separate accordingly. They also have an equally stylish bamboo utensil set that is made by a Fair Trade women’s co-op in India.
Lap Top Lunch Bento Box: This item is great for smaller kids and is BPA free so you don’t have to worry about plastic leaching into their food. The colors are a fun addition too.
Fresh Snack Pack: These convenient snack packs are PVC, BPA, Lead, EVA plastic and phthalate free plus are a perfect size for sandwich + snack. Best of all, you never have to throw them away.
EcoUsables: These stainless steel bottles come in all shapes and colors that are perfect for every age. We love the 33 oz size–it’s not too big, but not too small.
To Write On
Sustainable Group Re Binder: The Sustainable Group has basically kicked butt when it comes to making back to school/office products with the environment in mind. They make the only FSC Certified line of binders (much better for everyone than the vinyl variety and are assembled by local disabled workforce members through Ability One. They also use post-consumer recycled materials for its notebooks, CD sleeves, journals and presentation materials. And, the binder rings can be reused should the cover gets beaten up. The company also creates a great line of sustainable CD cases, nametags, labels and more. All items can be customized and are printed with water based ink. Currently there is a 25% off sale going on on the website too. PLUS THREE LUCKY YDT READERS will win a Sustainable Group Back to School Kit by telling us how you plan on minimizing your footprint at school or at work by commenting below.
Naked Binders: These babies are made from 100% recycled board, 97% post consumer waste, are completely recyclable and come with a 10-year warranty. They also come in some fun colors and are members 1% For the Planet (which YDT is joining too).
Eco Paper: Eco Paper carries an interesting variety of 100% post consumer paper ranging from cigar and banana note book paper to hemp sketchbook paper. I can personally attest to the durability of banana paper as I have been using a banana notebook from 2002.
The Green Office: The Green Office carries a ton of eco-friendly products and we found the paper selection for printing and loose leaf to be our favorite.
O’Bon: The self proclaimed home of the world’s most eco-friendly pencil offers stylish writing utensils for ink and lead lovers alike. YDT is a fan of the newsprint line, where every pencil is created from a different sheet of newspaper from around the world and is coated with non-toxic materials. For more artistic types, they carry colored pencils too. They’re also having an online sale.
Terracycle Biodegradable Pens: The green world’s favorite trash upcyclers have done it again and this time, they’ve created a 95% biodegradable plastic pen. Once it dries up, toss it in the compost bin and feed it to the worms.
To Carry Your Eco Stuff
Terracycle: In addition to the pen, Terracycle has a great line of upcycled backpacks, messenger bags, lunch and pencils cases that are all made from upcycled waste wrappers. Feel good knowing that your Oreo wrappers aren’t going in the trash, but rather turned into a functional bag (check out what trash they’re accepting so you can help keep it out of the landfill too).
Voltaic Solar Backpacks: Who doesn’t want a solar back pack that will charge your phone, your ipod, your laptop, etc? I certainly do! These backpacks are also made from 100% recycled PET (plastic water bottles) and will hold all of your textbooks too. Though not cheap (running about $200), they’re pretty cool.
Targus Eco Smart Bags: Targus creates a line of competitively priced messenger bags that are perfect for laptops, books and all the other junk we unfortunately need to haul around. Eco elements include being PVC free and being constructed from 100% recycled polyester.
Books and More:
Some high schools and almost all college require that you buy your own books for each class—we suggest buying used and visiting resellers like Amazon, Craigslist, Freecycle and Albris. Most campus do sell used books as well so be sure to check out those offerings too. Even better (even if your not a student) is Book Swim—a Netflix esq book rental service that now rents out college books too.
For the College Bound:
Project Green Dorms: Founded be Teens Turning Green, Project Green Dorm offers tips and suggestions on how you can go green while your away at school. Ranging from gadgets to keeping it clean, there is helpful information available for everyone. The also offer college care packages filled with safe cosmetics and other bath and beauty products (note the care packages skew female).
To Give Back:
If your school participates in yearly fund raising with magazine, gift wrap or chocolate drives–suggest Green Raising instead. Green Raising allows people to support their local schools through eco-friendly and Fair Trade purchases. You can learn more about it and how to sign up your school here.
It’s a great big green world out there, so if we missed something please let us know.
Be sure to comment below to win your Sustainable Group Back to School Kit (these are great for anyone, even if you’re not in school.)
What’s included in the kit:
(1) 1.5” ReBinder recycled 3 ring binder
(2) ReBinder replacement covers
(6) RePouch recycled slash pocket dividers
(6) RePocket eco-friendly pocket folders
(2) ReWrite 8×10 recycled notebooks with lined paper
(2) ReWrite 8×10 recycled notebooks with graph paper
(2) ReWrite 5×8 Recycled notebooks with blank paper
(3) ReMark eco-pens
(6) ReSleeve recycled CD sleeves
(3) RePlay recycled CD cases