From lunch boxes filled with plastic wrappers to backpacks overflowing with useless papers, school is having a massively negative impact on the environment. The average secondary school produces 22kg of waste per pupil each academic year. The figure for primary schools is even higher at 45kg per pupil.
Estimates say that the average family will spend 191pounds on back-to-school items. Being greener is not only beneficial to the planet but also to your wallets.
Thankfully, embracing some eco-friendly back to school buying habits can make this school year a little different. Read on to learn more.
Use What You Already Have
Reduce your back to school shopping list by repurposing what you already have. Last year’s backpack, school supplies, and Tupperware for packing lunches are just a few examples. While there are always sustainable alternatives for products, the most environmentally friendly strategy is to use what you already have.
Take a trip to a local secondhand shop if your child has grown a few inches over the summer and all of their trousers are now too short. There, you’ll find gently used children’s clothing that looks brand new.
Buying used also helps keep textiles out of landfills and saves water: one cotton T-shirt requires 2,700 litres of water to grow the cotton used in its production, jeans need even more at a staggering 20,000 litres. Also, remember to donate any clothing that your children have outgrown.
Alternatively, you could consider exchanging clothing with other parents. This provides your children’s garments with a second life and allows you to obtain “new” clothing for free.
Give Upcycling A Go
If you’re aiming for something new this year, then why not give upcycling and breathe a new lease of life into your child’s old items.
If your child wants a schoolbag with their favourite character on it, ask yourself this; will they have outgrown it by the next year?. If you answered yes, forgo the branded backpack favouring a high-quality plain one that you can personalise with iron-on or sew-on patches of their favourite characters.
This means you won’t be getting rid of your entire bag next year but instead just changing out a few patches. As an added bonus, their bag will be completely unique with this method! So it won’t get mixed up with the hundred other superhero or princess backpacks.
Changing the way you buy supplies can make a major difference to you back to school bill. Here are some shopping suggestions for school supplies.
- When buying new supplies, always think about what is sustainable. Look for options that employ more sustainable materials and avoid using plastic. Ballpoint pens produced from 100% biodegradable plant matter, colouring pencils created from recycled newspaper, and plastic-free highlighter pencils are just a few examples. There are other things designed for long-term usages, such as stapleless staplers that can last a student’s whole school career. Also, look for items made out of recycled materials; this can reduce landfill waste while also reducing the pressure on natural resources.
- Six Degrees Boutique sells wood-free pencils made by women affected by 2004 tsunami and those internally displaced as a result of the civil war in Sri Lanka. These woodfree pencils come in a pack of 5, are created using recycled newspaper and have a 2mm HB lead.
- If your teacher generally sends a supply list, wait until you receive it before going shopping. Waiting for the list can help you avoid overspending and buying things you won’t use. This is especially important this year because many products will no longer be shared among kids; thus, teachers’ lists may be different from normal.
Finally, remember to buy quality products. Quality supplies may be more expensive upfront, but they will save you money in the long run because you will not have to repurchase them. This is especially crucial for products that will be used for a long time, such as staplers, rulers, pencil cases, and binders.
Create A Zero Waste Lunch Box
To avoid using plastic, bring a refillable water bottle. If you have to buy a bottle, go for a metal one over a plastic one. Metal is not only more durable, but it is also infinitely recyclable, whereas plastic can only be downcycled and recycled a few times before ending up in the landfill.
Use recyclable containers instead of plastic sandwich bags. Reusable sandwich bags and snack bags are two items to consider. They’re composed of a waterproof fabric that can be washed and reused hundreds of times. You could also consider beeswax or soy wax wraps.
Bring some standard utensils as well as reusable straws. For this purpose, you can also buy a travel set. Remember to bring these with you on days when you buy canteen meals to avoid using single-use things like plastic cutlery.
I Am Ecoist provides an incredible collection of quality, eco-friendly products, including steel lunch boxes, kids lunch boxes, reusable cutlery and even a back to school bundle.
Consider Your Commute
Investigate whether you reside on or near a school bus route to help reduce air pollution.
If you live less than a mile from the school, organise a “walk pool” or “walking bus,” in which parents take turns chaperoning a group of students to and from school on foot (or by bike). You’ll save money on petrol, reduce smog emissions, get some exercise for you and your kids, and maybe make some new friends in the process.
Finally, if walking, biking, or taking the bus aren’t an option, split the cost of the trip by forming a carpool with your neighbours.
Remember to always turn your car off when picking up your children. This is because idling your car produces a significant amount of pollution. Smog is a particular problem at schools since many bus drivers and parents wait to pick up their children with their vehicles idling, generating a massive cloud of pollution for them to walk through as they exit the building.
Download The Goethical App For Your Eco Product Fix
Shop from GoEthical during 2021 to help make sustainable lifestyle choices, whether you have a specific product in mind or you’re looking for items to reduce your waste. Buy and sell ethical & eco-friendly, artisan, and pre-loved products at GoEthical.
If you want to browse an array of environmentally friendly and sustainable cleaning products, all you need to do is download the GoEthical App for IOS or Google Play. On it, you can chat and connect with like-minded community members and discover detailed listings for ethical and eco products, from small sellers to well-known global brands.
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