Children are enjoying the activities of summer riding their bikes, swinging on the playgrounds, swimming, and creating art and games with sidewalk chalk. Meanwhile, we are starting to see the store aisles filled with backpacks, lunch boxes, pens, notebooks, and other supplies. A lot of green is spent when it comes to back to school shopping. But instead of spending green – there are lots of ways to save green. When it comes to school supplies, an important concept to keep in mind is “precycling,” — that is thinking through future purchases to reduce, delay, or eliminate creating waste.
- Do you need to buy new? If not, is it an item that can be borrowed, shared, or purchased used?
- What will happen to this item when it is no longer useful or needed?
- Can you donate it, recycle it, or repair it?
Those are a lot of questions. No need to raise your hand — we’re giving you the answer key for all of them and more. When it comes to back to school shopping — let’s learn to be green.
School supplies – Reuse and Recycle
Gearing up to re-enter the classroom this September? Going back to campus? There are simple steps you can take with the environment in mind:
- Make use of the supplies you already have. If you have items in useable condition, but you know you will not use them — consider donating to your local school, day care center, community center, or a student in need. Some areas run organized school supply drives — keep an eye out for one in your area to donate.
- Keep items out of the recycling bin which may still have a useful life and can help you organize your at-home school supplies. Baby food jars are great for holding paper clips and staples. Cans (make sure there are no sharp edges) can hold an abundance of crayons and other art supplies. Baby wipe containers also can serve a variety of storage and organizational purposes.
- Consider an electronic tablet for your note taking needs and more. If this is not an option, use both sides of a page for notetaking.
- Look for items made from recycled products — for example, pencils which are made from used tires.
- Buy a set of reusable batteries for battery-powered items, such as calculators. Small solar power banks can be used to charge laptops, tablets, and other items common for educational use.
- Consider renting or buying used textbooks, or using digital versions.
- Make the choice to buy refillable and reusable supplies when possible. Refillable items can be pens, pencils, water bottles, and binders. Reusable items are items such as pencil boxes, pouches, backpacks, and lunch boxes. Keep your items fun and interesting by going for classic colors and designs, and using non-permanent touches, such as buttons and patches, to change up the look.
- Put cloth reusable napkins in lunch boxes and consider reusable handkerchiefs instead of tissues.
- Choose reusable bags for carrying gym, swimming, or other sporting supplies. Other tips for the school athlete:
- Donate useable sporting equipment that are no longer a fit for you. Bowling balls can be easily refitted for a new owner and tennis rackets can be restrung. Athletic shoes are often outgrown by youth before they are worn out.
- Pack your own travel size toiletries in reusable containers. When empty — just refill and you are ready for the next athletic event.
- Remember a refillable water bottle and pack snacks in reusable containers.
- Playing outdoors? Attending other sporting events? Remember to properly discard of trash in the correct containers — be a team player when it comes to helping our environment by not littering.
- Reduce your food waste. Use lunch boxes and reusable containers, silverware, and napkins when possible. If you get lunch from school — make sure you recycle and compost wherever possible.
- Choose items with little to no packaging instead of individually pre-packaged snacks. Buy larger containers of snacks and pack items yourself in reusable to-go containers. Fruits like oranges and bananas come in their own compostable “packaging.” Learn more about how to reduce wasted food.
Visit DEC’s Living the Green Life webpage to learn more about how you can be a friend of the environment.