Labor Day looms and kids will soon be streaming back to school. To make it a green start to the school year, try these eco friendly school supplies for a waste-free school year!
Before You Shop, Take Stock of What You Have
Getting ready for back to school doesn’t have to involve lots of shopping for new stuff. First, take stock of what you already have. At the end of each school year, I put any unused school supplies in a drawer, ready for the next year. (For some inexplicable reason, I’ve accumulated mountains of index cards and binder dividers over the years.)
Reuse and Recycle Old School Supplies
Next, sort through what your child used the previous year and see if any supplies can be reused for the upcoming year. Do you have binders from the previous school year? Unused or partially used notebooks? These, and other items, can easily be reused for the new year.
Once you’ve completed your inventory of existing school supplies that can be reused you’ll be set with your shopping list for the new year.
Eco Friendly School Supplies: What to Look For
I offer my picks below, but in general, when shopping for eco friendly school supplies look for products with these characteristics:
- Products with minimal or recyclable packaging.
- Products made from recycled, organic, natural, and non-toxic materials.
- Products with eco friendly labels (eg, Fair Trade, Certified B Corp).
- Products made by brands with a reputation for sustainability. Rank a Brand is a good resource to check a company’s sustainability and social responsibility ratings.
- Products that are durable and last for years.
- Consider purchasing second-hand products.
- Avoid disposable items, particularly disposable items made from plastic.
And before you head out to shop, don’t forget your reusable shopping bag and other shopping items!
Eco Friendly School Supplies Start With Backpacks
Packs for Younger Children
- Patagonia Atom Pack. Patagonia brand has a reputation for sustainability and environmental activism. A smaller pack, the Atom is made of recycled material and includes a pocket for smaller laptops.
- Vaude Minnie 10. Vaude gets top marks from Rank a Brand. Its packs are made from recycled and bluesign® certified materials, using eco friendly practices. The Minnie pack, with its cheerful colors, reflective straps, and multiple compartments, is a great choice for young children.
- Vaude Pecki 10. I love this pack! It’s designed for school but also the outdoors. It even has a large magnifying glass attached on the side, perfect for your budding nature lover. Includes side mesh pockets, lid compartment, and inner pocket for a packed lunch.
Packs for Teens/College
- Ogio Convoy Collection packs are made from discarded plastic bottles, with an average of 23 bottles per bag. Ogio packs come in a variety of sizes and styles, but I particularly like the 525 version with a waterproof pouch for your laptop.
- Vaude Tecoday. Tecoday packs are designed for students on the go. An excellent choice for college-aged kids, this free-standing pack includes a large, central compartment, laptop pouch, and an organizer to hold necessities. The stretchy side pockets hold a bottle or snack.
- United by Blue Rift Pack. These packs are water repellent and feature a laptop sleeve with ample pockets. Every United by Blue product purchased removes one pound of trash from the environment. The company also organizes and hosts environmental cleanups.
- Cotopaxi Batac Pack. Each pack has a wonderful one-of-a-kind design made from remnant materials. With its lightweight and multiple pockets, it’s a perfect, stylish school pack.
- Mafia Packs are made from upcycled sails. To date, they’ve saved 16,489 yards of sails from the landfill. With a limited selection for purchase, your child is sure to own a unique style of pack!
- Roaring Spring Environotes notebooks are available in a wide selection of sizes and styles. They’re USDA certified bio-preferred and made with post-consumer and post-agricultural fiber.
- Michael Rogers Decomposition Notebooks. This line of college-ruled composition notebooks is eco friendly and attractive. They’re made with 100% post-consumer waste recycled paper and soy ink.
Filler and Copy Paper
- Printworks brand copy paper is 100% recycled and made from recycled food and beverage containers. To reduce costs and carbon footprint, the raw material is sourced within 300 miles of the paper mill.
- Ecology brand‘s filler paper is 100% recycled and acid-free.
Other Paper Supplies
- Index Cards. Ecology’s cards are made from 100% recycled waste paper.
- Tab Dividers. Onyx and Green dividers are made from recycled paper and come with colored tabs for easy organizing.
Pencils and Crayons
- Tree Smart Pencils are made from 100% recycled newspaper and are completely tree-free.
- Sprout wood pencils are eco friendly and fun! Available in a variety of colors and styles, Sprout pencils are made from 100% eco friendly material and each pencil includes a seed capsule. When your Sprout pencil is too short to be used, simply plant it and watch it blossom!
- Prang soy-based crayons are made from vegetable oils and completely biodegradable. They’re certified non-toxic.
Markers and Pens
- Onyx and Green brand makes a wide variety of eco friendly school supplies, including ballpoint pens, gel pens, and highlighters. The ink is made from hybrid oil gel and the casing is made of recycled plastic.
- Liqui-Mark markers are washable and non-toxic (though I’d prefer that the plastic casing be made from recycled materials). For permanent markers, try Buffalo brand.
- Onyx and Green rubber erasers are made from recycled rubber. A perfect addition to your eco friendly pencil case!
- Binders. Naked Binders brand are durable, attractive, and 100% recyclable.
- Pencil cases. Blue Q’s cases, made from recycled material, are functional and fantastic. Check out the unique designs and you’re sure to find one that’s right for you.
- Cell phone covers. A Pela case is a great addition to your child’s eco friendly school supplies. They’re plastic-free and 100% compostable. Pela is also a member of 1% for the Planet, where a portion of their revenues is donated to environmental non-profit organizations.
- Scissors. Try these Onyx and Green scissors made from corn plastic!