I can remember back when I was a kid at how the entire “back to school” process involved both dread and anticipation. The dread obviously had to do with the fact that my summer vacation was coming to an end, but the anticipation came from the fact that I was also about to get a whole bunch of new “stuff”.
Well times have changed and the idea of rushing out to load up on back to school supplies without any consideration for their associated environmental impacts is as out of date as half of the clothes in my closet.
Despite the challenges associated with having to completely change our way of thinking, it’s still possible and quite easy to approach the entire back to school process with a green mindset. We can all benefit from some practical enviro tips, so to help out here are 10 great back to school tips that are eco friendly as well:
DOES EVERYTHING HAVE TO BE NEW? – Okay sure, it’s great to show up on the 1st day back in some smashing brand new outfit, but beyond day one why do all of your school wardrobe items have to be brand new? While the hand-me-down concept used to be the sole domain of younger siblings, there are a growing number of used clothing retailers that can insert a certain element of “eco-chic” to your child’s wardrobe and are much more affordable anyway.
PACK LUNCHES IN REUSABLE CONTAINERS – ‘brown bagging’ may be synonymous with bringing your lunch, but single use, brown paper or plastic sandwich and lunch bags are a big no-no today. The much better option is to pack their lunches in reusable food and drink containers which can be used throughout the entire school year. If paper bags must be used, look for bags that have not been bleached or are made from recycled paper.
BUY FSC CERTIFIED PAPER PRODUCTS - The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an organization that certifies wood and paper products grown in forests that are responsibly managed. Look for the FSC label on pencils and paper which are continually becoming easier to find.
SHOP ONLINE INSTEAD OF IN PERSON – Unless you are possessed by sadistic tendencies to visit shopping malls at peak periods to fight for parking spots and push your way through crowds, there is no longer an absolute need to do so. Online shopping is quicker and can be done from the more relaxing confines of home, while at the same time reducing your carbon footprint by keeping the car in your garage.
RESIST THE TEMPTATION TO BUY IN BULK – Remember those packs of 24 cheap pens we used to buy in bulk? Or those 5 packs of glue sticks? Well in most cases we don’t really need to do that anymore. Where writing utensils are concerned, consider buying pens and pencils that are refillable. With other supplies, always take a realistic estimate of what you will need and if you don’t need to buy in bulk, then don’t. More isn’t always better – even if it comes at a cheaper per unit price.
CHOOSE PRODUCTS WITH MINIMAL PACKAGING – Once upon a time we believed that extra packaging was a sign of prestige and quality. Nowadays it’s just pure waste. Keep this in mind when picking products in order to minimize the amount of non-recyclable items that we need to send to landfill.
RESPONSIBLE LAPTOP PURCHASING AND USAGE – While the use of personal computers in schools and for homework is all but essential today, we still need to be responsible users of them. Be sure to turn off laptops when not in use to conserve energy. In addition, while this may take time to research, consider supporting computer manufacturers that are working to reduce their environmental impacts. Supporting these initiatives with your patronage will go a long way to ensure the continuance of their green evolution and will also encourage other manufacturers to follow suit.
SUPPORT LOCAL FOOD PRODUCERS – When purchasing food items for school lunches and snacks, try to source as many of these items from local food producers as possible. Carbon emissions from trucks hauling produce and fruit across the continent are a big problem that can easily be reduced through smart food purchases.
WALK, CYCLE OR BUS TO SCHOOL – Walking to school or riding a bicycle is a great way to get exercise before class. It will help to sharpen a student’s focus in class and will add exercise to their daily routine as well. If you drive your children to school but bussing is available, consider putting them on the bus instead. It reduces your carbon footprint and allows them to socialize while en route with their friends.
LEAD BY EXAMPLE – We may be talking about back to school, but we must never forget that a child learns just as much, if not more from their parents than they do from their teachers. The environmental movement is rooted in the fact that society needs to fundamentally change our habits and our attitudes. Where children are concerned, the earlier they can learn and implement environmentally friendly habits into their lives, the more likely that they will be able to make the changes that many adults simply can’t – or won’t. Making personal choices that embrace a green and sustainable lifestyle will provide examples for your children to learn and emulate from.
While this is by no means a complete and exhaustive list, it certainly provides enough ideas to begin making green choices and it may even spawn other ideas as well. That said it’s also important to keep in mind that despite even the most ardent green mindset, we still won’t be perfect. Complete societal change can’t happen overnight and neither can your goal to be completely green.
The big picture objective is to fundamentally change how society approaches its relationship with the Earth, and while we can’t change overnight, we must always continue to take the steps necessary in order to ultimately get there.