The end of summer sends parents running to the store with lists in hand to buy tons of new school supplies.  Do we really need to buy so much new stuff at the beginning of every school year?  The USEPA hosted a roundtable event on August 25th with bloggers to discuss strategies for greening back to school preparations.  To learn about ways to reduce waste as you prepare for school, check out these tips for a green fall and tips for a waste-less school year from the EPA.

Most importantly, reuse as much stuff as you can.  Is a new backpack really necessary?  I know my kids want new backpacks at the start of each school year, but if it’s still in one piece, why not continue to use it?  Now that my kids are older and the load they need to carry is heavier, I bought them good quality backpacks with an internal supportive frame.  Unlike cheap backpacks, these are going to last for years.

What about the notebooks, folders, erasers, scissors, crayons, and markers?   These things can be used for more than one school year.   Surely, you can put together a few sets of crayons and markers from stragglers found around your home.

For the items you need to buy, consider the safety of the materials.  Try to avoid school supplies made out of PVC which contains toxic compounds.  Buy notebooks with uncovered metal spirals instead of spirals covered with the colorful PVC plastic. For more ideas on how to avoid PVC in school supplies read this guide prepared by the Center of Environment, Health, and Justice.

Secondly, try to buy green school supplies made with maximum percentage of recycled content.  We use strictly 100% recycled paper for our home printer, but you can also find other school supplies made out of recycled content.

To reduce the amount of disposable plastic waste generated during the school year, buy litter-less lunch supplies. In addition to a lunchbox, you will need a reusable bottle, wrap-n-mats to wrap sandwiches and snack foods in,  and small plastic containers like tupperwear for cut up fruits and veggies.

All in all, there are many ways you can green up your Back to School shopping – buy less by reusing more of last years stuff, buy supplies with recycled content, avoid items made out of PVC plastic, and buy reusable bottles and reusable wraps for waste-free lunches, to name a few.