Sustainable Back to School

| July 29, 2022

Every year, we use the Back to School season to stock up on new clothing, shoes, school supplies and electronics. All of this shopping makes the Back to School season the second highest consumer season of the year, just after the winter holidays! Unfortunately,  all of the new things we buy during the Back to School Season can generate a lot of waste.The good news is that the new school year is the perfect time to start sustainable habits, both for shopping and for other areas of the school routine. Here we have some tips for parents and students on how they can make their Back to School season eco- friendly!

Tips for Everyone:

Back to School looks different for students and families depending on their ages and circumstances, but there are a few things that everyone can do to make their Back to School season more sustainable.

  1. Reconsider Shopping: Though it might sound simple, the best way to avoid waste in Back to School shopping is to think about what you actually need before you buy anything. It is easy to be influenced by advertisements and sales, but if you buy things that you don’t really want or need, you will end up generating unnecessary waste. Before going shopping, make a list of what is most essential to buy, and try to stick to it. This strategy will help you save money, as well as the environment!
  2. Sustainable Transportation: If your family uses a local school bus program or public transportation, you are already doing great! Mass transit reduces emissions by transporting many people at the same time, taking individual cars off of the road. If school buses or public transit are not options, however, carpooling is helpful as well. By finding a group of families that live in the same area as you and carpooling, you can drastically cut down your transportation emissions. Additionally, if you live within a manageable distance of school, biking or scootering are completely emissions free, and great options for the beautiful fall weather around the corner.
  3. Plant-Based Foods: One more thing that everyone can do to cut down emissions this year is to try eating more plant-based foods. A new school year is the perfect time to create new habits, and eating less meat can be healthy and sustainable. If you pack lunches for school, this article has many recipes for vegetarian and vegan lunches and snacks to bring in. Alternately, if you get lunch from a school cafeteria, the new school year is a perfect time to challenge yourself to order more plant-based food, or commit to Meatless Mondays.

Back to School for Parents:

  1. Cut Back on New Clothing: For kids that go through clothing sizes quickly, check with friends and neighbors to see if they have hand-me-downs first. If you need to get new clothing, aim to buy clothing that will last a long time, so you can pass it down after your child outgrows it. These strategies will cut down on waste drastically, especially for children’s clothing that can only be worn for a few months before it is outgrown.
  2. DIY School Supplies: While it might be your habit to get a new binder and notebook for each school subject, try to check if you have anything that could be reused first. You can also have your kids decorate their reused school supplies with paint, markers and stickers to create a fun project out of sustainable school supplies. This article is full of DIY craft ideas that reuse materials, and make recycling fun! If you do need to get new school supplies, try to shop for recycled, or easily reusable materials.


Back to School for High School and College Students:

  1. Thrift Back to School Clothing:  A great way to cut down on waste is to buy less clothing in general, but shopping at vintage and thrift stores for clothing that you need can also reduce the amount of clothing that gets thrown out. And going thrifting together is a fun idea for catching up with a friend!
  2. Stop Textbook Waste: Another way to cut down on waste for the new school year is to buy textbooks used or electronically. This option is better for the environment, and it will also save money.
  3. Cut out Disposable Cups: One final way to cut back on waste is with disposable coffee cups. Most high school and college students rely on caffeine, but buying drinks from coffee shops every day generates a lot of waste. You can cut back on this by learning how to make your own caffeinated drinks in reusable cups, or bringing reusable cups with you to your favorite coffee shop!


We hope that you’ll try out some of these tips for a fun and sustainable Back to School season!


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