Just when you have your summer schedule down … BAM!! The school year sneaks up on you. Summer is over and that means back to school shopping is here. With all that shopping and consuming means a lot of waste and or wear and tear on the environment. Follow the five tips below so you can start the school year off right and help the environment at the same time.
1. The Lunch Box
We all remember the brown sack lunch filled with little zip lock baggies our moms use to send with us to school everyday. Well, times have changed and we now have reusable lunch boxes and lunchskins that are not only eco friendly, but free of toxins. The newest trend is the Bento lunch box. Check out LunchBots and Planetbox and see why we are crazy about them. If you are still into the old traditional sack lunch you can find brands like Mimi the Sardine, which are made from organic cotton. These lunch boxes and reusable lunchskins are all great alternatives and will help reduce the amount of paper and plastic waste a school lunch can produce.
2. How to send a Healthy Green Lunch
Alright, we figured out what to carry our lunch in, and now we need to put some healthy locally grown organic food in it. I know organic food can be pricy, so what I do to help cut the cost is make sure that any foods that are part of the Dirty Dozen or Clean 15 are the ones I buy organic. These two lists name the foods that have the highest levels of pesticides in them. Another great way to buy organic and save money is to shop at a local farmer’s markets. The Local Harvest is a website that allows you to put in your zip code and find a farmer’s market in your area. I have also found some great recipes for packing lunches in The Lunch Box, Healthy Meals that Keep them Smiling.
Look for alternative forms of transportation. Use getting to school as a time to get some exercise and spend some quality time with your children, by riding a bike or walking them to school. If you live to far to walk or ride have your child take a bus or carpool with a family that lives in your neighborhood.
4. School Supplies
This year as I was standing in the school supply isle with my kindergartener I was overwhelmed by the amount of waste I saw. The number one offender had to be the school notebook. That is why when taking a closer look I couldn’t believe what I saw…you guessed it…100% recycled paper. Tons of stores carry it and all you have to do is check the package for the label before you buy it. I also wanted to point out that by filling a notebook from cover to cover before buying a new one is a very easy and effective way to cut down on waste. Not only can you buy recycled paper, but TreeSmart makes recycled pencils that are great.
Almost half of the money spent on back to school shopping goes towards buying clothes. This can get very expensive very quickly. Hand me downs are always a great way to save money and help the environment. There are many specialty children stores that have gently used second hand clothes, like Kid to Kid. Another great resource can be friends or families that have older children. If you’ve exhausted all your options and still have things you need, try to buy well made, high quality clothing. Sustainable fabrics like organic cotton are the way to go.
The typical American school kid generates 67 pounds of discarded school lunch packaging waste per school year according to About.com. That is more than 18,000 pounds yearly for the averaged sized elementary school. If we all take responsibility for our environment and follow the 5 easy tips above we can make a difference in the size of the carbon foot print we are leaving behind for future generations.
What are some ways you can help make your child’s school year GREEN?