Green Tips for Back to School

Parents expect to spend an average of $574 on back-to-school shopping this year. Other than the holiday season, back-to-school shopping offers consumers the largest opportunity to collectively vote with their dollars in support of environmentally and socially responsible products. It also offers an excellent opportunity for parents to teach their children about conserving our natural resources.


In a recent survey conducted by the Center for a New American Dream, 91% of college students and 88% of parents stated they would be likely to purchase earth-friendly products if they were available at the stores they shopped at. If you have a preference for environmentally friendly products, here are some green tips for back to school shopping.


When buying new clothes, check for sweatshop-free labels, and look for clothes and shoes made from organic cotton, hemp or recycled plastics that contain natural dyes. Avoid materials like rayon, acetate and triacetate, which contain tree fibers.

Shopping the Goodwill and thrift stores can uncover interesting and eclectic finds-perfect for teens looking to set themselves apart from the crowd. Give used clothes a hip edge by embellishing them with colorful beadwork, sequins or sewing on patches.


School Supplies

Look for products that contain a high percentage of recycled content or are made from recycled materials (e.g. circuit board notebook covers, recycled staplers, rubber totes and hemp backpacks). Look for tree-free papers like kenaf or paper that is chlorine-free and made from 100% post consumer waste. Consider the life cycle of the product before you make a purchase. How was it made? Recycling is only effective if you close the loop. Buy refillable pens and pencils, recycled CD's and cardboard binders.


When shopping for computers, small electronics or dorm room appliances, look for products featuring the Energy Star logo. These products help you save money and help the environment by using less energy. Consider used or refurbished products for additional environmental and financial savings. Buy high-quality products that are built to last and products that allow you room to grow into them. When buying computer supplies, purchase recycled toners, ink cartridges and recycled paper.



Above all, avoid unnecessary packaging. Pack reusable containers with healthy organic foods into a reusable lunch bag. Use cloth napkins instead of paper-letting students shop for their own lunchtime gear.


Carpool, carpool, carpool. Take turns with other parents transporting students to before and after school activities. It's a great opportunity to meet you child's friends and learn about what's going on at school. If you have a small child that attends a school within walking distance from your home, accompanying them on daily walks to school is a great way to get some exercise before heading out for the day.

Before You Head for the Mall

Take an inventory of any leftover supplies from last year. Make a list of what you need to avoid buying excess and use up any leftover supplies. Avoid unnecessary packaging whenever possible, and be sure to thank store managers for carrying green back-to-school products.

Set an Example at School

Suggest ways that you and your child can become involved in the protecting the environment at school (e.g. starting an elementary school eco patrol, campus green club, or parent-run environmental committee). If your school doesn't already have one, speak to teachers and school board members about starting recycling or composting programs. If your school district is considering upgrades to classrooms, speak up about incorporating alternative energy into the plans.

Support Environmental Education

Schools budgets are usually stretched thin and teachers relish parent involvement. Volunteer for campus cleanups, school beautification projects and environmentally related field trips. Suggest ways to help your child's class integrate the environment into this year's curriculum.

About The Author: Ellen Brown is our Green Living and Gardening Expert. Click here to ask Ellen a question! Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at

September 26, 20050 found this helpful

I have a few more sorry I am late suggestions for BACK TO SCHOOL.

1 Preshop on your computer .get an idea what your children would like to have.

2.after you preshop go to you local paper and chainstore websites online to find the best prices and to save energy running around the area.

3,Besides School shopping you might consider doing other shopping afterwards.

4. Consider taking a brake at a local park to eat your homemade lunches.

5.Reconsider anything that wasn't bought on your shopping trip before you again try to go out and buy it .

6.Consider adding decals or pockets to your new bought clothes to even make them more special and functional.

7.recycling old school equiptment like solar calculators .backpacks refillable pens or notebooks.

All these can be made to look new and even unique.

8.Consider using both sides of your printing paper either for scrap ofr for homework assignments .

9,School lunches- when you pack have your children decorate their lunch bags.if they be paper drawings ,writing of phrases would be great.

if plastic bags have the children design the size and style of the bags so that they barely resemble store bags.

10.use cereal inside bags to wrap those lunches and encourage you children to fold them up as small as they can and bring them home to use again.

Make a game on how small they can make their used lunch bags.

Anyway here is hoping this school year is special to all.

Mr, Thrifty

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August 16, 20080 found this helpful

With my kids getting older and the waste that I have seen from working in a school, I like to eyeball the recycle bins at the end of the previous school year for binders/folders/supplies that are otherwise tossed.

Its gotten to the point that the kids have started to care a bit more between having what they need and saving --money and the earth--from the good find in the trash. We decorate with markers, contact paper, whatever is available to cover last years artist's designs and usually get 1 if not 2 more years out of the binders that way.

It's amazing to me that even folders are tossed without a thought, so we go for those too, we just make sure there is no personal info from anyone on them.

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August 12, 20120 found this helpful

Where did the author come up with $574? I guess I am well below average, never having spent near that crazy amount, nor will I. I don't even spend that much over a 3-year period to clothe my 2 children (and yes, I do keep track).

Shopping ahead of time, at leisure, is key. I shop thrift stores all year round and get most of our school supplies this way. I keep a box in the basement to store supplies in and we always have some on hand. Then in the fall, I just supplement whatever we have with a few extras they may need.

This year, the boys needed new sneakers and socks. I also bought a couple binders and filler paper. One needed a new backpack, which I had already purchased a year ago, from a thrift shop - new with tags still attached and so much cheaper. That's it. Maybe I'm lucky to have boys who don't care what they wear and keep wearing their summer t-shirts and shorts into the school year. Now I have time to peruse my local thrift stores for pants for the colder weather, if needed.

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August 3, 20150 found this helpful

All this talk of kids going back to school...I don't envy those Mom's and Dad's. Mine are all grown up and now I have more time for myself. I have discovered how easy tit is to make Fig Newtons and how tasty they are. I wish I would have made them for the kids when they were young. Be the cool Mom and make them for your kids. They are delicious and a healthy smack! Found the recipe on U-tube! I hope this is it! Ya I just tried it and it works. I guess this old fart knows how to do it in this tech world!

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