Back to School: Eco-Friendly Tips to Start the Year Green

The summer is finally winding down and it's almost time for the kids trade in their swimsuits for school supplies. This year, why not try to make the school months a little greener? Our tips for an eco-friendly school-shopping list will cut back on the ecological impact of your kids' education, so they can expand their minds without expanding landfills.


  • Before you head out to the store, see if there are school supplies already hanging around the house that you may have forgotten about. You may have bought extra last year and sometimes you'll find an extra notebook tucked into the bookcase or an unopened box of pencils in the junk drawer. There's no need to buy more if you already have it at home. Also look around the house for supplies that can be reused. You probably have several half-filled notebooks that can be repurposed; just rip out the used pages and recycle them. Last year's binders and folders can be reused as well. By reusing instead of buying new, you'll get the satisfaction of helping the environment and your pocketbook!
  • Of course, most school supplies can't reasonably be reused year after year. If you're going to be buying new supplies, shop for products that are sustainably made and packaged. Look for the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) seal on paper and pencils, which indicates that the product comes from responsibly managed forests. Try to buy only paper products made from recycled materials; there are plenty of stores where you can find construction paper, printer paper, notebooks, folders, sticky notes, and more, all made from 100% recycled materials.
  • Plastic school supplies can be eco-friendly too! Choose products like pens, scissors, binders, and rulers that are made from recycled content. Bonus points if they can also be recycled when you're done with them!

Major retailers like Target, Staples, and Office Max all carry eco-friendly options for school supplies, but you can also try some online stores like thegreenoffice.
Here are some suggestions to get you started on the path to a greener school year:

Staple-Free Stapler
The 7 year Pen
Recycled Soy Crayons


Back-to-school means back to packing school lunches. This year, send your kids to school with a zero-waste lunch.

  • Pack food in reusable containers and, instead of purchasing juice boxes or pouches, pour drinks into a travel cup.
  • Pack a cloth napkin instead of paper.
  • Ditch the plastic waste by swapping out sandwich bags and utensils for reusable alternatives.

These sustainable lunch products are all great options:

Reusable Utensil Set
Fun Reusable Sandwich Bags
"Cool Cap" that lets you transform any cup into a spill-proof to-go cup
Stainless Steel Travel Bottle


Every kid wants to look great on the first day of school, and parents know that growing kids often need new clothes by the time the school year starts. The good news is, you can do back-to-school clothes shopping the green way and still make sure everyone looks great.

  • The first place to look for new clothes is at a local thrift or consignment store. Though not always the first option that comes to mind, these stores often carry a great selection of sizes and styles that still have years of wear left in them. Even if they've been used, the clothes will be "new" to you and your purchase will be good for the environment. It's a win-win!
  • You might not find everything you need at the thrift store, so for the rest of your shopping, look to retailers that supply sustainable clothing and shoe options. For kids' clothing, check out stores like fawn & forest, earth creations, and Tea Collection. For teens, LoomState, People Tree, and Ethica are all stores committed to ethical and sustainable fashion.
    H&M also carries an eco-friendly and affordable line of clothing called "Conscious" in kids', women's, and men's styles.