7 Tips for a More Sustainable Back to School Season


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As summer draws to a close, we transition to a season of binders and pencils. Middle schoolers begin to whip out their magnetic locker mirrors, while fresh high school grads muddle over which comforter they want to leave unwashed on their dorm room beds for the next 9 months.

But whether you’re a parent worried about how your child will do on their first day of school without Mr. Blankie, or a college student praying for a roommate who likes to binge Friends as much as you do, there’s no reason to put sustainability on the back burner during this time.

From thrifting clothes and supplies to packing your own plant-based meals, there are plenty of ways to be a more eco-friendly student this upcoming school year.

7 Tips For Being a More Eco-Friendly Student

eco-friendly student_a white table with a few books and a laptop on it with a chair placed behind it agains an exposed brick wall with trailing plants

1. Shop secondhand for supplies and clothes

I know everyone wants a fresh new look for their first day of class. I’d be lying if I said 12-year-old me wasn’t convinced that her brand new pink and green striped binders would turn heads. However, before you head to your nearest Office Depot or click “add to cart” on everything from your favorite online boutique, consider checking out Goodwill or another local thrift shop.

Not only have I routinely found cute, long-lasting clothes though thrifting, but I’ve also found binders and notebooks at Goodwill that were in perfectly useable condition. Plus if you’re heading to college or are schooling virtually you can also snag some cute containers that are great for holding pencils or other supplies.

2. Buy refurbished technology

Continuing with the secondhand theme, might I suggest purchasing refurbished technology. My iPad, Apple Pencil, and Mac laptop were all bought refurbished from BackMarket.com and I’ve had zero issues with them thus far.

Of course I wasn’t able to get the latest edition of any of this tech by purchasing secondhand. However, everything I bought was two to three years old and in great condition. Plus it was much cheaper than buying brand new.

3. Upcycle what you already have

You may be surprised to find that you have a lot of school supplies already in your home. For instance, makeup bags make great pencil cases. Also, jars. They make great desk organizers, and for my college students, you can use them for, you know, all the water you’ll be drinking on Saturday nights.

Another great dorm room DIY is a wine cork bulletin board. Ask your parents or older siblings to start saving their corks and once your collection is booming you can make your own unique cork board that can hold all your important reminders.

4. Purchase from small sustainable brands

It’s inevitable that there are some things you’ll need to buy brand new, but try to be conscious of where you purchase those items from. Some shops like Earth Hero offer a variety of eco-friendly student supplies that you may not be able to find at your neighborhood office supply store.

5. Incorporate Reusables

From lunchtime to your pre-class Starbucks run, there are a lot of disposables hanging out within our education system. Try to cut out single-use items where you can. Bring your own reusable coffee cup, and use Stasher bags for lunches, or storing other supplies you may not want just floating around in your backpack (i.e., that chapstick you can never seem to find).

6. Opt for more planet-friendly transportation

Now that you’ve gotten all your supplies, you actually have to get to school. And how you choose to do so could play a big role in your carbon footprint. Consider public transportation as opposed to driving. Or invest in a bike to get you (or your kids) to and from classes. Studies show that opting for walking or biking, even just one day a week, could reduce your personal transport-related emissions by up to 25 percent.

7. Prep vegetarian meals

Finally, when it comes to lunch and snacks try to opt for more plant-based foods. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if everyone simply reduced their meat consumption, we could eliminate millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions. So don’t deprive yourself (or your kids). Enjoy that burger on the weekend, but during the week opt for something a little more planet-friendly.

If you enjoyed learning how to be a more eco-friendly student and are craving more sustainable living tips, then sign up for The Eco Edit! You’ll be joining hundreds of other pro-planet enthusiasts who are passionate about bettering the world through small, sustainable steps.

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