Back-to-school shopping can put a real dent in a family’s budget and create a carbon footprint a mile wide. Why not set up a school supplies swap with your neighbors before you go shopping? You'll green the shopping beast and save money, too. Another bonus? you'll reduce clutter and teach the kids to share.
* Check the kids' supplies list. Most kids will bring home a list from school, or you'll be able to download one from the school's web site. Ask your child to cross off what you already have or don't want to buy, then circle what's left. When you go swapping (or shopping), work from the list.
• Make an inventory of what you already have. Most families have enough pencils, crayons, glue, tape and markers left over from the previous year to start the new year just fine. In fact, many of us have way too much of this stuff. Figure out what your kids need now, and put aside a few extras for later in the year when your own supplies run up. Then box up your extras so they're easy to exchange.
* Set up a swap in your front yard or garage. Invite neighbors who have their own items to swap.Designate different tables for pens and pencils, crayons and markers, paper and folders, lunch boxes, backpacks, and sporting gear. Ask that everything that's brought be clean and usable. When it comes to lunch boxes, ask that they be metal, plastic free of phthalates and PVC, or cloth. People should bring their own reusable bags to cart their swapped items home in.
* Donate leftovers to a day-care center, or to a charity that provides school supplies to kids in need.
• Ask for greener options. Many school supply stores now carry supplies made from recycled, non-toxic materials. But if you don’t find eco-friendly products at the store, let the manager know and ask him/her to order green for your future purchases.
• Rent or borrow. When it comes to musical instruments, sporting equipment, and tools for one-time classes like home economics or woodworking, figure out which items your child can rent or borrow. This is particularly good for musical instruments – do you really want to buy a tuba just because your child is giving it a try this year?
• Remember the 3 Rs. Reduce (buy less, share, borrow, rent); reuse (think durable lunch boxes and water bottles), recycle (paper, plastic, electronics).