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Back-to-school shopping can put a real dent in a family’s budget and create a carbon footprint a mile wide. Here’s how you can green the shopping beast and save money, too. 

globe_money_2.jpgEco Cheap Shopping Strategy

• Shop at home first. Most families have enough pencils, crayons, glue, tape and markers left over from the previous year to start the new year just fine. Use up what you have on hand before buying more. Encourage your kids to reuse last year’s backpack, (lead-free) lunch bag, and pencil case.  
• Create a list. Before heading to the mall, figure out what you need to get and how much money you want to spend. Most kids will bring home a supplies list from school. Cross off what you already have, then create your own smaller list of needed purchases.
• Ask for greener options. When you don’t find eco-friendly products at the store, ask the manager 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).

laptoplunch.jpgBest Lunch Boxes

• Avoid soft plastic carriers that contain lead, PVC, or containers treated with the antibacterial agent triclosan. You’ll find good options at: , Laptop Lunch Box , Mimi the Sardine lunch “bug” bags , or Cool Totes Insulated Lunch Bags. Gigglefish sells lunch boxes shaped like animals.

Get more information on safe lunch boxes here.


Osprey’s Resource Series backpacks - Made from almost all recycled materials, including 100% recycled PET plastic.

Ecogear and Ecotech Organic cotton bags - Made with non-toxic dyes, sustainable wood and organically-grown accessories, zippered internal organizer pockets, dual side pockets and adjustable shoulder straps. Ecogear bags are named for endangered animals and are made through planet-friendly practices.

Simple’s Hangover Bag - Fashioned from recycled plastic and organic cotton

Passchal Messenger Bag - Snazzy despite the fact it’s made from recycled inner tubes.

Fleurville’s PVC-free Backpack - Roomy, but I’m not wild about the camo-colored skull and crossbones design.

Patagonia's Beeline  and Pocketwire Pack bags  - Recycled doubleweave polyester available in bright colors with lots of pockets.

And in case you want a bag that can double as a cell phone or iPod charger, check out:

Noon Solar or Reware's Juice Bags

Paper and Notebooks

fillerpaper.jpgLook for paper made from post-consumer waste and bleached without chlorine. Some brands to consider: 

Dolphin Blue  Greenline  New Leaf.

For fun recycled and nontoxic notebooks, EcoJot  is hard to beat   You might be able to find NewLeaf's notebooks  on the shelf at Office Depot. DolphinBlue's notepads are chlorine-free in addition to using all postconsumer recycled paper.

Go "treeless" with EcoPaper's chlorine-free notebooks made from banana paper.

Pencils and Pens

Forest Ethics recommends Forest Choice   or Greenline Paper Eco-Writer   pencils made from recycled wood instead of Ticonderoga’s standard #2 model made from California’s Sierra Nevada forests. A better option? A mechanical pencil that can be refilled, not landfilled. 

woody_pen.jpg Woody ballpoint pens  from The Green Office refashion wood scraps from forests certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Their recycled and refillable cartridges contain nontoxic ink.



Miscellaneous School Supplies
If you want to make it really easy on yourself, check out The Green Office back to school supplies kit. Three different kits meet the needs of kids in grades k-2, 3-5, and 6-8.

Laptop computers

For a new computer, review the recommendations at the Green Electronics Council.  Keep in mind that a laptop uses far less energy and materials than a desktop.  Improve the efficiency of all your student’s electronics by plugging them into an energy-saving power strip.

Still want more? See Nature Mom’s recommendations:

Getting college kids ready to return to school? Here’s how I did it.



Check out Maggie's Organic for Back-to-School Fashions

Taming the Back-to-School Shopping Beast

Going Back to School? Go Green To Save Hundreds of Dollars

Environmental In-Box: Paper Notepads, Folders, Calendars & Binders

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