Green Back-to-School Tips from the EPA

September 02, 2010

back to school kit

Going back to school can be costly. In a survey conducted by the National Retail Federation, it was found that this year consumers expect to spend an average of $606 per family for various back-to-school items. On top of the personal expense, many of the items purchased can be costly for the environment: plastic and vinyl binders that end up in landfills, plastic pens, and wasteful plastic packaging are a few examples. Doing some thoughtful planning about the items you choose to purchase and how you re-use them can reduce the impact on your pocketbook as well as the impact on the planet. The US Environmental Protection Agency has some helpful tips to help make your back to school experience a little greener:

  • If your children bring their lunch to school, package it in reusable containers instead of disposable ones, and carry them in a reusable plastic or cloth bag, or lunch box. Bring drinks in a thermos or water bottle instead of disposable bottles or cartons.
  • Waste from packaging accounts for more than 30 percent of all the waste generated each year. Use school supplies wrapped with minimal packaging; use compact or concentrated products; or buy products that come in bulk sizes.
  • Use nontoxic products, inks and art supplies, such as vegetable-based inks, white tape instead of whiteout, and water-based paints, and batteries with less mercury.
  • Don't be shy; tell the managers at your favorite stores that you and your friends are interested in seeing more green items on the shelves. Tell your teachers you want to have a time dedicated to learning more about what you and your fellow classmates can do for the environment.
  • Cover your textbooks with cut-up grocery or shopping bags helps reduce waste and keeps your books in good condition. Be creative - use markers or colored pencils to give your covers unique and fun designs. Paper grocery bags and newspaper are also great for wrapping packages. ReBinder is a big fan of the decorated grocery-bag look!
And of course, buy smart! Purchase and use a wide assortment of supplies made from recycled products, such as pencils made from old blue jeans; binders made from old shipping boxes. Many types of recycled paper products contain a percentage of Post-Consumer Waste (PCW). You can also reuse items like refillable pens, rechargeable batteries, and scrap paper for notes. When purchasing items that claim to be made from recycled materials, look for the FSC or SFI certifications on those items, so you can trust what you're purchasing came from responsible sources. For binders, folders, notebooks and other green school supplies, we recommend the ReBinder Green School Supply Kit. All of the items in this kit are made from recycled materials and can be recycled when your child is finished with them. For more green back-to-school tips, visit the EPA website.

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