10 Green Back to School Tips

Smart Tips That Will Help You and The Environment

Years ago when I was a kid, going back to school meant getting a whole bunch of new ‘stuff’. Times were different then and not enough was known about the environmental impacts that these buying sprees caused. Today, parents are more aware and often give consideration to the environmental impacts of the purchases and decisions they make.

Despite these new challenges, it’s still possible and quite easy to approach ‘back to school’ with a green mindset. Here are 10 great back to school tips that are eco-friendly as well:

Does everything have to be new? – It’s great to show up on the 1st day back in a brand new outfit, but beyond day one do all of your school wardrobe items have to be brand new? There are a number of used clothing retailers that can insert a certain element of “eco-chic” to your child’s wardrobe.

School lunches packed in green containers – Avoid ‘brown bagging’ by packing their lunches in reusable food and drink containers. If paper bags must be used, look for bags that have not been bleached or are made from recycled paper.

Buy paper sourced from FSC certified forests - The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an organization that certifies wood and paper products grown in forests that are responsibly managed. Look for the FSC label on pencils and paper.

Shop online from home instead of driving to the mall – Online shopping is quicker and can be done from the more relaxing confines of home, while at the same time reducing your carbon footprint by keeping the car in your garage and avoiding jam packed malls.

Resist the temptation to buy in bulk – Remember those packs of 24 cheap pens we used to buy in bulk? Well we don’t need to do that anymore. Consider buying pens and pencils that are refillable. With other supplies always take a realistic estimate of what you will need, and if you don’t need to buy in bulk - don’t.

Choose products with minimal packaging – Choosing these products will minimize the amount of non-recyclable items that are sent to landfill.

Use your laptop responsibly – Be sure to turn off laptops when not in use to conserve energy. Phantom power can be as much as 10% of the total energy consumed.

Support local food suppliers – When purchasing food items for school lunches and snacks, try to source as much from local food producers as possible. Carbon emissions from trucks hauling produce and fruit across the continent can easily be reduced through smart food purchases.

Choose to walk or cycle as often as you can to school – Walking or riding a bicycle is a great way to get exercise before class. It helps to sharpen a student’s focus in class and will add daily exercise to their routine as well. If available, consider bussing your child instead of driving them yourself. It reduces your carbon footprint and allows them time to socialize with their friends.

Lead by example – Never forget that a child learns just as much, if not more from their parents than they do from their teachers. Where children are concerned, the earlier they can learn and implement environmentally friendly habits into their lives, the more likely they are to be permanent. Making personal choices that embrace a green and sustainable lifestyle will provide examples for your children to learn and emulate from.

The most important thing though is to be dedicated to the goal and to always look for ways to be greener than before.

You can learn even more ways to get organized and transition from summer to school on our Back-To-School 2014 page.

Eric Novak is a father of 4 who also thinks that environmental stewardship is a requisite of parenting. He's not a professional Dad nor is he an environmental scientist, but he's someone who gives a damn and is trying to make the right decisions as he lives his life as a father, environmentalist and business owner. Eric and his wife Karen have 4 children and reside in Ajax, Ontario.