A version of this article previously appeared on Ethical Unicorn.
Whether it’s school, an apprenticeship, or a Ph.D. program, the beginning of September clearly means one thing – it’s time to go back. For many people, returning to academic life brings with it the strain of consumption thanks to the back to school shopping craze; it’s the feeling that you should come back equipped with the latest and greatest in school supplies, which often leads to buying things we don’t even need. A waste for our wallet and for the planet.
Whatever you may be starting or returning to, there are always options for keeping your new scholastic season sustainable. Here are my eco-friendly ways to nail back to school shopping.
Back to School Shopping Tip #1: Take stock and make a plan.
When you’ve had a few months off, it’s hard to remember what we actually need to be prepped for that first day back. Don’t just google a list of school supplies to buy. Go through your items and take an inventory of what you have, then make a list of what you need and stick to it when heading to the shops. Try and think about what you will definitely need vs what you might need vs what you might want but will never actually use. Think about what your days will realistically look like and what you’ll actually use so that you don’t end up buying random things you never open. And make sure to resist the random offers in store. Will you actually use a multi pack of glue sticks or three tiny staplers? No!
Back to School Shopping Tip #2: Switch to eco-friendly stationary.
Did you know it’s actually super easy to swap out unsustainable stationery for much better options? A quick Google search will show you a host of options like refillable fountain pens, these sustainable pens, biodegradable pencils, and recycled printer paper–there’s a whole world of choice out there! When it comes to paper, buy products with the highest percentage of recycled content possible and that is processed chlorine-free. While you’re at it, look out for recycled notebooks that are sewn, not ring bound, so they can biodegrade fully back into the earth. When it comes to text books, save some money and the environment by opting for used books, which are often half the price of the originals. Most can be found extremely cheaply in campus bookstores, or on websites such as eCampus and Amazon Textbook Rentals.
Back to School Shopping Tip #3: And non-toxic options, too.
If you need a new backpack this year, avoid PVC, which is both unsustainable and contains chemical additives like phthalates. Choose bags made of recycled materials, hemp, or organic natural materials for some super cool and eco-friendly options. Check out these vegan and eco-friendly backpacks! For products like binders, look for brands that are labeled PVC-free.
Pack lunches and snacks in reusable containers! (You’ll save so much $$$ on ziplocks.)
Check out more back-to-school tips on Ethical Unicorn.
Are you headed back to school this fall? How are you making your back to school shopping eco-friendly?
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Photo: Ethical Unicorn