Supplies for Heading Back to School

by Guest Writer

For at least a month already it seems like the shelves of many retailers have been fully stocked with back to school essentials. I’ve been choosing to walk past those aisles with my eyes half shut. I don’t know when July became the month for back-to-school shopping, but as a kid, I always remember waiting until mid to late August to get my school supplies. Before you do your shopping, I would recommend looking at what’s left from last year. Do your kids really need a new backpack? Or, do they just want a backpack with a different character on it? Same with their lunch boxes– do they really need new ones?

Image Courtesy of Beatrix New York

Backpacks and Lunchboxes– First of all, let me say I was shocked to find there are no websites offering school supply swapping. There are of course tons of “swap” websites, but I could not find any with a reasonable number of backpacks or lunchboxes. I thought this was unfortunate. So far, the best place I’ve found for second-hand backpacks is ebay. If your child insists upon a “new to them” backpack and lunchbox, then I think this is one of the best options, both environmentally and monetarily. With that said, if you don’t get your child in the habit of getting a new backpack each year, then you should not have a problem reusing one backpack for several years. One of the backpack/lunchbox combos I really like is from Beatrix New York. The company offers backpacks and matching lunch boxes made of nylon and food safe EVA (Ethylene vinyl acetate) film, which feature an array of (mostly) animal designs. The backpacks, which come in two different sizes– big kid and little kid, are PVC-free, lead-free and phthalate-free. These bags appear to be strong enough to last at least a few school years. I like that lunch boxes can be washed in the top rack of my dishwasher or in the gentle cycle of my washing machine. Beatrix lunchboxes and backpacks can be purchased both online and at several retailers nationwide.

Images Courtesy of Grassroots Store and Greenciles

Writing Utensils— Inevitably, we need to get new pens and pencils with the start of each new school year. Of course, if you remain organized when one year ends and keep your kids pens, pencils, markers and crayons in an easy-to-remember place then you will definitely limit your need for new. Grassroots Store makes the world’s first biodegradable corn pen. The materials used to make these pens are derived from cornstarch, making them completely biodegradable, breaking down approximately eight months after they’ve been discarded.  In terms of pencils, there’s a product available called Greenciles. Greenciles are different from the pencils we’re used to because, rather than being made from wood, they are made from recycled paper that is cleaned and then wrapped around a graphite writing core. What’s more, the shavings from sharpening a Greencile are recyclable. Finally, if your little one needs crayons for school, I recommend checking out Clementine Art Supplies. These crayons are made from soy, and as a bonus are washable with soap and water (just in case your little artist decides the walls need some decorating).

As you get your kids ready to start the new school year, try to be eco-conscious and try to start some good habits now. Only buy what you really need, and try to keep your kids from expecting new each year. If your kids already are in the habit of expecting new things each school year, why not try changing things up this year. You might try offering them something else new (that they actually need, or would really love to have) instead of a new backpack. I do this with my son on lots of things. Try saying something like, “Well, you can get a new backpack if you want, or we could go and get you that toy/outfit/whatever that you really wanted. It’s up to you, but you can’t have both.” Most kids will choose the thing they really want. And, if you find yourself buying new, make sure you find a new use for the old items, or at least a new home for them.

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