Back to School Shopping

back to school

Green Your Back to School Shopping List

Although many school systems have already started, Maryland schools do not go back until after Labor Day this year. I suspect those of you that don’t have beach or BBQ plans will be doing some last minute shopping for school supplies.  Below are some tips for greening your back-to-school shopping list, reducing your environmental footprint and supporting you local communities.

Shop your own closets FIRST

Often we shop the list provided by the school only to find out some things aren’t needed after all. If you’re like me, you don’t bother to take them back.  You just put them in a closet.  My youngest child never got the “joy” of back to school shopping because we always had leftovers from the eldest.

Buy Recycled Content Whenever Possible

I am not talking about items like novelty pens made from cardboard or rubber. They’re fun and good conversation starters but most kids don’t like them and there are stable markets for these two recyclables.    I did see pens with a high percentage of “plastic bottle” content but this is hardly the highest and best use, and it’s not going to make a dent in the backlog of plastics piled up around the world.  What about lobbying the industry for bottle-to-bottle?

Yes, I’m biased, but paper is a great place to start. There are numerous recycled paper supplies, from copy paper to notebooks to folders and hanging files.  They can be collected in your school’s recycling program and recycled over and over again (5-7 times).   Much of the paper sold in the US is from sustainably managed forests (tree farms), which absorb 15% or our US carbon emissions .  However, “some comes from rain forests in Indonesia , Boreal forests in Canada and other sensitive ecosystems” according to

Buy Re-Useable and Durable

Consider buying refillable pens. You will need to have a few as they will get forgotten or lost but it will also help teach responsibility and keeping track of one’s belonging.  I also saw that there are mechanical pencils made from recycled plastic.  These would be a better choice than the disposable recycled-content ones.  Better options with recycled content plastic are clipboards, rulers, and desk accessories.

Think Re-Useable for Lunches…and Leftovers at Home

The biggest challenge I have with my family is weaning them from “baggies” and plastic wrap. (Admitedly, we do have a problem with matching the lids to the bottoms but we’ll get there.) I’m not suggest you spend a lot of money on bento boxes wrapped in a scarf, though it sounds cool!  Until the habit becomes ingrained there will be some containers left in the lunchroom and on the playground.  Leftover carryout boxes should work for most items, including “breakables” like chips and cookies.  There are also numerous re-useable “baggies” out there in multiple sizes.

#BuyLocal #ShopSmall

This is the hardest of all when it comes to shopping for school supplies. Thirty-one years ago we purchased our office supplies in a little shop in Westview Mall called State Office Supply.  Sometime later, we partnered with a local shredding company, “DocuShred.”  We eventually learned that the owner had previously owned State Office Supply and got into shredding when he lost too much business to the “big box” store up the street.  #Smalltimore!

Still, keep your eyes open. You may see the perfect agenda, calendar or journal in one of your local gift shops.  It may cost a bit more than something generic, but it could be just what your child needs to keep track of assignments or doodle their thoughts and you’ll be supporting your local community!

Attention Teachers!

Teaching grades K-3? Check out the “Recycling Matters” curriculum and activities developed by