As September inches closer, teachers and parents are beginning to prepare themselves for that much beloved (or dreaded) back-to-school shopping trip. It used to be difficult just getting every item on the list without spending a fortune, but there's now the added challenge of making a smaller environmental impact in the process. And green school supplies are neither cheap nor all that easy to find! That's why we've compiled a list of facts and specifications to help you shop for the best and greenest school supplies out there. Buying green won't just make a difference to the earth and leave you feeling good about yourself, it will set an example for your students or children too.
Before setting out on your green shopping trip, make sure you can't still recycle any of last year's school supplies. And does your child really need a new backpack? Or does the one they have just need to be washed or mended?
CHOOSING ECO-FRIENDLY SCHOOL SUPPLIES
ADHESIVE NOTES: About 80 billion adhesive notes (Post it notes) are used every year. Help decrease that number by looking for adhesive notes made of 100 percent recycled fiber and if possible, at least 30 percent postconsumer content.
BINDERS: Buy new ones made from recycled materials such as paper, boards, and steel. And make sure you reuse them year after year.
CRAYONS: Make sure you don't buy crayons made of paraffin wax, as it is derived from petroleum. Crayons made from soybean oil are a much better, not to mention nontoxic, choice.
FILE FOLDERS: If you purchase 100 percent recycled file folders with postconsumer recycled fiber, you'll reduce solid waste by almost 50 percent. File folders can also be flipped inside out and reused.
MARKERS: You can tell most markers are full of chemicals the moment you take their caps off. And if the smell wasn't bad enough, all those toxic chemicals can leak into the groundwater once the markers end up landfills. Markers that are water based and have nontoxic ink with refillable heads are better.
NOTEBOOKS: Wire-bound notebooks made with 20 percent postconsumer fiber are cheap and help reduce landfill waste.
PAPER: Avoid paper that contains chlorine and buy postconsumer recycled paper instead.
PAPER CLIPS: Most paper clips aren't even being used. In fact, for every one hundred thousand paper clips made, only twenty thousand are actually holding paper together. So recycle your paper clips or simply use the ones you have.
PENCILS: About $121 million is spent on pencils every year. But who says pencils even have to be made from trees? Buy pencils made from recycled material and packed in minimal or recyclable packaging.
PENS: Not only do the components and packaging contain environmentally damaging chemicals, 1.6 billion are discarded by Americans every year. The good news is refillable pens are priced almost the same as disposable ones.
PLASTIC RULERS: Try to find rulers made from 70 percent postconsumer recycled plastic.
SCHOOLBOOKS: It's getting easier to buy used textbooks and sell them when you're done. About $10 billion worth of schoolbooks are sold every year. You can save as much as 85 percent buying your classroom or children's textbooks used and make money by selling them afterwards.
SCISSORS: Recycled stainless-steel scissors with handles made of at least 30 percent postconsumer plastic are best.
TAPE DISPENSER: Plastic waste makes up 11 percent of landfills, so use a tape dispenser made of at least 50 percent postconsumer plastic.
WHERE CAN YOU PURCHASE GREEN SCHOOL SUPPLIES?
Red Apple School Supply (www.redapplesupply.com)
GreenLine Paper Company (www.greenlinepaper.com)
The Green Office (www.thegreenoffice.com)
Or, try a local, nationwide retailer like Office Max, Staples, or Office Depot.
Some websites allow you to buy green items in bulk to save money. You might also consider splitting the cost and supplies with other teachers and parents. And even if you can't afford to make every item on your school supply list eco-friendly, what you are able to purchase green still makes a difference.