Eco-Friendly or Zero Waste School Supplies

This Wednesday… July turns into August. And many of us start looking forward to the crispness of fall (my favorite season) and new beginnings. As a kid though, August meant one thing. Back-to-school school supply shopping. Walking around OfficeMax… buying the perfect matching notebooks and folders. Ah. Bliss.

Fast forward 20 years and I still get somewhat nostalgic for those beautiful school supplies. I get a little giddy seeing all the new adorable stuff available at Target. BUT — man. The whole thing is super wasteful. The packaging surrounding the supplies and then the ultimate toss to the landfill. Or even just the mass of school supplies that end up dragged to Goodwill when you are 25 and stuck cleaning your childhood closet…

But there is a way to be somewhat mindful of the supplies your kiddos buy while also teaching them about the environment. Win-win. The goal is to find as many supplies as possible that can a. be re-used year over year b. get used up or composted c. get recycled d. at least made of recycled materials to begin with. Also, if you can find something secondhand. That’s great too.

Anything linked below are just examples of the stuff out there (with good reviews). Price points can be across the board but with a little hunting (or thrifting), I’m sure a deal can be had.

Backpacks
Thrift/find secondhand if possible. Or find one made out of 100% cotton. Or at the very least, pick one with a lifetime warranty.

Lunchboxes
Thrift/find secondhand if possible. Or find one made out of stainless steel or 100% cotton. Better yet, thrift a stainless steel lunch box.

Pencil Pouch
Thrift/find secondhand if possible. Or find one made out of 100% cotton.

Notebooks
Find ones made out of recycled material without any weird binding. Like this. Recycle the whole thing when no longer needed. (If it just HAS to have the spiral, try this one. Or this one. And at least recycle all the paper.)

Notebook Paper
Eco-friendly filler paper. Recycle when done.

Construction Paper
100% recycled construction paper. Recycle when done.

Folders
100% recycled folders. Recycle when done.

Crayons
Beeswax crayons! Use it up.

Colored Pencils
Pencils from environmentally well-managed forests.

Markers
Not ideal BUT Crayola will recycle any brand markers (and highlighters).

Highlighters
If your kids’ school is flexible — they now sell eco-friendly highlighter pencils!

Pens
I don’t think many kids want to carry around a fountain pen so best bet… just use up all those random pens given to you over the years at events. Once those are used up, find pens that are made out of recycled materials. And don’t toss your old pens away — send them to Pen Guy Art!

Pencils
There’s a lot of debate over whether regular pencils or mechanical ones are more eco-friendly. I think if you aren’t losing mechanical pencils all the time and find one made out of recycled materials, it’s a great choice. Otherwise, regular pencils without any frills are a good choice. These pencils are neat because they can be planted after they are too small to use to grow plants!

Eraser
Recycled rubber eraser stick. Use up.

Glue
Elmer’s has a natural glue stick. Recycle the packaging when used up.

Scissors
Find one with stainless steel blades and recyclable or biodegradable plastic handles. Maybe like this one.

Ruler
Get the stainless steel one.

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