The days will soon be getting shorter and colder, which can only mean one thing: back-to-school season has arrived. Although it can be difficult to adjust to the end of summer fun, back-to-school shopping makes the transition just a little easier!
According to the U.S. Census, $7.4 billion was spent on clothes shopping in August 2010, making it the third biggest shopping month of the year (after November and December). But with so many things to buy, how can you keep your purchases Earth-friendly?
It's easy to keep the environment in mind while preparing to go back to school. Check out the tips below on how to make this school year just a little greener.
Have a tip we didn't mention? Leave it in the comments below, or tweet at us with the hashtag #GreenSchoolTips!
Join The EPA's Clean School Bus Campaign
According to the EPA, school buses drive 25 million students about four billion miles every year in America. With all that stop-and-go, lots of fuel is burned every day. Check to see if your child's bus is a newer bus that meets higher emissions standards, or if it is an old diesel bus that <a href="http://www.epa.gov/cleanschoolbus/antiidling.htm" target="_hplink">needs to follow stricter green standards</a>. For more information, look at <a href="http://www.epa.gov/cleanschoolbus/csb-overview.htm" target="_hplink">the EPA's Clean School Bus campaign</a> to learn more about greener bussing.
How many of us throw out perfectly good notebooks because the first few pages were filled, or buy a new pencil box because the old one is no longer in style? Before going back-to-school shopping, take an inventory of what you already have and craft a shopping list around things that are really needed. Rip out the used notebook pages, and reuse it for a different class, or make a project of decorating the old pencil box with your child. Both will be good as new!
Buy Green Supplies
After you've done your inventory, take your child shopping for recycled, renewable school supplies. Many major retailers, <a href="http://www.target.com/p/3-pk-7x10-greenroom-recycled-notebooks/-/A-13421407" target="_hplink">including Target</a> and <a href="http://www.officedepot.com/a/products/616905/New-Leaf-Think-Smile-100percent-Recycled/" target="_hplink">Office Depot</a>, carry recycled notebooks, and <a href="http://www.staples.com/Paper-Mate-Biodegradable-Mechanical-Pencils-7mm-2-Pack/product_807745?ddkey=http:StaplesZipCodeAdd" target="_hplink">Paper Mate has come out with a line of biodegradable pencils</a>.
Find An Eco-Friendly Backpack
Backpacks can not only be harmful to the environment, but to your child's health as well. <a href="http://www.thedailygreen.com/living-green/chemical-free-kids/safe-kids-backpacks-47081803" target="_hplink">The Daily Green cited a University of Michigan study</a> saying 60% of teens and preteens (12-18 years old) suffer chronic back pain. Ease your child's burden by purchasing an eco-friendly backpack that is padded and well suited for their size. Check out <a href="http://www.theultimategreenstore.com/s-224-bags-backpacks.aspx" target="_hplink">The Ultimate Green Store</a> or <a href="http://www.ecocentricbags.com/eco-friendly-backpacks.html" target="_hplink">Ecocentric Bags</a> for ideas!
Send Lunch In A Reusable Pack
If your child brings a lunch from home, try packing food in reusable containers. <a href="http://www.snacktaxi.com/" target="_hplink">Snack Taxi is a great resource</a> for many types of reusable packages, or just send Tupperware and <a href="http://planetgreen.discovery.com/home-garden/plastic-project-part-6-mason-jars-are-your-new-best-friends.html" target="_hplink">mason jars in place of baggies</a>.
Instead of sending your kids to school with disposable utensils, try packing bamboo cutlery (<a href="http://www.to-goware.com/store/cart.php?m=product_list&c=7" target="_hplink">like these RePEaT sets from To-Go Ware</a>).
Pack Healthy, Pesticide-Free Snacks
A great way to start the school year is to get your kid excited about healthy eating. Sit down together and make a list of your child's favorite healthy foods, including some <a href="http://www.realsimple.com/magazine-more/inside-website/daily-finds/healthy-kids-snacks-00000000020521/index.html" target="_hplink">fun recipes you can make together</a> for easy weekday dinners. Pack fruits and vegetables that are in season, paying particular attention to which <a href="http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/list/" target="_hplink">foods have high uses of pesticides</a>, and make sure to include plenty of different colors and tastes!
Invest In A BPA-Free Water Bottle
It's no surprise that kids should be drinking water instead of sugary drinks throughout the day, but sending them to school with disposable plastic bottles <a href="http://www.mnn.com/food/healthy-eating/stories/5-reasons-not-to-drink-bottled-water" target="_hplink">is not the way to go</a>, says the Mother Nature Network. Instead, invest in a BPA-free reusable bottle. Whether your child prefers aluminum or plastic, reusable water bottles can be an eco-friendly, stylish way to send your child to school. Check out Good Housekeeping's <a href="http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/product-reviews/eco-friendly-products/reusable-water-bottle-reviews/best-reusable-water-bottles#slide-1" target="_hplink">list of the best BPA-free bottles</a>.
Make An Eco-Friendly Transportation Plan
If your child's school does not offer bus service, or you opt out of it, there are a number of eco-friendly transportation options. Older kids can ride a bike if you live near the school (and the path consists only of safe roads!). For the younger kids, a morning walk can be a lovely way to bond with your child. Is school too far to walk or bike? Contact the administration to see if any other students live nearby, and get in touch with local parents about participating in a carpool.
Support Eco-Clothing Lines
Growing kids need new clothes pretty often, and throwing away old duds is a huge waste. Why not organize a neighborhood clothing swap, or donate old clothes to Goodwill? Replace these pieces with affordable, eco-friendly styles. Some retailers include <a href="http://about.hm.com/content/hm/AboutSection/en/About/Sustainability/Commitments/Use-Resources-Responsibly/Raw-Materials/Cotton.html" target="_hplink">H&M, which sells organic and recycled children's clothing</a>, and <a href="http://nikeinc.com/pages/responsibility" target="_hplink">Nike, who recently unveiled an eco-friendly shoe collection</a> just in time for the London 2012 Olympics.
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