Going Back to School Green

Do you hear it? A collective groan is building across the nation as kids realize they are getting closer to that dreaded time of the year – back-to-school. While some parents are silently rejoicing as they count down the days, others are feeling stressed as they begin to sort through mile-long shopping lists of books, clothing, stationary, and other school supplies. And they have good reason to be overwhelmed – back-to-school is second only to the holiday season in consumer spending. Canadians tend to associate returning to the classroom with buying tons of new stuff. However, few of us consider the environmental impact of this back-to-school shopping frenzy. Have no fear, here is a guide on how to go back-to-school green.

Get off to a Green Start!

Education is essentially about planning for the future. A new school year means a new start – parents and kids alike can make resolutions about how their day-to-day choices are affecting the planet. And yes, individuals can make a difference! Start by asking yourself – “do I really need that?” Take an inventory of items you already have before you head out shopping. Almost everyone has a drawer full of pens and pencils. And you know that ruler you used last year? The centimetres are still the same size! After you have gone through the house, and determined what you really still need, be careful at the stores. While sometimes it may be cheaper to buy in bulk, ask yourself – “Do we really need 20 Justin Bieber pencils, or will 3 do?” Asking yourself these questions will not only be better for your wallet, but also better for the planet.

Thinking Outside the Lunchbox

Brown paper bags are so last year – it’s all about reusable! Either buy a reusable lunchbox or sack (good), or sit down with your kids one night and make one (better!). Not only will you save money by packing items in reusable containers, but you will have an eco-friendly conscience by lessening landfill waste. And don’t forget about the contents of the lunchbox, too – steer clear of pre-packaged foods, juice boxes, pop cans, and disposable utensils. Today it is easy for the consumer to make environmentally-friendly choices – there are a variety of BPA-free, reusable containers available in different materials, shapes, and colours.

Going Vintage

Although you may be able to convince your kids to reuse that old binder, the desire for new clothes remains high at back-to-school time. Every kid wants the newest trends and to be decked out in the latest fashions. The good news is heading back to school in style does not have to mean revamping your kid’s entire wardrobe. After all, vintage is in! Try swapping items with siblings or friends – one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. If you’re feeling really ambitious, organise a local clothing swap! Not only is it a great place to find new threads, it is also a good place for kids to socialize and meet new friends before the school year. Don’t forget about second-hand stores, online auction sites such as Ebay, and thrift shops – these can be a great place to find those trendy items that someone else no longer wants.  Remember, wearing reused clothes means not wearing down the planet’s resources!

Getting There (The Green Way!)

When making an attempt to live a more environmentally-conscious lifestyle, parents often forget to evaluate the carbon footprint of their kid’s route to and from school. Whenever possible, walk, bike, skateboard, or scooter! Not only are these the most environmentally-friendly choices, but also the healthiest and most fun. If you live too far or the route is unsafe, consider taking a bus. Whether it is public transportation, or a big yellow school bus, mass transit has better per-person gas mileage and therefore lower carbon emissions. Finally, if driving is your only option, consider carpooling. Remember, if you can only manage to implement these changes one or two days a week, you are still making a difference towards a greener planet.

Going back to school green has never been easier, nor has it been more stylish. An increasing amount of environmentally-friendly products are entering the market due to high demand. Canadians can no longer dismiss environmental problems as issues for future generations. We must act now and instil environmental values in our children from an early age. After all, it’s elementary!