House & Home

9 Steps for Green Back-to-School Preparation

Posted August 2, 2014 9:45 a.m. EDT

As you get ready to send your kids back to school, why not take the opportunity to educate them about safeguarding our planet's environment? Reuse any school supplies you might already have, and supplement, if necessary, by buying eco-friendly versions. Don't forget to take care of your children's precious health while you're at it!

Shop your home first. Start by checking what you have on hand now. Think unneeded home office basics or school supplies which were leftover at the end of last year. Be realistic about what your children will actually use; for example, it would be insensitive to suggest that shy, self-conscious youngsters take to class a stock of old notebooks with the used pages torn out. Save these for scratch pads or doodling at home.

Buy paper and pencils certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Their tick-tree logo ensures that wood products come from responsibly managed forests.

If new supplies are required, purchase types that involve the least amount of waste – for example, a refillable cartridge pen ... or a high quality glue stick which will last as long as three cheapies. Look for minimal, recyclable packaging.

Select classic, gender-neutral backpacks so that kids won't quickly outgrow or simply get tired of them, but instead will use them longer or pass them on to younger siblings or friends. Ergonomic or rollable models are best for the health of growing young backs. Check care instructions. Backpacks usually can be gently washed by hand or machine and then hung to dry. Savvy Boston handymen advise you to check all pockets; then put the pack in a pillow case to protect against tangling with the agitator or damaging the drum or window.

Cover textbooks to minimize wear and tear and prolong their life. Score a green double whammy by repurposing previously used gift wrap or old newspaper for this reason.

Prepare healthy food, organic and locally sourced if possible, for packed lunches and class parties that will refuel your offspring with healthy energy, allowing them optimum concentration on their studies. Be sure to respect any school policies restricting food allergens and sweets.

Try a lunch box or reusable, washable sack in place of the old-fashioned brown paper bag, complemented with an unbreakable beverage bottle made of stainless steel or non-leaching, BPA- and phthalate-free plastic. Bento-style containers are popular and convenient, as they keep items separate and appetizing. Parents who are handy with a needle may want to craft a couple of bag and napkin sets out of recycled cotton scraps (make more than one in case they're forgotten at school or need cleaning). Your youngster can help by monogramming with embroidery thread.

Choose Energy Star laptops and ink-saving printers made with a high percentage of recycled materials for high school or college students.

Reduce your carbon footprint by avoiding automobile usage both for your preparatory shopping and, later, for transport to school. Order new school supplies and clothes online whenever possible. Depending on your local climate, as well your child's age and health, encourage alternate means of travel, such as walking, biking, busing, or car pooling.

Laura Firszt writes for

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