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Green Tips for Back-to-School

Greener Lunch

  • Pack your child’s lunch in reusable containers and use reusable water bottles. In doing so, you can help reduce the huge amount of waste that ends up in landfills.
  • Ask your kids’ school to source sustainable foods for cafeteria lunches, including locally grown or Rainforest Alliance Certifiedâ„¢ produce.
  • Pack fruit as a healthy alternative to chips, and you also save on the wasteful packaging!
  • If your school has a garden, consider collecting organic material in a compost bin in the cafeteria and creating fertilizer from lunchtime waste.

Greener Transport

  • Have your kids walk or ride their bikes to school if possible. Not only does this help reduce carbon emissions, but it is also good exercise for all of you
  • If you live too far from the school to make walking or bike riding an option, have your kids catch the school bus as opposed to driving them.
  • If you have to drive, arrange a carpool with other parents. Not only will this help reduce emissions, but it will also help minimize your gas costs.

Greener Waste

  • Remind your children to use both sides of the page when they’re writing or printing.
  • Don’t forget to recycle your own paper waste. Ask your kids’ school to start classroom and cafeteria recycling programs if they don’t already have them.

Greener Supplies

  • Save money and trees by purchasing textbooks second-hand.
  • Don’t throw away old text books — sell or donate them instead!
  • Try to use school supplies from last year; your kids don’t need new supplies every year!
  • Use refillable pens made from recycled plastic.
  • Use pencils made from Forest Stewardship Council certified wood.
  • Reuse last year’s backpacks and lunchboxes if they are still in good condition.
  • Choose recycled and/or Forest Stewardship Council / Rainforest Alliance Certified paper.

Greener Education

Thanks to The Rainforest Alliance for kindly providing these tips (I added a few of my own)

School Uniform Shopping & Recycling

It’s back-to-school time and for us, that means it’s also time to get more school uniforms. Unfortunately, for the past few years, I’ve been coming across more and more brands of uniforms that are treated with anti-stain chemicals.

While the old formulation of Scotchgard stain repellent was discontinued because it was found to be bio-accumulative, persistent and basically unsafe for living things (as were other similar perfluorochemicals such as Teflon) there is a whole new crop of stain-resistance chemicals that are supposed to be safer. Why? Because they stay in the body for less time—and while it’s great that they stay in your body for less time, it’s still my preference that they not be in my body or the bodies of my children at all.

With that in mind, I always avoid clothing (as well as furniture and housewares) that touts it’s resistance to stains but it still concerns me that a lot of people don’t realize this isn’t necessarily the bonus it’s advertised to be. It’s a chemical that’s not really been proven 100% safe and it will be on your child’s skin five days a week for an entire school year.

Thanks but no thanks…

There are many brands of uniforms out there and I’ve definitely not researched them all but these are the brands I’ve opted not to buy because they have been treated with stain resistant chemicals:

Land’s End
Cherokee (Target)
George (WalMart)
Dickies
Classroom

These are the brands that do not, as far as I can tell, use stain-resistant chemicals:

Old Navy
Izod
Dockers
French Toast  (I saw one pair of French Toast pants being sold by an online uniform store that were treated with Scotchgard but none of the French Toast items I saw in stores or on the French Toast web site indicate any stain resistance treatment)

Recycle Those Uniforms

This spring, once it got warm, I took all my daughter’s winter khaki uniform pants and cut them into shorts and hemmed them with my sewing machine. I knew by the following winter they would be too short for her so this was an easy way to get more wear out of them. If you don’t sew, you can probably find an alteration shop that will do it for just a few dollars per pair.

I also look in consignment shops and thrift stores for gently worn khaki and navy pants and shorts for both kids and when the school has uniform swaps, I bring our too small stuff and trade up for bigger sizes.

While these things all save me money, they also conserve resources by employing the three R’s —reducing, reusing and recycling.

Happy non-toxic back to school!