Kids heading back to school? Don’t forget that they can go green when they go!
School Clothes: Whether you find back to school clothes shopping fun or a hassle, there are a few simple ways that you can be more eco-friendly in this area. The first is to shop at home. Take an inventory of what clothes still fit your children and what clothes can be handed down from an older sibling (friend or cousin), then decide how many more items are needed. There is no need to buy another sweatshirt if they already have 3 or 4 in their closet.
Our kids often have more clothes than they can wear in a week/month/maybe even a year. Realistically think about how many new(er) pieces your child needs and purchase only those. Then consider purchasing those pieces at a thrift store or end of summer garage sales. Or help organize a clothing swap with your friends. If you need to buy new, look for eco-friendly companies that use recycled or organic materials in the production.
School Supplies: This may sound like I am repeating myself, but take an inventory of the supplies that you already have in your home. Non-consumable items such as pencil boxes, rulers, calculators, lunch bags, and even backpacks can last a couple, maybe even many years. Re-use those items that still have life left to them. Some non-consumable items (like backpacks) might get a lot of wear and may need to be replaced, but if you buy a high quality one it is more likely to last several years. When looking at consumable items (notebooks, pencils, crayons, markers, erasers, binders, etc.) check each item to see how much is left. You may not need as many of these items as you think. If you need to buy new items, looks for ones that are made with recycled contents, are making eco-friendly efforts in their production, and that are sold with minimal packaging.
Transportation: For some families, there might not be many options when it comes to transportation to/from school. If you are within a walking distance to school, have your children walk, bike, rollerblade, or even skateboard to school instead of driving them. If they are too young to walk by themselves, consider walking or biking them yourself or setting up a “walk pool” and take turns with other neighbors walking the younger children to school or enlist the help of an older neighbor kid to walk your child to school.
If you are not within walking distance, taking the bus is the most eco-friendly option if you are on a bus route. If taking the bus is not an option, consider talking to other parents in your area about carpooling, or be sure to combine the drive with other errands or time the drop-off to occur on your way to work.
Lunch: If you are considering having your child eat school lunch, you might need to do your homework and talk to the lunch program staff about the choices provided to the students and even go to school for lunch a couple times to see for yourself what the choices look like. Many schools are starting to provide healthier and more nutritious lunches that are cooked from scratch or made with whole grains. Schools that are making this transition are aware of the desire by parents to have healthier lunches and will often label their food with key words such as “whole-grain”, “whole wheat” and “homemade” so that you are aware of these efforts. Our school has made good efforts over the last year, but there are still many days when it is the usual school lunches, and those days we often will send my daughter to school with a packed lunch.
Make sure to read Green Up School Lunches with 5 Days of Ideas, for more good ideas.
School: Many people do not have the luxury of choosing alternate schools for their children, but you can help encourage your school to start making eco-friendly efforts. It may take just some gentle encouragement on your part or you might need to volunteer to starts these efforts. Ideas of eco-friendly efforts to encourage could be: a recycling program, an organic garden on school grounds, starting an environmental club, helping a science class do an energy audit, or volunteering to help teach your child’s class about planting and do a planting activity with them (I did this with my daughter!)
What are some ways you’re going green this school year?