Back to School: Tips to Start the Year Green

It’s early September and that means school is back in session. Whatever you may be starting or returning to, keep these tips in mind for a sustainable school season.

Take inventory

Before purchasing additional school supplies, take an inventory of what you already have and create a list around the items that you truly need. Have a leftover notebook from the previous school year? Rip out and recycle the old pages, and use it for a different class. Good as new!

Buy smart

Kids outgrow clothing quickly, so buying new clothes from retail stores is not only hard on your wallet, but also on the planet. A great way to get new school clothes for free is to organize a clothing swap with family, friends, and neighbors. Or, purchase clothing from consignment or thrift stores in the area. When you do need to purchase new clothes, consider those made with sustainable fabrics like organic cotton or bamboo.

Pack a lunch (in a reusable pack)

Pack your lunch and your child’s lunch in reusable containers. Snack Taxi is a great resource for many types of reusable packages, or just send Tupperware and mason jars in place of plastic baggies. By doing so, you can eliminate the amount of paper bags, food packaging, and wasted food produced.

Green the school commute

If your child's school does not offer bus service, or you opt out of it, there are still many eco-friendly transportation options available. If you live less than a mile from the school, consider arranging a “walking bug” where parents rotate chaperoning a group on foot (or bike) to and from school. You’ll save gas, reduce emissions, and get exercise. If biking or walking is not an option, consider the many routes offered by the Piedmont Authority for Regional Transport (PART).

Continue green practices during the school year

Simple practices can keep you actively engaged in sustainability all year long. These include:

  • Using your notebooks all the way through;
  • Taking notes on both sides of the paper;
  • Printing double-sided, when printing is necessary;
  • Recycling all paper and cardboard supplies; and
  • Composting the leftovers in your lunch.

Do you have more school year sustainability tips we missed? Share them with us in the comments below.

Ally Hellenga is the Communication and Event Coordinator for the Wake Forest University (WFU) Office of Sustainability and Center for Energy, Environment, and Sustainability (CEES). At WFU she works with students, faculty, and staff to bring sustainability to life through visual storytelling, behavior change campaigns, and campus and community events. Ally has a Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations from the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.