Make the Green Grade: Eco School Supplies Checklist


As a young girl my favorite time of year was the week before school started every September. Not because I went shopping for new clothes – a plaid skirt and white blouse were the extent of my “uniform”. I equated back-to-school with school supplies. A new binder with a plastic zip-lock envelope packed full of brand new pens and pencils – thrilling!

Those were the days…when new meant something good and fresh and exciting, but the world was eco-oblivious. Fast forward a few decades and it’s easier than 1-2-3 to green that school supplies list.

Here are some tips to get you and your little greenies started:

Encourage your kids to adopt an older sibling’s backpack from last year. Rips can be mended and ink stains can be covered with cool patches. If reuse isn’t an option, go green with this Hemp Cinch Backpack from EcoBodyWear. Available in natural, black and brown for $53. For older kids who carry laptops, there’s this Billboard Messenger Bag for $99.95 at YourGuidetoGreen or see A Guide to Eco Laptop Bags for other ideas.

Eating in the school cafeteria has become less fattening, but there’s nothing healthier and greener than bringing a bag from home. And lunch is an area where the eco-possibilities are endless. Go vintage with an old metal lunchbox or try Lunchopolis, a lead free insulated bag with a matching drink bottle and 4 reusable containers. On sale at YourGuidetoGreen in blue or green for $29.99. Several more options available here.

I admit, there’s nothing quite like the smell and feel of a new book, but buying used saves money and trees. AbeBooks is the one-stop textbook shop, and try for the year’s reading list. Your local library is also an eco choice.

To organize papers and keep notes every student needs a 3-ring binder. New Leaf makes this Think Recycled 1″ Binder ($6.99) in an eco-cool craft color, as well as a Think 3 Subject Sprial Notebook ($6.99). Both are available at NewLeafProducts. Get 100% recycled College Rule paper here too – 100 sheets at $3.99.

Back to school also means cutting and measuring. These KleenEarth® Stainless 7″ Shears have 70% recycled handles and a ten-year warranty. Find them at TheGreenOffice for $5.49. If you can’t find an extra 12″ ruler in one of your “junk drawers”, Office Depot sells this one made of 30% postconsumer content for $1.09.

Writing and drawing can be earth-friendly and non-toxic too. Pay close attention to the chemical content of ink markers and always choose water-based over anything else. Pilot offers a variety of eco-ink pens with up to 89% recycled content. Available at PilotBeGreen from $1.65 – $2.45 each. The Pentel Sign Pen® is certified nontoxic and available in black, red and blue – $14.49 per dozen at TheGreenOffice. What student doesn’t love Mr. Sketch® scented markers? Non-toxic and water-based, they’re safe and smell good too. A 12-Color set is $7.95 at eNasco.

Perfect for practicing handwriting, these TreeSmart pencils are made from recycled newspapers without using toxic chemicals or adhesives. The newsprint creates interesting and unique designs and they sharpen easily with a regular pencil sharpener. 12 pencils for $4.10 at PencilThings. A colored pencil set is also available for the same price.

Look no further than these fun non-stapling staplers for your go green student. They cut through paper creating a “chad-like” closure that binds up to 4 pages. Find them at Amazon – $16.95 for a pack of three (blue, red, green).

If these options are too overwhelming and one-stop-shop is more your thing, get a pre-packed Student Kit of eco-friendly, non-toxic items made specific to grade in school. Available at TheGreenOffice from $16.99 to $29.99 – Kindergarten through 8th grades.

Lastly, remember that when it comes to anything eco, less is more. Most teachers hand out a shopping list on the first day, so don’t shop before you have it in your hot hands, and stick to it to avoid any unnecessary and wasteful purchases.

Image: FXR