But before Recycla and her junior Eco Warriors ever stepped foot in a store to buy anything, they looked carefully at their lists to see what they needed and then compared them with the supplies they already had at home.
Both girls already had pencils from the previous year, so new ones were not needed. They both needed colored pencils but instead of buying more, Recycla helped her daughters choose from among the eleventy squillion colored pencils they already had. They also still had plenty of lined paper left over from last year, so they didn’t need to get more. Finally, while the girls used to skew toward cute binders with pictures of kittens and puppies on them, what they do now is reuse plain ones, but add decorations to the front. (Koalas and pandas are favorites this year.)
After figuring out what they had at home and what they needed to buy, Recycla and the girls started shopping. Recycla is encouraged by just how many eco options she found without too much searching and at a variety of stores, including Target, Staples, and Office Depot. Her local eco store also has a display of school supplies that would have almost completely outfitted her girls for school. Even better, almost everywhere she went, Recycla noticed that eco school/office supplies are more reasonably priced than they used to be and often competitive with conventional offerings.
Recycla must stop for a moment to express a wee bit of frustration with binders. The non-eco binder options in the stores are pretty much all PVC-laden vinyl binders, which is not acceptable to this Eco Warrior. On the other hand, all of the eco options she saw were recycled cardboard, which means that they can be recycled at the end of their lives. Unfortunately, this also means that the binders’ lives will be short, as cardboard just does not hold up very well and rarely lasts the entire school year. Recycla hopes that better options will present themselves soon.
One thing most students need is either a pencil box or a pencil bag. Pencil boxes used to be made of cardboard, but now they’re pretty much all plastic. While Recycla hates to buy plastic, it turns out that those boxes are nearly indestructible — each girl got one in kindergarten that lasted all the way through 4th grade. And, when no longer needed in the classroom, the boxes can either be passed along to another younger student or reused for storage at home. (They’re also great if you’re traveling with kids and need a small container to hold some art supplies for the car or even small toys.)
Now that Recycla’s girls are older, they use pencil bags that have three holes and can be kept in a large binder. Unfortunately, the options are not terribly eco-friendly and the vinyl bags barely last through the school year. This year, the girls found pencil bags at Target that are made of the same material as backpacks, and we’re hoping they will last longer too.
If the girls didn’t need to keep their pencil bags inside their binders, Recycla would have shopped for cloth bags at Etsy, including the cute one pictured above. A quick search turned up over 1,000 items, so clearly there are lots of options there!
As for paper, the vast majority of conventional paper products have been bleached with chlorine to make them “paper white.” The problem is that this process creates dioxins. Buy recycled, chlorine-free paper instead — here’s a list of products endorsed by the Chlorine Free Products Association.
There are a variety of pencils and pens on the market that are either made of recycled materials or can be recycled in some way. Another thing to consider is buying pens and pencils that can be refilled, so that you can keep the bodies indefinitely and just replace the ink/lead as necessary.
If you are looking for eco crayons, check out the beeswax and soy options at Stubby Pencil Studio. They also have colored pencils! And, if you, like so many other parents, find that you have too many crayons on hand, here’s a post the Eco Women did last year on how to recycle crayons.
One important thing to consider is your overall carbon footprint when you are shopping. Try to reuse as much as possible before making any purchases. Then, when shopping, seek out eco options if they are available. If you are planning to order eco supplies online, consider the size of your purchase and if it is worth it to place the order. For example, Recycla could have ordered sturdy eco binders online; however, she didn’t want to have just two binders shipped to her, as the waste of gas and resources would have negated the fact that she bought earth-friendly supplies.
Overall, Recycla is pleased by how many more eco-friendly supplies are available now than were two years ago when she first started researching the options for this blog. Not only are there more supplies, but they are available in far more places and the prices have come down quite a bit. She is heartened by this trend and hopeful to see even more good things a year from now.
Tell the Eco Women: Are you ready for the school year to start? Will you be buying any eco supplies this year?
The Eco Women are not employed by any of the companies mentioned, nor were they paid to review these products.