New School Rules

Eco Strategies for Back-to-School Prep

Families preparing for the coming school year will welcome easy ways to stretch the budget while protecting the environment our kids are growing up in.

• Buying new clothes can be expensive, and most of today’s synthetic fibers are petroleum-based, while toxic pesticides are commonly used to grow
cotton. For healthier alternatives, check labels for clothes made from organic, low-impact or recycled materials such as organic cotton, hemp, bamboo or recycled fibers. Inexpensive options are found in Salvation Army and other thrift store locations, as well as repurposing hand-me-downs among siblings.

• Avoid buying all new school supplies. Gently used binders and book bags can last years. Sturdy, simple backpacks skip the cost of faddish brand-name and
celebrity products. For supplies that must be replenished, like paper, seek out post-consumer-recycled options.

• For lunch boxes, food containers and utensils, look for retro metal, a cloth bag and other alternatives to plastic (which can contain harmful chemicals) and glass (which can break). Beth Terry, in her book, Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too (, suggests searching and, makers of stainless steel, naturally lacquered wood and other non-plastic, durable children’s bowls, cups, plates and utensils.

• Healthy afterschool extracurricular activities today typically require driving commutes. Look into carpooling with nearby families to save time and gas, cut vehicle emissions and expand friendships.

• Check the school’s eco-practices. Encourage local administrators to conduct recycling programs and to email documents to parents instead of using regular mail.

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