Green Back-to-School: When Time and Money are Tight

It’s Enviro-Mama Thursday here on Strocel.com, and today I have been inspired by my friend Micaela Preston – a.k.a. Mindful Momma – to write about greening back-to-school.

Here in Vancouver the kids will be heading back to class the day after Labour Day, which is September 4. That’s still a week and a half away – but on the other hand, it’s only a week and a half away. As I consider it, I realize that it’s time to get hopping on my preparations for sending my daughter Hannah off to grade two.

Challenges with Greening Back-to-School

I would like to do my part to make back-to-school a little more sustainable. However, the truth is that I’m running into the same problems this year that I run into every year:

  1. With only a week and a half to go, I don’t really have time to thoroughly research school supplies and clothing, and order them all from ethical sources. Because, really, there’s no way I’m going to find everything on my green list at my local mall.
  2. I don’t want to break the bank. I absolutely love beeswax crayons, for instance, but I need two packs and at almost $30 a pop I’d have spent almost my entire school supply budget on a single item. I can’t afford to go green on everything.

Green back to school shopping she loves sparkly things
Sparkly things catch Hannah’s eye while we do our back-to-school shopping

Going Green and Heading Back to Class

So, I face limitations around time and money. Join the club, right? All the same, there are a few things I’ll be doing to help go green as my daughter heads back to school:

  1. Buy less stuff. This is the biggie – reducing our consumption is the single greenest thing we can do. This is why my daughter will be going back to school with a six-year-old backpack and a five-year-old water bottle. The items are still in pretty good shape, and I’m not about to replace them. I’m also sticking to the basics and the real needs when it comes to school supplies, clothing and shoes.
  2. Go second-hand. We buy a lot of our clothes second-hand, whether it’s back-to-school or any time of the year. It’s cheaper, it’s greener and I often get some really great items that I would never buy new.
  3. Buy for longevity. There are some things my daughter really needs that I just can’t buy second-hand. By opting for quality, and buying clothes and shoes a little on the big side, I can ensure that my kid will get lots of use out of them and I’m getting more bang for my buck.
  4. Look for eco cred. Labels like “organic” aren’t fool-proof. But often, when you’re making a buying decision, they’ve all you’ve got to go on. I’ll admit that I’m thrilled to see more and more organic cotton at my local H&M, at an affordable price point. I also look for school supplies and other items made from recycled materials, or FSC certified wood and paper.
  5. Think litterless. I’m going to be sending a lot of lunches and snacks. In preparation, I’m going through my reusables and making an assessment about what I need and what I already have enough of. By planning now, I’ll have what I need when I need it so that I don’t have to resort to plastic.
  6. Choose the neighbourhood school. This will be Hannah’s third year at our neighbourhood school, and I’m more glad than ever that we went this route. We can walk to school and back every day. We also get to know the people in our community. It’s greener, it’s free and I feel more connected to the place where I live.

Am I doing enough? I don’t know. I do know that I’m certainly trying, and I trust that my efforts will make some difference. I think that’s all we can do, really.

What about you? Are you greening back-to-school? What are you doing to reduce the environmental impact as your kids head back to class?

For a bunch more suggestions for a greener back-to-school, stop by Mindful Momma, who is hosting Green Moms Carnival all about heading back to class sustainably.

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    Comments

    1. Last year I made the decision to pack litterless lunches for my daughters. It wasn’t always easy at first, but once I got into the routine it was a sinch. The only days I had a problem were field trip days when the girls were expected to bring everything disposable in their lunches so they were not packing around a bag on their field trips. It bothers me. I actually don’t have plastic bags laying around or juice boxes and plastic spoons.

      We are fortunate to receive a lot of hand me down clothes that are awesome. In turn, we pass all that we can along to friends. It feels good and smart to recycle clothes like this. I wasn’t raised on name brand fashions and neither are my children.,…for now. I am sure they will hit an age when they will covet something high end. This is the first in a few that we had to break down and buy new lunch kits and back packs. The ones they had were ripping and had malfunctioning zippers. But, like yourself, I pride myself on getting what we need and not spending a fortune. A lot of what the girls had last year for pencil crayons and felts I am able to resend this year.

      I figure the more I save on these things the more activities the girls can do outside of school throughout the year.

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    1. [...] Amber from Strocel.com admits that it’s not possible to buy everything on her green wish list ($30 worth of beeswax crayons – no way!) but she shows us how we can still go green without breaking the bank. [...]

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