Back-to-school shopping: Ace sustainability with this checklist

(Gábor Adonyi/Pixabay)

As August rolls in, one thing is for certain: Platforms from radio to television to YouTube are saturated with advertisements about this year’s back-to-school shopping. Here are our tips to get an A+ in sustainability by minimizing waste as you stock up for the semester.

1. Prioritize post-consumer paper.

Whether your teacher has a no-laptop rule or you just prefer the feeling of a pen in your hand, make your notes smarter by looking for post-consumer paper products. Made from recycled materials, post-consumer paper is used in notebooks such as the cleverly named Decomposition Books. Post-consumer paper can also be recycled into loose-leaf ruled and printer paper.

2. Buy more bamboo.

Many products traditionally made from plastic now have bamboo alternatives. Unlike plastic, bamboo is natural and biodegradable. Bamboo alternatives are available for everything from rulers to staplers to pencil sharpeners. You can also say farewell to plastic forks and knives in your lunchbox with a set of reusable bamboo utensils

3. Check out chipboard.

Chipboard, which is made from recycled paper scraps that are layered and glued together, is another great alternative to plastic. The material is used to make binders, tab dividers, and portfolios.

4. Pass on plastic pencils.

It’s no surprise that that 24-pack of plastic mechanical pencils is going to create unnecessary waste. Next time you need to stock up, challenge yourself to keep track of a couple of metal pencils rather than losing two dozen plastic ones. Of course, you could always keep it old school with classic wooden pencils; you might even want to check out highlighter pencils in exchange for traditional plastic highlighters. 

5. Less is best.

The most effective way to reduce waste is to simply buy and use less. That means making smart purchases, or no purchases at all if you have other supplies on hand. If it is necessary to make new purchases, look for things that can be reused again and again, without the need to repurchase a lot of replacements and refills. For example, look for refillable pens or zero-waste staplers. As always, remember to check out your local thrift store to see if any of the items you need are available second-hand!

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