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Natural Awakenings National

Back to School with the Planet in Mind

Kids bicycling wearing helmets with mother walking behind them

Monkey Business/

This school season, families have an opportunity to make Earth-friendly decisions as they prepare their children for a successful educational experience. These tips balance sustainability against kids’ desires for the coolest, newest gadgets and garments. 

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

Before going to the store to buy new school supplies, search the house for items that can be reused or repurposed, such as half-spent notebooks or last year’s pens and pencils. A little elbow grease and TLC can refurbish old lunchboxes and backpacks—also affording an opportunity to teach kids how to repair and extend the life of items.

Buy Secondhand Clothes

Kids that have outgrown last year’s threads and are clamoring for a whole new wardrobe can be cheerfully introduced to the burgeoning used clothing market, which is both eco-responsible and budget-friendly. Resist the temptation to purchase cheap “fast fashion” that too quickly ends up in landfills and pollutes the environment by using toxic dyes, fossil-fuel-derived textiles and other bad chemicals. Donate old clothes instead of throwing them away. 

Buy Eco-Friendly School Supplies

Opt for durable items that are made with recycled or sustainable materials and use minimal packaging. Avoid items made of plastic. Buy used textbooks whenever possible.

Walk or Bike to School

If the family lives reasonably close to school, encourage kids to walk or bike. For young children that require supervision, enlist one or more adults to lead a convoy of walking or biking kids. School buses and carpooling are the next best eco-friendly choices. When transporting kids by car, make sure to turn the engine off while waiting in the pick-up or drop-off line. Engine idling is a significant air polluter. 

Pack a Waste-Free, Non-Toxic Lunch

Avoid anything plastic, including single-use water bottles and Ziploc bags. Reusable, stainless steel, food and drink containers, as well as lightweight, reusable bamboo utensils, are ideal. Homemade, whole and bulk foods are healthier and much more Earth-friendly compared to prepackaged snacks that are usually wrapped in plastic and jam-packed with sugar and other unhealthy ingredients. 

Model Environmental Stewardship

Show kids that the family embraces an eco-friendly lifestyle. Kids will watch and learn as their parents regularly bring reusable shopping bags to the store, frequent local small businesses, participate in community cleanup efforts and continually search for innovative ways to safeguard the planet.

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