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Wiser Living

Finding a natural solution

Green Your Back-to-School Shopping

by Samantha Schwartz

Tags: eco-friendly school supplies, green school supplies, green office,

I love back-to-school shopping.

Even though my color-coded organization system never lasts more than a month, having neat new supplies gives me a fresh start. Finding a turquoise ruler to match my calculator and math binder makes me giddy.

But after working for Natural Home this summer, the green guilt has set in. Back-to-school shopping involves a lot of waste.

In high school, the waste is amplified because teachers do not coordinate their lists. Each teacher requests a binder just for his or her class. Then one teacher says I’ll need tape, another says glue sticks and yet another wants me to buy a bottle of Elmer’s.

Of course, by the end of the year I’ve only used each thing once.

But this year, things have to change. I am going to try harder to reuse the old and green the new. I don’t have my specific supply list yet, so I’ll shop around for green versions of these five essentials:

• Backpack: I have a sturdy backpack I’ve had since 9th grade that I can reuse, but my sister might need a new one. These certified organic European hemp bags come in lots of sizes and colors.

    land's end
This eco-friendly backpack from Land’s End is made of 100 percent recycled fabric. Photo Courtesy Land’s End

• Lunchbox: My lavender tin lunchbox broke, so I’m on the hunt for a new, stylish lunchbox. Assistant editor Kim Wallace totes this eco-friendly polka-dot lunch bag, which costs $23. I’m also in love with this sleek stainless steel stackable lunchbox from To Go Ware, which costs $23. Paired with a Kleen Kanteen stainless steel water bottle in any color and some cute bamboo cutlery, I’ll be good to go!

To Go Ware’s stainless steel stackable lunchbox is inspired by an Indian Tiffin box.  Photo Courtesy To Go Ware

• Pencils/Pens: I always lose pencils and pens, so I’ll need new ones again this year. These pencils from Paper Mate EarthWrite are awesome. Made from reclaimed wood and 100 percent pre-consumer waste materials, these No.2 pencils are eco-friendly and inexpensive; a dozen costs $1.50. These ballpoint pens from Pilot BeGreen are available at most office supply stores. They are made from 78 percent post-consumer recycled content and are refillable; three pens cost $5.

• Spiral notebooks: All my spirals are full and ready to be recycled. Staples’ eco-friendly college ruled notebooks are made from 80 percent sugarcane waste and are printed with eco-conscious vegetable- and water-based ink. The notebooks cost $3. I also like this pricey but adorable recycled notebook from Target for $10.

• Binders: I have two binders that are still in good condition, but I’ll need a couple more. I can decorate a recycled binder from TerraCycle and recycle it at the end of the school year!

You may have to explore the Internet to find an eco-friendly lunchbox and backpack, but green office supplies are available everywhere (Some for prices less their non-green counterparts!) When shopping, save time by asking an employee if there is an eco-friendly section or if there are eco-friendly alternatives to conventional supplies.

If your local office supply store does not offer the green product you seek, try this online green office supply store.

Do you have a favorite eco-friendly office supply store, brand or product? Please leave a comment!