Mixed Greens Blog

Mixed Greens Blog
Living Sustainably in the Pacific Northwest

03
September
2008

Back to School: Sustainable School Supplies

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Here’s Olive, her backpack filled with school supplies, ready for her first day back at school. Her mom, Sharon tries to buy green products whenever she can but it’s not as easy as it sounds. Each family is given a list of supplies their child is expected to have for school. It is what you might expect — pencils, binders, notebook paper, etc. Most families spend around $95 per child, which is no small amount, especially when you add clothes, backpacks and lunch boxes to that. If you have budgetary restraints, as most of us do, is there a way to consume responsibly and still stay within your limits? If you are trying to support our local stores the whole thing becomes even more complicated.

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I went to the University Bookstore, one of my favorite independent booksellers, and checked out their supplies. They had green products prominently displayed right next to the cash register. There were several things but truthfully, not nearly as much as I would have expected. Most of the green items are manufactured by large companies capitalizing on this market. The 100% recycled post-its were made in France and packaged in China.

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I was happy to discover some products made by the Sustainable Group, right here in Seattle. They say, “our philosophy embraces the ideals of a balanced approach to providing great products, great value to our customers and products that reduce the environmental footprint of our industry. All of our products are made from high-content recycled material and are manufactured locally.” Their binders are corrugated cardboard, great for a minimalist look, but not what most kids would choose, if given the choice. On the other hand, decorating one of these with markers, stamps and stickers to personalize it could be a fun project.

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Pens and pencils made from recycled materials are widely available. Crayons, not so much. I read that Prang makes some crayons from 85% soybean oil but I haven’t see them yet.

The other item I was happy to see at the U bookstore was metal lunch boxes. The issue with most lunch boxes is the vinyl or PVC lining. Metal or PVC-free lunch boxes are preferable. Vinyl is also used in many backpacks. Both PVC-free lunch boxes ($14) and backpacks ($25) are available in children’s sizes at REI. I am fairly certain these products are not manufactured here. We’ve all heard plenty about water bottles so I won’t go into it except to say that metal, although considerably more expensive, is healthier for you and for the environment.

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I don’t have school-age children at home but when I am shopping for office and art supplies I can still try to buy sustainable products whenever possible. Every small action we can take to preserve our environment for future generations is a step in the right direction.

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1 Responses »

  1. This is really useful information. I am not sure how much Lily will need in the way of school supplies this year, but she has become an artist and we are burning through art supplies. This was a good reminder to purchase the more environmentally friendly options.