Seven Green Back-to-School Ideas

The bitter-sweet reality of the start of a fresh school year is right around the corner. We had a wonderful summer filled with celebrations and family fun, and I’m filled with the excitement of a fresh start, yet wistful to see our little ones growing into new grades. For any of you who are busy getting organized for the start of another year, here’s a list of seven green back-to-school ideas.

green back-to-school ideas

1. Waste free lunches – Most pre-packaged lunch items are not only wasteful, they’re also not terribly nutritious. Consider using small, reusable containers in your kid’s lunches to cut down on garbage. Buy a tub of plain yogurt and add your own fruit, send a water bottle instead of juice boxes, make your own trail mix with seeds and dried fruit. You’ll not only reduce the amount of waste, you’ll also help your kids enjoy healthier meals at school.

2. Alternatives to plastic containers for lunches and drinks  – Even though we’ve phased out plastic containers containing BPA’s, there are still concerns about exposures to plastics. Luckily, there are lots of great lunch container alternatives. Silicone, stainless steel, and even glass (for older kids) are all great possibilities. Non-plastic food storage is a booming industry, and if you can’t find suitable replacements locally, you can find just about anything online. We like to shop in local Indian and Asian import stores for those adorable, stacking stainless steel lunch containers.

3. Shop at home first for school supplies – How many times have you splurged on brand new school supplies only to realize you have more than enough perfectly good items at home? We’ve definitely been guilty of this one! This year, we created a list with the kids and with some help from the back-to-school newsletter and then sent our kids on a scavenger hunt at home. We challenged them to collage fun new covers for older (but usable) binders. We had them swap pencil cases for a fun new look. Then we bought only the items that we couldn’t find at home.

4. Gently used lunch bags and back packs – Before we spend money on brand new lunch bags and back packs, I do a quick circuit of my favorite go-to local thrift stores to see what I can find. I do a thorough check for tears and worn seams and straps, and I always do a sniff test. Generally, it’s better to look for these kinds of items before everyone starts their back-to-school shopping.

5. Walk or bike to school – If your family lives close enough, consider walking or biking to school. Older kids may be ready to do this on their own, or this can be a great opportunity for family fitness. Even if you commit to a once-a-week ride or walk, you’ll be reducing your carbon imprint.

6. Gently used back to school clothes or organize a clothing swap – At the end of each summer, I tackle a huge clothing sort with the kids. We purge any summer clothes that they didn’t wear and either donate, swap or sell anything we don’t keep. We’ve got an amazing chain of gently-used kids’ clothing stores here, and I typically trade our own items for a store credit that I use to fill out any of the kids’ clothing needs for the upcoming season. My older girls have really gotten into swap parties with their friends. They can refresh their wardrobes with fun new clothing and accessories (and shoes!) and little sisters can enjoy some cool hand me downs from their big sister’s friends.

7. Gently used books – I saved a fortune in college by buying used books. If your kid has a reading list of titles that aren’t supplied by the school, I would consider buying used whenever possible. For pleasure or enrichment reading, consider your local library or a book swap party with friends. Swap parties can be a great way to connect with friends as the school year begins.

Check out this fun list of green back-to-school supplies over at

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