Five Simple Ways to Make This Back-to-School Season a Bit Greener (and Cheaper!)
[Editor's Note: These last few weeks have turned into a bit of an impromptu digital sabbatical as I focus on other things. You know what? It's been nice being away from the screen. As the season starts to wind down, I hope you too can find time to unplug, get outside and enjoy what the world has to offer. Perhaps you can curl up with my new e-book to help you slow down and shift your perspective. As always, thanks for your readership.]
Wait a minute. Does Back-to-School mean back to the bedlam of frantic drives to a dozen different stores, fruitless searches for the perfect [insert item of choice] and yet another episode of mindless consumption? It doesn’t have to.
Think about years past: All the trips to the stores to buy mountains of new stuff – school supplies, clothes, shoes, backpacks… the list goes on. All that stuff takes a hit not only on our wallets but the planet as well. It’s another example of the battle between need versus want that plays out each time we walk into a store.
We’ve been conditioned to think that the bright and shiny new stuff will pave the way for better things for our kids: better grades, better friends, better status. With three kids at home, our family knows this all too well.
But part of slowing down and living a simpler, greener life is knowing that that kind of conditioning is flawed and contrary to what it means to live a life of balance and true contentment. Plus, what does buying all that stuff really teach our kids about being responsible – fiscally or environmentally? To help, here are five ways to lessen the impact of Back-to-School:
- Use What You Already Have. We all have that drawer in the kitchen full of pencils and pens; a pipeline of hand-me-downs from family and friends; a forgotten stash of notebooks and folders. Take stock of what you already have and commit to using it before buying anything new. Use this approach to help teach kids a lesson in being frugal.
- Get the Facts On What You Really Need. Forget about the glossy Must-Have List from Staples. Check with your child’s school and teacher for a list of what is really necessary for the school year. When compared to the Staples list, the list from our kids’ teachers are much more reasonable. Don’t get sucked in to the consumer vortex of buying every little gadget and doohickey – only to see it barely see the light of day later on.
- Swap ‘Till You Drop. The old This-for-That is making a comeback thanks to the wonderful world of the Internet. A Google search of “school supplies swap” returned quite a few options. Highlights include www.swapmama.com and www.swap.com. Swapping can be very local too – your street, your neighborhood, your office or your child’s school – just ask around. I’m sure you can find a few folks to brew up a bit of a swap-fest with.
- If You Need to Buy, Buy Green. There are so many environmentally friendly office and school supplies out there these days. And lots of options beyond the Staples or Office Depot down the road. Check out www.thegreenoffice.com or www.theultimategreenstore.com. Look for items that use post-consumer content (paper, plastic) in them, items that can re-filled or re-used in some way, and/or more durable items that you won’t have to toss after two weeks of (ab)use by your kids. Try not to use credit cards if you don’t have to.
- Localize Their Lunch. We’re in the thick of harvest season here (in the northeast U.S.) with local farms and producers churning out loads of fresh, healthy food. Why not find a way to work it in to your child’s lunch? From veggie and fruit snacks to sandwiches stacked high with local breads and cheeses (tomato and mozzarella anyone?). Check out your nearby farmers market for all the best that summer has to offer. If you’re in my neck of the woods (RI / southeastern MA), visit www.farmfreshri.org.
This week, find time to talk to your child(ren) about ways to make Back-to-School a bit easier on the planet. See if they have any ideas on how to green things up and work with them to make it happen. Commit to making at least one aspect of your Back-to-School experience more Earth-friendly.
What are you doing to make this Back-to-School season cheaper and greener?
Enjoyed this post? Share it with your circle using the Facebook and/or Twitter buttons below. Not a subscriber to The New Pursuit? Subscribe today. While you’re here, you might also enjoy these posts:
- 16 Simple Ways to Practice Mindful Consumption in a Hyper-Consumer World
- 12 Favorite Books for Connecting Kids with Nature and Life
- Nature as Mentor: 6 Life Lessons That Gardens Can Teach Our Kids