Back to school used to be a time of indulgence in my childhood; a chance to finally get new things. But now, I see it as a chance to shop more mindfully. Here are a few item that I recommend adding to your sustainable back to school shopping list.
1) Highlighter pencils // 2) Refurbished electronics // 3) Reusable snack and lunch bags // 4) Eco-crayons // 5) Staple-free stapler // 6) Tree-free pencils // 7) Reclaimed material laptop case // 8) Organic material backpack // 9) Reusable face masks // 10) Blue light filtering glasses *code ‘oldworldnew10‘* // 11) Wood or metal pencil sharpener *code ‘ADDIE‘* // BONUS) Green School Gear Kid and Zero Waste Kids Lunch Kit *code ‘ADDIE‘*
Disclaimer: Old World New uses affiliate links (EarthHero & Amazon).
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Before shopping for new school supplies, you should…
First, use what you already have
The first step to creating any shopping list is to make an assessment and USE WHAT YOU ALREADY HAVE. Search your home, evaluate what you already own, and make use of the things that you already have. Opening new things is always thrilling, but if you find 10 pencils lying around the house, there is no need for a new pack just for the thrill of opening it. Locate and use what you already have!
Next, share with friends, family, and community
Host a school supply swap. Tell your friends about some items that your little one needs to see if they may have it, and look through what you own but don’t need and ask if anyone needs it. Sharing supplies within your community is another way to get new to you school supplies in a sustainable manner.
Then, visit thrift stores
School supplies that I have seen often at thrift stores (and in great condition) include – backpacks, 3 ring binders, folders, loose leaf paper, printer paper, and more! During back to school season, a thrift store is full of school supplies just like retail stores. You can find a lot of your school needs at the thrift store.
Last, buy new sustainable school supplies
After following all of those steps, investing in sustainable school supplies where possible is the next best move. Sometimes it’s too costly or maybe you don’t need enough items from a particular store to justify shopping with them, yet, and that’s understandable. Buy what you can sustainably. What you can’t buy sustainably, yet, remember for another time in case you need to replace whatever you end up buying instead. This is how real sustainable living works – do what you can when you can. It’s an imperfect journey, but it’s worth it. Keep reading to see the a list of helpful sustainable school supplies (that also work well as office supplies) that I recommend.
11 Must-Have Sustainable School Supplies (& Office Supplies)
1) Highlighter Pencils
Technically, plastic highlighter markers are recyclable, but I imagine that putting them in the recycling bin is a total “wish-cycling” move. Maaaaybe they’ll actually get recycled? Maybe they’ll end up in a landfill or the ocean? The best move is to use highlighter pencils. The shavings can even be composted!
2) Refurbished Electronics
My last computer was over 12 years old and barely worked when I decided I needed to invest in a new one. This time around, I chose a new to ME computer from Back Market. Refurbished electronics help avoid the huge amount of waste created from all of the intricate parts of electronics, save the buyer money, and allow these items to continue being used instead of trashed so easily.
3) Reusable snack and lunch bags
Reusable bags come in very handy for us when we have homeschool field trips, and different types can hold all sorts of snacks. Two of my favorite bags are just plain fabric sandwich bags with velcro and silicone bags with a good seal.
Not all crayons are made equally. Most crayons aren’t even vegan – they contain fat from beef! Crayons that are made with the environment in mind tend to not include animal parts. While these beeswax crayons aren’t vegan, either, they are an eco-friendly alternative to mainstream crayons.
5) Staple-free stapler
Where do all of the staples in the world go? Who knows?! But one thing is for sure, we’ve all used a lot staples, but we’ve never recycled those tiny scraps of metal. With a staple free “stapler,” there are no little pieces of metal. The paper is cut and looped in a way that secures it to itself. This paper clinch pictured here secures up to 5 pieces of paper together, but this particular brand also creates another paper clinch that can secure up to 10 pieces of paper together!
6) Tree-free pencils
Simple innovations can be quite awe-inspiring. Recycled paper wrapped to create a pencil is such a simple and sustainable update on a classic. It’s the thing we didn’t know we needed.
7) Reclaimed Material Laptop Case
Designs made from reclaimed materials are always fun and make for a great story or conversation starter. I am particularly fond of these laptop cases that are made from decommissioned fire-hoses. The colors are bright, and each one is unique.
8) Organic Material Backpack
If a new backpack is a must, try to invest in a sustainably made backpack! If you can’t do that, thrift stores are chock full of backpacks during back to school shopping season. Thrift stores also have plenty of backpacks throughout the entire year, and they are usually found in the purse and bag section.
9) Reusable Face Masks
Masks are part of our new normal. No matter what style you wear, if you are adding a filter, there will be some waste. However, using reusable and washable cloth masks along with a smaller filter creates less waste than using fully disposable masks. My latest favorite brand and style of reusable masks are the loop masks by Baggu.
10) Blue Light Filtering Glasses *discount code below*
Screen time impacts us negatively if we don’t take precautions to protect our eyes. Genusee makes one style of eyeglasses that work for most face types, and they make the frames out of recycled plastic. You can have your glasses made with blue-light-filtering lenses to help combat the effects of screens on your eyes. Use code ‘oldworldnew10‘ to save 10% off of your next Genusee order!
11) Wood or Metal Pencil Sharpener
It’s ridiculous how fast a plastic pencil sharpener breaks. A long-lasting sustainable option is a metal or wood sharpener. It may look “old school,” but it is made to last.
BONUS – *discount code below!*
Kindhumans carries pre-made back to school kits that have sustainable items in them. You can buy the kit or buy the items separately to fill the needs you have for back to school! Use code ‘ADDIE‘ for a 10% discount on your order.
Final Thoughts on Sustainable School Supplies
It’s important to remember that sustainable doesn’t always mean new. Some of our greatest treasures for homeschool have been found secondhand at thrift stores and online. Facebook Marketplace is one of my favorite places to find what we need. Give secondhand a try during your sustainable school supply search, as well!