Every July when that Staples commercial comes on, you know the one set to Christmas music with the dad joyfully pushing a cart through the store with the downtrodden kids following behind? That is my absolute most favorite commercial because I feel his joy, I am always so ready to send the kids back. Maybe not this year.
One thing is certain, the start to the 2020/21 school year is nothing but an absolute mess, at least here in Georgia. School supplies are on the store shelves, but I don’t see anyone buying them.
I did find one positive note, if you’ve wanted to purchase more non-toxic, eco-friendly school supplies for your kiddo, this is probably the year to do it.
Wait, what!?! How so?
If you’re like me, you have hesitated in the past to spend the extra bucks on eco-friendly school supplies because at least in elementary school, everything gets dumped into a bucket and shared.
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Are Eco Friendly School Supplies More Expensive
The short answer is most likely, yes.
Maybe my thinking is backwards but I’m less inclined to spend extra money on ‘better for the kids, better for the environment’ school supplies when I don’t even know if my kid will use them.
This year, it sounds like many schools will require kids to bring and use their own supplies, leaving the communal buckets behind.
The first thing to know, you’ll need to skip the dollar stores and you may even need to do most of your shopping online which, let’s face it, we are all doing anyway.
As with everything, I encourage you to find a balance. Don’t ditch anything you currently have just to buy something eco-friendly.
What Should You Buy
Gather up the supplies you have left from last year, grab your school supply list for this year and figure out what you need.
Grab your kiddo(s) and the new years school supply list. Have them cross off the items you already have. Now you know what you need and if you have a school supply budget you work from, you know how much money you have to work with.
Personally, I would prioritize the things you go through quickly. Things like rulers, pencil boxes, binders to some extent, will last longer than say pencils, markers, etc.
For the easy button solution, click here to hop on over to my Eco Friendly School Supply list on Amazon so you can have your shopping done in under 5 minutes.
The Ultimate Green Store also has a great selection of eco friendly school supplies you can check out by clicking here.
Eco Friendly Writing Instruments
Definitely a must have, we can’t expect them to write in blood, right? From crayons to pencils to markers to pens to highlighters, there is no shortage of options.
Pencils – look for pencils made from sustainably sourced wood or recycled paper. Another option would be recycled plastic mechanical pencils that use lead refills.
Pens – look for pens made with either recycled cardboard or recycled plastic.
I found these at Kroger (grocery store) and am happy with the way they write.
Markers – eco friendly markers are a bit harder to find but this 4 pack from the Ultimate Green Store are made with recycled paper.
Colored Pencils – again look for pencils made from sustainably sourced wood or recycled paper.
Highlighters – Sadly, I haven’t been able to find eco friendly highlighters that don’t cost a fortune and work.
Crayons – look for crayons made from beeswax or soy. Most commercial crayons are made with paraffin wax which is derived from petroleum by products so not exactly eco-friendly.
Pencil Boxes or Pencil Pouches
Although plastic pencil boxes tend to be fairly durable, they may contain potentially harmful chemicals like phthalates and cannot easily be recycled. Opt for a metal, canvas or hemp box or pouch to store everything.
Eco friendly binders will be a new one for us this year. My son is pretty rough on his so they are easy to take apart at the end of the year. Click here to learn more about how we recycle old school supplies.
Look for binders made from recycled fiber and plant based plastic. We’re going to try these, they are USDA Certified Biobased.
Paper, Index Cards, Sticky Notes and Notebooks
You’ll want to look for paper that’s made from recycled paper and/or post consumer waste and without chlorine.
Hit the easy button here and get your shopping done today.
All the ‘cool’ backpacks are typically made from cheap plastic (that contain phthalates) and don’t last terribly long. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had a few of those but they fall apart so easily and never make it more than a year. For the most part, I know kids don’t care about that but it’s something to think about.
Look for backpacks made from canvas. I’m always a proponent of durable backpacks that will last for years I’ve always found backpacks from Lands End and LL Bean to be reasonably priced, super practical and durable.
I recently learned about Ecogear backpacks which are made from recycled plastic bottles which warms my eco friendly heart. They are a bit pricey but quality is.
Similar story with the backpacks but you can also opt for some of the metal lunchboxes. Yep, my son had a retro Star Wars lunch box for a few years and then passed it down to my daughter.
For lunch boxes/bags, I opt for something that’s canvas and easily wiped down because we know how messy kids can be. A good durable lunch bag works, I’m more concerned with the containers holding the food.
This is one topic I want to talk about balance with though. When my kids were younger, I really wanted to get both of them a Planet Box bento style lunch container however, if you’re familiar with these, they are pricey.
I can’t tell you how many times my son lost the reusable snack bags and several of the plastic containers I had been sending his lunch in. There was no way I was forking over $60 for a lunch container that had a high potential of being lost.
I prefer my water cold so I’ve had a stainless steel water bottle for years. They tend to be a bit heavier than the plastic water bottles but keep water cold and don’t contain harmful chemicals like BPA and phthalates.
This year (2020) many school districts are turning off school water fountains and offering water refill stations so it’s more important than ever to bring your own bottle.
For younger kids, I opted for bottles with straws like these from Camelbak,
My daughter has loved this one since she was 10,
If your kiddo is in elementary school or you have any experience with daycare or camp, you know everything has to be labeled. Well, maybe not down to the pens and pencils but the pencil box and the lunch box and any reusable containers in the lunch box.
I started using Mabels Labels when my kids were young and actually still have some with both of their names, sitting in a junk drawer. I don’t think my high school aged son would appreciate me slapping name labels on his binders.
They are super durable, hold up to being hand washed and run through the dishwasher any number of times. The adhesive is incredible and they have a variety of designs to choose from. Plenty more than when I first bought them.
Hit the easy button here and get your shopping done today.
Hand sanitizer is always on the school supply list. We know that good old fashioned hand washing with soap and water is preferable but not always feasible.
When looking at hand sanitizers, make sure to avoid any that contain Triclosan. It’s an endocrine disruptor and suspected carcinogen.
Related: Learn more about Triclosan and other harmful chemicals in personal care products right here.
What was your favorite part of going back to school when you were a kid? Comment below and let me know.