School will be starting up again in about a month here in the Mankato area and even sooner in some cities. If you’re scrambling to gather back to school materials, the good news is there are lots of ways to make it greener — and more affordable.
Here’s some ways to make it easier on your checkbook and the planet:
- Scout thrift shops and garage sales for nice used clothes. There’s no reason you need to spend hundreds of dollars on new clothes every fall for your children. Garage sales are still going strong here in Southern Minesota and you can often find expensive, fashionable clothes for next to nothing. There are also lots of Mankato area thrift stores that offer gently used clothes that will help your child look great and save money. Thrift stores are also great sources for school supplies like back packs.
- Invest in reusable lunch containers and supplies. Instead of relying on paper bags, plastic bags and one-use utensils, buy items that your child can use for lunch all year. Purchase a lunch box or bento box for lunches (look for environmentally friendly ones and avoid vinyl, which often has high lead levels) and use inexpensive silverware instead of disposables. For sandwiches and snacks, either use wax paper bags (available at local grocery stores in the paper goods section) or reusable bags. Etsy has a wide assortment or you can find instructions online to make your own. You can also use small, reusable containers for items like fruit, chips and sandwiches instead of relying on bags at all.
- Don’t buy items you don’t really need. Most homes are full of ballpoint pens and pencils, for instance. Why do you need to buy packs of new ones? The same goes for clothes, shoes, bikes, back packs and more. Sure, it’s fun to have brand new things once a year, but don’t automatically buy new when what your child has already is still in good shape just because “that’s what everyone else does.”
- Look for recycled pens, pencils and paper, then teach your children to use them up. While it may cost a little more for recycled items, if your children use them well they will last well and you’ll need less of them. Do you really need 20 notebooks just because they’re on sale for .25 each? Buy the amount your children actually need and then remind them to use them wisely. Use pencils until they’re completely used up. Use both sides of notebook paper. Take good care of pens and keep track of them, so you don’t need to keep replenishing supplies.
- Pack a greener lunch box. There’s no need to waste your money and packaging on single serve items. Instead of juice boxes, put juice in a reusable bottle like a Sigg bottle. If you’re going to include items like chips, buy a big bag and then pack individual portions each day. Use leftovers for lunches. Include whole fruits and veggies instead of packages bits of them that have probably been treated with chemicals and added sugars. You can also save money by making items like homemade granola bars and easy homemade fruit leather.
- Have kids walk or bike to school. If possible, walk your kids to school instead of driving them. You’ll all get exercise and fresh air, and it saves gas and money. If the weather is too bad or the drive is too long, rely on school buses or carpooling.
Remember, “green” doesn’t have to mean overpriced and trendy. While there are plenty of great green products out there like organic clothes and designer recycled bento boxes, they’re not at all necessary in order to truly live a green lifestyle. Buy used, buy less, use wisely, and green and frugal can mean the same things — for back to school and all year.