Eager to knock out your back-to-school shopping, especially with the approach of Labor Day sales? Consider incorporating a few green guidelines into your search this year, so that we can all reduce the environmental footprint that usually results from the whirlwind of back-to-school getting and spending. Here are a few tips, which, in addition to benefiting the planet, might also put less pressure on your wallet:
1. Take stock of what you have. Chances are that you have supplies left over from last year, which might be enough to cross off an item or two from your child's school supply list.
2. Look for items that contain recycled material, or that are recyclable themselves. Notebooks and paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council have been produced from sustainably managed forests. Look for chlorine-free paper; paper manufacturing that uses chlorine as a bleaching agent releases dioxin, a major carcinogen, into the environment. Also, some pens and scissor handles are made from recycled plastics. Avoid vinyl, which contains highly toxic phthalates, VOCs, and lead.
3. Organize a back-to-school swap with other families. Trade clothes, school supplies, sports equipment, and backpacks—any items still in good condition. Prevent these items from ending up in a landfill while saving a few dollars.
4. Avoid individually packed lunch items. Does it really take that much longer to throw a few yogurt pretzels in a reusable bag? The plastic from "convenience" lunch products is seldom recycled and ends up occupying landfill space for hundreds of years—a high environmental price to pay for a five-minute snack.
5. Share with your children the reasons you are making the choice to green your school shopping. Start a dialogue about other ways to make your household more environmentally friendly.
Happy (green) shopping!