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Eco-Friendly: Six Tips for Going Green This School Year

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Eco-Friendly—For most families, long, lazy summer days are over and the school year is in full swing once again. The start of the school year brings many wonderful things that make us feel optimistic and energized, including the promise of a fresh start. This year, let’s pledge to incorporate more eco-friendly choices into our family’s school day activities and help build a more sustainable future for our children. Here are some tips for easy ways the whole family can go green this school year—and save some money along the way!

Six Tips for an Eco-friendly School Year

1. Pack a Waste-free Lunch

It’s estimated that Americans go through 100 billion plastic bags a year—this averages to 360 bags per person! Have your child pick out a fun reusable lunch box or bag to use throughout the school year. Rely on reusable containers and water bottles for packing food and drinks. If you do use plastic bags, recycle them. Clean and dry Ziploc® bags can be recycled at most local grocery stores where you drop off plastic shopping bags.

2. Choose Greener School Supplies

In the U.S. alone, approximately 11,600 incense-cedar trees are cut down to create the two billion pencils made each year. When hitting the school supply aisle this year, opt for supplies wrapped in limited packaging and recycle what you can. Consider purchasing eco-friendly supplies, like recycled fiber or reusable mechanical pencils, refillable pens and paper clips made from recycled steel.

3. “Upcycle” Last Year’s Supplies

Three-ring binders that are still in great working order can easily be refurbished at home, saving you the expense of buying new ones. Here’s a fun, crafty idea: cover the entire exterior of the binder with a sheet of contact paper, then trim to size for a clean, modern-look. I like using cork contact paper. Make it a fun after-school project, and even have your kids decorate the “new” notebook.

4. Encourage School Cafeterias to Buy Local

I think we can all agree with Jamie Oliver that most school cafeteria menus could use a healthy makeover. Urging your school to buy local ingredients will not only help waistlines, but also the planet too. At the next PTA meeting, discuss the topic with other parents and consider connecting with school administrators about bringing local food to the cafeteria for sustainable and healthy lunches. Contact the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service for resources and information on farm-to-school programs.

5. Green Your Head to Toe 

To avoid sticker shock and find clothes with less of an environmental impact, shop at thrift stores and trendy second-hand stores. Another fun way to save money and help the planet is to arrange a clothing swap party with friends or relatives—your niece’s jeans from last season may be a perfect fit for your own daughter this year (thankfully, skinny jeans are still in!). If new clothes are a must, aim for more sustainable fabrics, like organic cotton or earth-friendly bamboo.

6. Recycle Old Electronics

If you’re upgrading your family’s electronics this year, be mindful of recycling old models. You can even earn rewards, or, cash in some cases, for doing so—visit to check the value of your old electronics and for ways to earn points for your green deed. Don’t forget to recycle the batteries, too. You can drop them off at most business supply stores.

If we all pledge to make greener decisions this school year, imagine the collective impact we would have on the planet. Involving your kids in the fun, too, will set them up for adopting eco-friendly habits over the years and make the world a greener place for generations to come.

What are ways that you and your family plan to go green this school year? What tips and tricks help you and your family live greener lives?

Ali Kalis is the director of digital marketing at Recyclebank, the company that rewards people for taking everyday green actions. Ali has always had a personal interest in social entrepreneurship, sustainability and healthy living, and holds a certificate in integrated nutrition as well as an MBA. She and her photographer husband, Amani, live in Brooklyn with their young son, Satchel, and miniature pincher, Jinx.

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