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September 06, 2019 4 min read


It’s that time of year again where we ditch our sun hats and sunglasses and pop back on our thinking caps. That’s right — we are talking back to school! While we will miss the long, warm days of summer, back to school brings about so many new opportunities to incorporate low waste products into your everyday life! 

school desk and accessories

Why Go Green for Back to School?

Going back to school is an exciting time filled with new memories, learning opportunities and pep rallies. But if we’re being completely honest with ourselves, it can also be a time of enormous waste and environmental devastation. Everything we buy for the upcoming school year — from the individually wrapped snacks we pack in our lunch bags to the spiral notebooks and binders we use for class — takes resources to make and transport. This unsustainable consumption of resources not only generates climate-changing gases, but also contributes to ongoing environmental crises, such as plastic pollution, biodiversity loss and soil erosion.

Thankfully, it’s never been easier to tackle your school shopping list while lowering your carbon footprint. From spiral notebooks made with 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper to zero-waste shampoo bars you can easily transport to and from the dorm showers, many brands are stepping up their game by offering eco-friendly options to consumers. The best part? Some eco-friendly swaps can help you save money!

Eco-Friendly Swaps for the New School Year

  1. Refillable Pens — Did you know that Americans toss 1.6 billion pens annually? Yikes! Ditch the single-use pens and opt for a refillable fountain pen — preferably one made from eco-friendly materials (cork, wheat, corn, etc.). Refillable fountain pens reduce waste because you simply change out the ink when you run low. Speaking of ink, try a biodegradable ink to keep your writing as sustainable as possible.
  2. Recycled Paper Notebook — Traditional notebooks contribute to deforestation and use tons of water and nasty chemicals to process and bleach the paper. Why not choose a sustainably sourced notebook made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper? If you really want to feel good about your purchase, look for a notebook certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.
  3. Non-Toxic Backpack — Many backpacks are made out of PVC plastic — a type of plastic containing phthalates, lead, cadmium and other harmful additives. Fortunately, finding a non-toxic backpack isn’t difficult these days. Look for one made from safer materials — like organic cotton, hemp and plant-based leather. 
  4. Earth-Friendly Crayons — Are you shopping for a little one? Skip the conventional crayons, which are made from petroleum-derived paraffin wax and contain a slew of toxic chemicals. Instead, reach for zero waste vegetable crayons and colored pencils that are safe for your kids and suitable for the environment.
  5. Thrifted Clothes — Need to buy a new back-to-school wardrobe? Instead of purchasing new clothes from a fast fashion outlet, visit your local thrift store for more sustainable (and unique) threads.

Sustainable Ideas for a Back-to-School Routine

Need help easing into a sustainable back-to-school routine? We’ve got you covered!

Morning Routine

Shampoo & Conditioner Bars

Shampoo and conditioner bars are an amazing low waste swap for the regular bottles! Not only do they leave your hair feeling fresh and glossy, but they need no plastic container. Most liquid shampoos have Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), a synthetic lathering agent that dries and irritates the scalp. Shampoo bars are filled with natural ingredients that are good for your hair and the environment!

Bamboo Toothbrush

Ditch the plastic for a plastic-free bamboo toothbrush! These toothbrushes are biodegradable! They naturally decay without harming the environment. Bamboo toothbrushes are also antimicrobial! This means that they naturally stop the growth of microorganisms. A major win for your dental hygiene! 

Wooden Comb

Wooden combs are a great alternative to the plastic brush! Due to the natural wood, these bristles help condition your hair from top to bottom as your comb distributes your hair’s healthy oil to keep it strong! They are biodegradable and don’t create the static electricity that plastic brushes often do. This leaves your hair smooth and glossy.

kids in school

Lunch Time

Reusable Cutlery

Reusable cutlery is an easy swap to make to keep from using plastic utensils over and over again. Because they’re reusable and easily transportable, they are perfect for the cafeteria or the breakroom! Reusable cutlery is a simple yet effective tool in becoming more sustainable — plus, it helps divert plastic from the landfill.

Reusable Straw 

Reusable straws protect the oceans, the ecosystem and ourselves. It has been proven that plastic straws contain BPA. Medical professionals say that long-term exposure to BPA could lead to reproductive disorders and diabetes. Reusable straws are made of materials like glass and stainless steel which do not contain BPA. When plastic straws are disposed of, they can make their way into bodies of water and landfills, which could harm marine life, other animals and our planet.

young woman outdoors


Reusable Tote Bag

No matter where you're going on campus or in town, having a reusable tote bag or canvas bag can prove to be so helpful! You can carry your lunch in it, bring home some groceries if you decide to stop or carry your extra clothes in it if you decide to hit the gym! Having a tote bag on hand is always convenient — and you can never have enough!

Consider this: Every reusable swap you make helps divert items from a landfill, and prevents harmful gases entering our atmosphere. We're here to help create a healthier planet and, in turn, create healthier, happier people!


Shop here for some low waste swaps: 

Bamboo Toothbrush 

Wooden Comb

Shampoo Bar

Conditioner Bar