Ask Eco Ed: How can we adopt sustainable practices to kick off the school year?

Eco Ed responds to a mother’s question on how to become more sustainable to kick-off the school year. Learn how to keep your young students healthy, travel efficiently, what products to buy, and other back-to-school tips.

Dear Eco-Ed:

We’re planning back-to-school activities, and some of our purchases seem so wasteful.  How can we adopt sustainable practices to kick off the school year?

– Sustainable Elementary School Mom

Dear Sustainable Elementary School Mom:

Good question, as there is much you can do to at this time of the year.  As consumers we can reduce waste, and we can also set the right example for our kids.  At the same time, we can create and encourage habits that improve our children’s health and physical development.  Below is a top ten list to help and can also improve air quality at the schools.


1-    On days that weather is permitting, encourage your kids to walk or bike to school with friends. On rainy or snowy days, carpooling reduces traffic and minimizes carbon emissions.

2-    Turn your engine off while waiting for your child.  Anti-idling efforts are being encouraged in our schools (or dare I say, enforced).  This practice is not only wasteful (of gas and money), it adds to pollution right around our kids and the playgrounds where they exercise.

3-    Choose your child’s clothes with them.  How many times have you purchased clothes that your child refuses to wear?  Including them in the selection process increases the chance that they will wear their new clothes often.

4-    Save supplies from year to year.  So many perfectly usable folders, pens/pencils, binders, etc., are thrown away in the trash at the end of the school year.  Put aside what is re-usable for the upcoming year.

5-    Buy recycled supplies or products with minimal packaging, where possible.  Brand marketers respond to consumer demand, and this will force companies to provide products that are more sustainable to manufacture.

6-    Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Don’t let your children skip it.  Also, the less processed sugar in their breakfast, the better!

7-    Well-balanced lunches are important.  Fresh foods and fruit are healthy alternatives to processed snacks.  Encouraging healthy eating habits promotes physical development, improves attentiveness and results in more consistent energy levels throughout the day.

8-    Minimize garbage by packing lunches in reusable containers. Ditch the plastic and stick with a reusable water bottle that can be refilled all year long.  REAC had personalized containers created in conjunction with Back2Tap.  Contact Ed Schwartz for units while supplies last.

9-    Make textbook covers from recycled materials. Those sturdy brown paper bags from the grocery store are still a good option and have a surface that lends itself to decoration and personalization.

10- Hand-Me-Downs give clothes a second life.  If this is not an attractive option for you, consider donating your child’s clothes to a local charity when your child has outgrown them.

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