How to Choose Eco Friendly School Supplies

Five Methods:Starting with Your Required ListGreening Your StationeryChoosing Eco-Friendly Bags and Lunch GearGreening Your UniformGreening Your Locker

Going back to school doesn't mean you have to forsake your green principles. It is most certainly possible to choose eco-friendly school supplies that won't cost the Earth.

Method 1
Starting with Your Required List

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    Check what is on your required list. Then find out how much room to move you have on the recommended supplies. If you don't have to choose the exact same items listed, then you can swap them out for eco-friendly versions.
    • In some cases, the school supplies list may already have taken eco-friendly needs into account. If so, you're all set!
    • In other cases, you may find it hard to substitute some items, such as the plastic pockets mentioned in the above list. In this case, find out if you really do need them, or what alternatives you can find.
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    Ask politely to change items if you feel restricted by the school list. If you present your case politely and reassure your teacher that you won't be substituting with inferior quality, you may just get the nod to change to different supplies.
    • Your parents may be able to help here. If they're environmentally-conscious too, they may be able to discuss this directly with the teacher or school. All the same, it is good for you to learn how to ask for yourself too!

Method 2
Greening Your Stationery

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    Start with your pencils. Choose eco-friendly colored pencils, graphite pencils, and fine point pencils. These will be obvious from the labeling.
    • Look for pencils that use plantation timber.
    • Check that the lead and the eraser are also eco-friendly.
    • You might consider a refillable pencil; you simply add more lead as needed without throwing away the pencil cover.
    • Many pencil manufacturers are proud of their sustainability reputation and will make this clear on their website and advertising.
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    Choose pens and markers with care. Recycled pens and markers are available in some stores and countries. There are also pens made from wood or bamboo outers, making them less harmful when recycled.
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    Buy recycled paper and notebooks. There are plenty of choices, sometimes these are the only choice.
    • Reuse paper and notebooks leftover from the previous year. You can always cover old notebooks with plain paper or recycled paper to make it look new again.
    • Use recycled printer paper.
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    Look for eco-friendly binders. Avoid binders covered in plastic and prefer those made from cardboard or that have eco-friendly credentials clearly marked.
    • Old binders can be covered with paper to give them another year of use. You could also repurpose thrift store binders rather than buying new ones.
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    Choose an eco-friendly diary, calendar and wall chart. Look for such items that are made from recycled paper. Some companies specialize in making these products from eco-friendly materials.
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    Avoid stationery items made from PVC. PVC is made from chemicals that are harmful to the environment. To know which products are free from PVC, you can download a "Back-to-School Guide for PVC-Free School Supplies" published by the Center for Health, Environment and Justice.[1]
    • PVC items will have the number 3 recycling symbol on them; or the letters PVC or V underneath the symbol.

Method 3
Choosing Eco-Friendly Bags and Lunch Gear

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    Purchase or make eco-friendly bags. Choose a backpack made from recycled or repurposed materials, such as bags made from recycled drink bottles.
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    Consider making your own pencil case/bag. Plastic or PVC pencil cases aren't ideal for the environment. Instead, if you make your own, you can use scrap fabric or repurpose old fabric. Or check out stores that sell things made by Fair Trade communities. There will often be fabric pencil cases made by hand sold in such places. You will be supporting people in need, as well as helping the planet.
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    Choose lunch items that are environmentally conscious. There are lots of good options that will help you to be eco-wise at lunchtime, including:
    • Reusable bottles: There are many decorative choices for water bottles that can be reused. Choose bottles that are BPA free for the sake of your health.[2]
    • Reusable sandwich bags: Instead of throwing out plastic sandwich bags each day, use bags that can be cleaned and reused daily.
    • For the container: Either make your own lunch bag from cloth or find eco-friendly ones, such as washable tote bags.

Method 4
Greening Your Uniform

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    Be aware that you may not be able to change much here, at least not for now. If you have a regulation uniform supplied by a precise supplier, you'll have to go with that. But if the uniform is one that you piece together in the right colors or styles, then you can try to choose eco-friendly options, such as organic cottons, bamboo fiber and Fair Trade made gear.
    • Instead of buying brand new, buy secondhand uniforms to ensure that the clothing that already exists gets the most wear.
    • Even if you can't make changes, consider lobbying the school to shift to eco-friendly and Fair Trade clothing suppliers in the future. Perhaps this could make an excellent school project?
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    Avoid unnecessary items. Only purchase what you know you'll wear and need. Having too many items is a waste of precious resources and more cleaning work for you!

Method 5
Greening Your Locker

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    Keep your locker simple. Avoid sticking plastic based stickers on it or using up paper unnecessarily to decorate it. Try reusing paper as much as possible if adding paper decorations. Look for old magazines and books in thrift stores to repurpose as posters, etc.
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  • If you're buying back to school supplies and you started a week before school started and can't find some of the things, then try to find the closest thing. Or look online to find things quickly.
  • Cover books with recycled or brown paper. Avoid using plastic or adhesive plastic book covering, unless it's guaranteed eco-friendly.
  • Look for the eco-friendly label and/or a recycled label on the packaging, that will make choosing items easier.
  • While many stationery stores will stock eco-friendly items, you might find more variety in stores that specialize in environmentally friendly products, vegan products and alternative health products.
  • Like something but don't know if it's eco-friendly? Contact the manufacturer. And there's no harm asking them why something isn't eco-friendly too!
  • If you use printer ink, recycle your cartridges. Use ink refills where possible.


  • Don't force anyone to go out of their way to do this. Be persuasive, not bossy.
  • Make sure you're not going overboard with the money, make sure you're still in your budget. There's a difference between changing the world and changing the amount of money in your wallet/purse!

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