Environmentally Friendly School Supplies

Now that school is back in session, many students are shopping for back-to-school supplies. Are you concerned about the environmental impact of your school supplies? If so, here are some tips on how to find school supplies that are environmentally friendly!

First, search the house to find school supplies that you already own. Many students have pens, glue, and crayons that have only been used a few times; binders, backpacks, and pencil cases that were used the year before; and notebooks with blank pages. All of these supplies can be reused. Even if a school requires a student to buy all new school supplies for the classroom, the student can still keep the school supplies at home and use them for completing homework assignments, extracurricular activities, and arts and crafts projects.

There are a few things to look out for when checking if school supplies are environmentally friendly. For paper products, such as binder paper, notebooks, and folders, it is best to have a high percentage of post-consumer recycled content. Paper products that have zero to a low percentage of post-consumer recycled content contribute to deforestation of endangered forests. Also, look for paper that has not been brightened with chlorine because the extra chlorine in the industrial waste water contributes to pollution.  

When buying electronics, such as laptops and tablets, make sure that they have an Energy Star label. The Energy Star label certifies that they are 10%-25% more energy efficient than government standards. Another great resource for finding out about a product’s energy efficiency is the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT). The EPEAT score factors in the life cycle of the product, packaging, energy efficiency, the materials used, and the end life of the product. Try to buy electronics that run on solar power -- such as calculators and portable chargers. Look for printers that do not need to use much ink to print. When the ink runs out, certain ink cartridges and toners can be either recycled or refilled.

When it comes to textbooks, some options are more environmentally friendly than others. If you don’t actually need to keep the textbook after the class is over, consider renting or subscribing to online textbooks. If you have to buy the textbook, then try buying a used copy. Not only are these options often a lot less expensive, but they are a lot better for the environment too! When the semester is over students can often send textbooks back to the rental company or sell them back to the bookstore on campus.

Another tip is to buy reusable school supplies, rather than disposable ones. Mechanical pencils are often a better option than traditional wooden pencils because when the lead runs out it can be replaced without wasting extra wood. For school lunches, it is a good idea to invest in a reusable lunch bag, a water bottle, a thermos, and Tupperware, rather than wasting disposable paper bags, plastic bags, and water bottles.

Keep your eyes open at the end of the school year, as many office supply stores and school supply companies participate in initiatives to recycle old school supplies, such as pens, pencils, glue, markers, and binders. These supplies can be converted into plastic bins, more school supplies, and even liquid fuel used in cars and homes!

Written by Emily Wright


Elliott, Brianna. "So, Those School Supplies You've Hoarded Since Fifth Grade Can Be Recycled After All." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 06 Oct. 2016.

By. "Eco Friendly Electronics, Energy Efficient Electronics - Bob Vila." Bob Vila Green Machines EcoFriendly Electronics Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Oct. 2016.