Green Tips For The Trip Back To School

Article courtesy of the St. Louis Regional Clean Air Partnership

With August now underway, kids across the region are preparing to say goodbye to summer vacation and gear up for the start of another school year. The rush is on to fill supply lists and find the perfect back-to-school outfit. Amid all the hustle and bustle, the environment may not be top of mind, but there are a variety of easy ways to kick off the school year in a greener way and reduce our impact on the planet.

When it comes to school supplies, choosing to reuse supplies from the previous school year or utilizing any supplies that may already be around the house is the most eco-friendly and economical option. For students that prefer new supplies each year, retailers now offer many supplies made from green materials. The list includes recycled and chlorine-free paper and notebooks, pencils made from recycled newspaper and cardboard, soy crayons, biodegradable pens made from cornstarch or recycled paper and scissors made with recycled content. Even backpacks have gone green, with a variety of them now made from recycled rubber or natural fibers like hemp, instead of traditional oil-based nylon and plastics.

Clothing is another back-to-school staple, and there are lots of ways to send kids to class in style in an earth-friendly way. A trip to a gently used or vintage clothing store can be a great alternative to purchasing brand new clothes. For those choosing to hit the mall, there are several companies that specialize in sustainable clothing made from organic cotton and natural fibers. Many of these items are colored with natural dyes and can include features like recycled zippers and buttons.

Once the first day of school arrives, there are a number of ways to green the commute to class. For kids that live close to school, walking and biking are ecofriendly options that also provide students with a chance to get some exercise. The school bus is also an environmentally friendly option that continues to get even greener, with increasing numbers of school districts purchasing hybrid busses. If driving kids to school is the only transportation option, parent carpools can help reduce the environmental impact of the school commute.

Packing a lower-waste lunch is another simple way to go green, and there are countless ways to make lunchtime a more eco-friendly experience. Start by ditching disposable bags and containers and replacing them with a lunchbox or reusable lunch bag. Waste can also be reduced by trading paper napkins for cloth ones and plastic utensils for reusable ones. And while kids love single-serving juice boxes and snack packs, they create lots of unnecessary waste. Purchasing food and drinks in larger containers and creating lunch portions from them is a greener way to keep kids full and the environmental impact low.

“While back-to-school time is an exciting time for kids and parents alike, it can be really tough on the environment and our air quality,” said Susannah Fuchs, Senior Director of Environmental Health for the American Lung Association of the Plains-Gulf Region.

“But, it’s important to remember that the simple steps we take to consume less, reduce waste, purchase greener products and commute in a smarter way can make a big difference in lessening our environmental impact and helping our region breathe easier now and all year long.”

To learn more about how your efforts to live greener can help improve our air quality, visit www.cleanairstlouis.com, or send an e-mail to sfuchs@breathehealthy.org.