Getting back to school, and into sustainability

By Lee Hayes Byron, Sophia Moundous, and Randall Penn
UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County

It’s back to school time across Sarasota County, and a good time to mix a little sustainability into the race back to the classroom.

We’ve compiled a list of tips that will help you help the environment (and maybe even save some money) as you dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s to get the students in your home ready for another school year.

School Supplies
  • Start by searching the house to determine what school supplies you already have from previous years before going out to buy more.
  • Buy green school supplies and art supplies that are made of Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood, recycled content, free of toxins, and similar.
  • Purchase paper products with the highest percentage recycled content you can find (minimum 35 percebt, but 100 percent usually is available).
  • If cleaning supplies for the classroom are on your list, buy supplies that are certified by entities like Green Seal, Safer Choice or other “green” third parties.
  • Consider donating school supplies to social service organizations for low-income families or volunteering at local supply giveaway events.
  • Donate clothes and other items from the previous year
  • Look for ways to eliminate single-use plastics in classroom/school supplies and lunch items.
  • Re-purpose and reuse all that you can before buying new products.
  • Look for supplies and clothes from second-hand stores or from other families with children that are a little older and growing out of their clothes.
  • If you’re buying new clothes or book bags, try to buy items with little to no synthetic fibers in the fabric. They can release polluting microplastics into the water when washed.
  • Make textbook covers from paper bags and decorate them together.
  • Use reusable shopping bags when buying supplies and lunch items
  • Ensure you have enough reusable lunch containers and water bottles for the full week to avoid needing to use disposable plastic items. In addition to reusable containers, there are many new types of reusable sandwich bags or wraps that are easily washable and durable. (See link in the resources section below for a recipe for DIY Beeswax wraps.)
  • Buy sustainable and healthy food choices for lunches. Buy in bulk and try to avoid snacks that come in individual packages. Try to avoid plastic as much as possible for packed lunches.
  • Pack your lunch in re-usable containers rather than plastic or paper bags.
  • How will you get to school? If close enough, identify a safe route to walk or bike. Many communities coordinate “walking school buses,” where families take turns walking the youth to school together.
  • Practice the route before the first day to ensure you are comfortable and have all the right equipment and safety gear.
  • If driving, consider carpooling with others in your neighborhood.

Posted: August 2, 2019

Category: Conservation, Natural Resources
Tags: Back-to-school, Conservation, Pgm_Sustain, Pgm_Waste, Recycle, School, Sustainability, Transportation

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