It’s that time of the year again. As the back-to-school season approaches, the excitement of shopping for new school supplies fills the air. But, amidst the excitement, the environmental impact of our choices is often overlooked.
From excessive packaging to the disposal of unused items, shiny supplies can quickly end up in landfills. Our shopping habits can leave a lasting mark on our planet, but we have the power to make a difference through sustainable choices.
So, why not consider making fresh pencils and crisp notebooks more sustainable this year?
The Environmental Impact of Back-to-School Shopping
From the moment we click “add to cart” or scan school supplies in person, a cycle of waste begins.
Packaging, in particular, plays a major role in contributing to the ever-growing piles of trash in landfills. From excessive plastic wrapping to unnecessary boxes, our purchases can leave a lasting mark on the planet. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revealed that nearly one-third of the United States’ solid waste is made up of containers and packaging materials used to ship, store, and protect products.
On top of that, a common shopping habit known as “bracketing” makes matters even worse. The practice refers to consumers ordering multiple variations of the same item with the intention of keeping just one. Unfortunately, this leads to a substantial amount of waste in the form of returned items, most of which end up in landfills due to the challenges of inspecting and reselling each product.
Additionally, the production of synthetic plastics, materials commonly found in back-to-school supplies like fabrics, glitter, and erasers, has severe environmental consequences.
These plastics are derived from natural gas, coal, or crude oil and contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. But that fact does not seem to overshadow back-to-school deals. The National Retail Federation in the US is predicting back-to-school spending to hit a record high in 2023, leading to more environmental strain.
How to Shop for Sustainable Supplies
Thankfully, a growing awareness of environmental issues has led to an increase in eco-friendly school supplies. On the one hand, manufacturers are responding to consumer demands by producing sustainable alternatives to conventional products.
On the other hand, consumers are much more educated on the environmental impact of overbuying. So here are some tips on how to shop sustainably when looking for the best items to put on your school supply list:
Reuse Supplies from Last Year
The most sustainable option is often the simplest one – reuse what you already have! Before heading out to buy new supplies, take a look at the ones you have from last year. Many items like pens, pencils, backpacks, and notebooks can easily be reused for another year. This will not only save you money, but it will also reduce waste.
Fix the Supplies You Can
What if something happened to the supplies you have? Well, why not try to repair them instead of discarding them? Get creative with DIY solutions or find repair videos online to fix that broken zipper or torn pencil case. This will give new life to the items you purchased and reduce the need for buying new ones.
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Look for Second-Hand Options
If you find that some supplies need replacement, consider looking for second-hand options. Websites like Facebook Marketplace and other groups can be great resources for finding pre-loved stationery and office supplies.
Also, how about asking friends and family for any supplies they have lying around? They might have spare items they’d be happy to give away.
Look for Better Quality Supplies
When you do need to buy new supplies, focus on quality over quantity. Cheaply-made products may seem like a bargain, but they often don’t last long, leading to more waste. Opt for well-made and durable items, even if they come with a slightly higher price tag. Investing in better quality means fewer replacements and less overall waste.
Look for Sustainable Materials and Brands
Sustainability is not just about durability; it’s also about the materials used. Look for school supplies made from eco-friendly materials like metal, wood, or recycled plastic. Brands that prioritize sustainability and ethical practices are the ones to support. Choosing products made from recycled materials or renewable resources can make a significant difference in reducing your ecological footprint.
It’s easy to get carried away during back-to-school shopping and buy more than you actually need. Make your school supplies list before going out to a store or opening your browser, and stick to it. Avoid impulse purchases and consider the essentials that will genuinely be used throughout the school year. By buying only what you need, you prevent unnecessary waste and clutter.
Embracing sustainability doesn’t mean sacrificing style or convenience; it means making more thoughtful decisions that benefit our planet and future generations. By reusing, choosing eco-friendly brands, and avoiding overconsumption, we can create a greener back-to-school season and set an example for future generations.
Let’s make this year’s school supplies not just about the learning journey but also about fostering a love and respect for the place we all call home.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: School supplies. Featured Photo Credit: Unsplash.