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The National Retail Federation estimates that parents collectively spend more than $18 billion in school gear in a year. Easily reduce these costs by recycling old school supplies. Supplies such as binders and folders can be reused from year to year or passed down from one class to the next.
This practice not only saves a lot of money, but teaches the value of the three R’s. Thrift stores have piles of items that are practically brand new. What better lesson can be taught in or out of the classroom than how to practice closing the recycling loop. If you can’t find what you need secondhand or used, check out this selection of innovative recycled school supplies.
Basics: Pens and Pencils
Most pens are not recyclable or refillable, but the Pentel line of Recycology products offers alternatives. Their containers are made from a minimum of 50%, and up to 100%, recycled content or post-consumer recycled content, excluding some refills. This environmentally responsible line of products also includes markers, pencils, lead, and tape. BIC has even calculated that the fuel consumed by a low-powered car over 100 km requires as much oil as needed to produce the plastic for 3,200 BIC pens!
Who needs wood for pencils? There are other pencils that are made from rolled up pieces of recycled newspapers where you can see the newspapers when you sharpen them! According to the Smencils website, it takes an entire cedar tree to make 172,000 pencils, while it takes only 430 newspapers to make Smencils. Plus they smell nice: root beer, bubble gum, grape- for two years.
Another alternative: denim blue jean rulerst that are made from reclaimed old denim from blue jeans. If you are more of a traditionalist, 100% recycled wood pencils are easy to find at places like Office Depot.
Beyond recycled pens, pencils and paper, there are also items like highlighters made with over 70% real post-consumer plastic from old CDs and cell phones. Crayons made from soybean oil and contain no petroleum wax or animal products. A box of 8 only costs 50 cents! Check out our article on how to recycle old crayons to learn ideas on how make your own. For backpacks, there are some made from recycled water bottles woven into polyester, and even ones made from potato chip wrappers.
The Center for Health, Environment, and Justice (CHEJ) released a helpful resource with their Back-to-School Guide to PVC-Free School Supplies. Read up on the studies about PVC and toxicity to get involved with their campaign for safer plastic.
Large companies and big box stores may market a small line of recycled products, but the majority of their business is selling chlorine-bleached paper made from clear-cut forests, or other products that are not easy to recycle. That being said, their products might be more affordable or easier to find than others, so if you have the choice, choose 100% recycled or other items made with post-consumer content. Notebooks containing at least 30% post-consumer content are a good start, but try for 100%.
Sweet Discounts on Cool School Supplies
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A huge selection of products for school including backpacks, laptop cases, notebooks, and markers is online at the Ultimate Green Store. There’s a Teens & Dorm section with age-appropriate school supplies and gear found there too.
For school lunches, consider waste-free, reusable lunch containers that are BPA, phthalates and PVC-free, fully recyclable and made with recycled content.
Get FREE SHIPPING on Guided Products’ “Back To School” Green School Supplies Kit.