Go green when you go back to school

Millions of students, from kindergarten through college, are heading back to class, and the start of a new school year is always accompanied by the need for new stuff.

This is a costly time for families; the National Retail Federation estimates an average of $635 per student is spent on back to school apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics. In addition to looking for what’s chic or cheap, students and parents might also want to consider having a lighter impact on the environment.

Here are some “CliffsNotes “on how to be a little more eco-friendly this fall:

  1. Tap into E-Tools: E-tools can make learning fun and accessible, and they are a good way to reduce paper use. Many textbooks and journal artiles are now offered for download on your e-reader or tablet, and most allow you to digitally highlight text, reducing the need to print out copies. There are even apps that allow you to create personalized practice tests and paperless flashcards. While e-tools offer new ways to learn, they also come with an environmental impact, through the use of electricity. Check out solar powered charging devices to go off the grid, or look to ENERGY STAR’s power management tips to keep your online impact low.
  1. Choose Sustainable Apparel & Accessories: If you’re shopping for this season’s fashions, choose companies and brands that are environmentally conscious. Check clothing tags to see if they contain organic cotton, hemp or recycled materials, like tees made from recycled plastic bottles. If you have gently used items, give them to charity or consignment so others have a chance to reuse. Or, recycle them at stores like H&M and receive a discount on new clothes.
  1. Buy Recycled Supplies: From No. 2 pencils to swiveling office chairs, you can find products containing recycled plastics, bamboo, or post-consumer content. If you must have bound books, buy them secondhand and sell them to the next class to continue the cycle of reuse. Remember to be on the lookout for the FSC Label (Forest Stewardship Council) – which means your paper is sourced from sustainable forests and responsible merchants. Here are additional tips on finding recycled content products.
  1. Use Better Light Bulbs: Studying into the wee hours of the night? CFL and LED light bulbs are super-efficient and built to last more than 5,000 hours! Learn more about your lighting choices.
  1. Host a Green Tailgate: Back to school also means back to sports. If you are planning to support your favorite team at a tailgate or house party, and are grilling out, remember gas burns cleaner than charcoal, which gives off twice the amount of CO2. Learn how to green your grill.
  1. Join a Carpool: Ask neighbors and friends going in the same direction to carpool. Working out a schedule will help you save on gas, emissions and mileage. Better yet, get a group to walk or bike to school. Look up Safe Routes to learn what bike routes are nearby. For more information, see these carpooling tips.
  1. Take Part in Environmental Action: If you are heading to college, check out opportunities with the Office of Sustainability, be a student rep on the campus environmental council, or plan green awareness events for your dorm.

Have fun getting ready for a new school year, but remember to consider your environmental impact when making purchases.  Also, please turn the lights off when you go out!