Photo: Buy (less) better back-to-school supplies

School supplies. (Credit: mytudut via Flickr)

As summer holidays end, it's easy to get caught up in the back-to-school supply frenzy of greener paper (100 per cent post consumer recycled paper) and PVC-free supplies (avoid #3 plastics). All good stuff!

It's what inspired this week's green and cool $300 back-to-school giveaway. And I thought it would be the subject of this post.

But when I asked our Better Back to School brigade for their school supply suggestions, they told a different story: It's not so much about what we buy as how we buy, how much we buy and why.

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Back-to-school is now the second biggest consumer season in Canada. In 2010 we spent over $123 million on school supplies and $206 million on text books. Solving global eco-challenges means changing our consumption habits, not just shifting to green spending.

Here's how to buy fewer back-to-school supplies:

  1. Stick to your list: Assess what's needed. Make a list. Stick to it. (Now make a "one-gimme" rule. It's easier to manage impulse buying if you — and your family — agree on the rules for cheating.)
  2. Get the family on board: Explain to your family why buying less is important and the whole family to join you. You might be surprised at the commitment your kids will make if they understand the why (and they see how cool waste-free lunches can be!)
  3. School-ordered school supplies: Lots of families buy supplies through the school. Talk to your administration or PAC now and get a jump greening next year's supplies!
  4. New to you is better than brand new: Make this a guiding principle for back-to-school clothes. Shop at thrift stores, host a clothing swap at school or work, or find a family with hand-me-downs!
  5. Waste free: Last week the Better Back to School brigade made waste-free lunches number one in our top ten tips for a better back to school. A Little Bit of Momsense has more suggestions.
  6. Waste less: Extend the life of school supplies! Buy quality items, teach kids to take care of their stuff and try these waste-less practices for home and the classroom.
  7. Model good behaviour: The Green Moms Collective challenges teachers to buy less gas and embrace pedal power. I challenge us all to do the same!

Tovah Paglaro, a fellow Queen of Green

P.S. Yes, I recognize the irony in posting this amazing green back-to-school giveaway! But it's awesome, and the good folks at Terra20 are so generous and — let's face it — you (and I) want this!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

September 1, 2013

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Sep 03, 2013
4:22 PM

Yay for thrifty and sustainable supply shopping!

Sep 03, 2013
4:21 PM

We save partially used and unused supplies and roll them over to the next year’s supply list. It saves dollars. It was more difficult in the elementary years as the students brought supplies and they were all placed in a collection at the teacher’s disposal…we didn’t get a return of the unused supplies those years. Now with middle school we do and it saved me about $100

Sep 03, 2013
9:10 AM

I’m going to the Dollar Store for my sons school supplies

Sep 02, 2013
3:11 PM

A lot of these posts seem to be directed at parents shopping for their children, but even as an adult university student I am finding a lot of these tips super practical and thrifty — the latter is especially practical on a student budget.

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