Whether the fall brings your learning home or back to school, the classroom is going to look different for many parents and students this year. But no matter where and how you learn, there are still ways to make this school year a little more sustainable – from eco-friendly school supplies to plastic free lunch essentials. Join us as we dive into some of our favorite ways to reduce waste while at school (or work!)
Pens, pencils, highlighters, markers…. and more! This year more than ever, it will be important to ensure you or your children have their own school supplies, as sharing supplies in the classroom will likely be discouraged. But, before you go out and buy a bunch of things, first do some digging at home! Check junk drawers, reach out to family members, and gather pens and notebooks that you can reuse – you’ll be surprised how many supplies might be hiding in your home! If you absolutely need something new, opt for more sustainable options made from ethical materials – not virgin plastic.
Pens + Pencils
When it comes to pens, we love options like this one – it’s made from wheatgrass, and can be refilled for years of use. You could also go for a bamboo pen, which utilizes naturally renewable bamboo wood instead of plastic! If you like the look and feel of classic plastic pens, opt instead for something made out of recycled plastic like this option, which helps keep waste out of our landfills!
For your pencils – decide if you want to use mechanical or classic pencils. You can get refillable mechanical pencils like these made from recycled plastic, or go for classic pencils like Sprout pencils that can be planted into herbs and flowers when you’re done with them. How cool is that? Looking for some color? We have these colored pencils from Sprout, as well as these recycled newspaper colored pencils! And don’t forget your natural rubber erasers!
Staying organized is important for success in the classroom, work, and just life! The good news is that there are a variety of ways to stay organized, from bullet journals that let you customize your organization, to planners that have all the days planned out for you.
This blank notebook is great for artists, while this lined notebook is a classic. Plus, they’re all made from stone-paper, which is naturally water-resistant and tear-resistant, perfect for wear and tear! Have old books, magazines, or notebooks you need to recycle to make room for new options, but not sure how to recycle them? Grab the TerraCycle Zero Waste Box for books, magazines and notebooks here!
Your school supply list may contain some other essentials – like glue, scissors, you name it. On EarthHero, we have an eco-friendly alternative for everything on your list. Grab some sticky notes made from recycled paper to stay organized, liquid glue made from non-toxic ingredients, and scissors made from recycled plastic. For the office, we love bamboo, not plastic, push pins. Plus, check out this bamboo wireless mouse! Shop our entire school supply category here.
Bags + Backpacks
Keeping all of your supplies organized is key to a successful year. For pens and pencils, grab a supply case like this one made from recycled polyester! Pair it with an eco-friendly backpack that has pockets for all your essentials. Love LEGO? This bag is for you! Pro tip: make sure it’s big enough to fit your lunch bag or lunchbox, or get a carabiner to connect your lunch bag to the outside of the backpack.
The best time of the day is lunch time! Whether you’re at school, or enjoying your daily lunch break at work, lunch time can get especially wasteful if you’re not careful.
Let’s start with lunchboxes! Instead of using single-use paper or plastic bags (which really add up over time!) opt instead for a reusable lunch bag to hold all of your snacks and food. For younger kids, we love options like the Bunny Lunch Pack, or a funky LEGO Lunchbag. For a more mature look, we love this organic cotton lunch bag with a fun animal design, or a classic plain lunch bag like this one.
Next up, food storage! Depending on your typical lunch, you’ll need reusable utensils, some sort of reusable napkin, snack or sandwich bags, or maybe even a bento box.
For reusable utensils, we love this double sided bamboo utensil as it’s super easy to fit into a lunchbox, or a mini spork that’s super small and lightweight. For reusable napkins, this option made from organic cotton is perfect to add to your meal kit.
When it comes to snack or sandwich bags, there are so many options – and what you choose really depends on the type of snacks you plan to pack. Are they “wet” or dry? How much space do you need? This moldable sandwich wrap from Khala lets you shape the wrap to any snack or food, making it an awesome alternative to saran wrap. Another favorite is Stasher bags, a reusable and resealable bag that replaces plastic baggies and can be microwaved for easy lunch warm-ups. If you prefer the look and feel of single-use bags, you can also use BioBag sandwich bags, which are made from compostable materials instead of plastic. For sandwiches and salads, we love using bento boxes, which have different compartments for all your needs. And don’t forget a good reusable water bottle! Want more inspiration? Check out our entire lunch time category here.
Let’s face it: this year has been a little weird. Typically, we wouldn’t include a PPE section when referring to back to school, but if you’re heading back into the classroom or the office, it’s important to stay safe and protected. That said, traditional PPE can be pretty wasteful, from single-use masks to plastic packaged hand sanitizer.
Our PPE category has all a ton of sustainable alternatives to these necessities. Instead of a single-use mask, opt for a reusable organic cotton or hemp face mask – plus, they’re way comfier! For hand sanitizer, we have options packaged in aluminum and glass, with added ingredients like Vitamin E or aloe to keep your hands from drying out. These are super easy to slip into your backpack, so your family can ensure they can stay safe no matter where they’re learning this year.
Although this year may be a little different, you can still do your part to be as sustainable and mindful as possible when it comes to the things you’ll need for school or work.
This blog was originally published on August 5, 2020 and was most recently updated on October 27, 2022.