In this column, staff at the Center for EcoTechnology offer advice on easy ways for people — and businesses — to introduce green changes in their daily lives.
Q: OK, it's back-to-school time. Buying new clothes and supplies, and figuring out lunches and transportation, is super stressful and can be so wasteful. How can I send my kids back to school in a way that is sustainable for my wallet and the environment?
A: This is definitely an important consideration for parents. We have a few tips to help you reduce the impact of back-to-school on the environment, your level of stress and your finances.
Before you buy anything new, see what you have left from last year. Recycle last year's notes and keep using any notebooks that still have blank pages. Reuse pens, glue, scissors, etc. On their own, these are small expenses, but they add up if you buy new every year. You'll declutter your home and save money while keeping those items out of a landfill. If you do buy new supplies, look for those made of recycled materials. It's a great way to reduce your environmental impact.
School wardrobes are another big cost. You can save by using hand-me-downs and shopping at a thrift store. When you have clothing that won't be worn again, give it a second life by donating it. If it can't be worn any longer, it can still be turned into a rag for industrial use, as opposed to be piled up in a landfill.
Getting to school is a great opportunity to reduce your carbon footprint. If you live far enough away to use the bus, have your child take the bus — most schools accommodate after-school activities with a busing solution. If you live closer, have your child walk or bike, or set up a carpool plan with another parent.
Lunch is another place to get sustainable. Buy a quality reusable, insulated lunch bag to replace disposable paper bags and use rigid plastic containers instead of plastic bags, plastic wrap and foil to contain your child's lunch. You'll save money, the food will travel better, and you'll reduce waste in a big way.
Finally, find out if your school participates in The Green Team., a free program of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection that empowers students and teachers to help the environment through waste reduction, recycling, composting, energy conservation, and pollution prevention. Participating teachers and schools are eligible for lesson plans, recycling equipment and more. Find out if your school participates, and if not, check out thegreenteam.org.
Happy back to school season to all students and parents from all of us at the Center for EcoTechnology. Have a great year!
Look out for this column every two weeks. Send Go Green questions to GoGreen@cetonline.org.