Eco Back to School: Recycling Classroom Supplies

enviro girlAccording to the National Retail Federation, the average family will spend $634.78 on apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics back-to-school shopping this year.  While the bulk of this money will be spent on clothing and shoes, demand for school supplies remains steady.  How can you conserve money and resources when outfitting your students this year?All eco-warriors know that reusing and recycling is the greenest choice, so you should start there when filling your kids’ backpacks for the first day of school.  Enviro Girl cleans, sorts and stores her boys’ supplies at the end of each school year–a huge box holds the unused glue sticks, scissors, partially used spiral notebooks, protractor, calculator and so forth. She tears out the “used” notebook pages.  She dumps the crayons (seriously, when you buy the requisite 2 boxes per kid per year, they really add up. Ditto for pencils and markers.) and markers into a bag and scrubs the pencil boxes. She begins this year’s school supply shopping from this box. Her children always reuse:


pencil boxes

crayons (as long as they’re decent and all colors are represented, they can go into the pencil box or into a baggie)

colored pencils (again, sharpen them and select one of every color and put into the pencil box or a baggie)

markers (test them, throw out any duds and put the rest into the pencil box or baggie)



lunch boxes



dry-erase boards



Supplementing the consumable school supplies, like notebooks and folders, glue sticks, erasers, pencils, pens, highlighters and watercolors, makes up the rest of your back to school shopping.  You can repurpose old folders and notebooks easily, kids can personalize them with stickers or their own artwork to cover old labels on the covers.

The biggest savings Enviro Girl found with her older sons came in buying folders.  Instead of buying several individual 2-pocket folders, she buys accordion file folders so they can keep everything in one place.  Not only does this cost less than individual folders, her sons can use accordion file folders a few years in a row before they wear out.

Buying quality and wisely recycling school supplies can take a big chunk out of the expense of sending kids back to school.

Tell the Eco Women: Do you recycle school supplies to ease up on your back-to-school spending?


3 thoughts on “Eco Back to School: Recycling Classroom Supplies

  1. I think the supply lists definitely get easier the older the students are. We don’t need crayons, scissors, and glue sticks anymore. Mostly, it’s just paper, notebooks, and pencils. And yes, we definitely reuse what we have at home first.

  2. Thank you for posting this! This was the way of things when my children were in school. I cringed when a neighbor said, “Oh, I just take the list and go out and buy everything.” Gah! Her way is expensive, un-environmental, and doesn’t get the kids involved at all.
    By the way, when the folders are on sale or you have extras you’re not going to use, donate to a classroom teacher or guidance counselor. There are always families who can’t afford supplies.

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