Getting ready for the school year

RecyclaRecycla is having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that her daughters start school next week. Where did the summer go?

Both daughters will be in high school this year, so the supply list this year is much shorter that in past years, which is making preparations so much easier.

Before Recycla took the girls shopping for supplies, they first went through the supply drawer in their kitchen and took inventory. They already had plenty of pencils and paper, so those were crossed off the shopping list. They discovered several binders, so those too were taken off the list. By the time the girls were done, they realized that they only needed to buy a few folders and some pens. That was it. Easy peasy.

Recycla and the other Eco Women are big fans of reusing school supplies and have saved quite a bit of money and resources over the years by doing so.

Colored-pencils-pencils-22186584-1600-1200For example, in the past, when both of Recycla’s daughters have needed colored pencils, they’ve sorted through the dozens and dozens they already had and pulled out what they need. After that, they put a rubber band around the pencils and store them into their pencil bags (also reused from previous years) until needed.

The same applies to other supplies. Recycla’s supply drawer is filled with old binders and barely-used notebooks, which her daughters reuse every year. And don’t even get Recycla started on the large number of #2 pencils in her house. After having children in school for more than a decade, she may never need to buy those again.

Once you’ve figured out which supplies you already have at home, you probably won’t need to buy as much at the store, which is a big savings of your money and time.

So where are you going to shop? Recycla is not going to lie to you, she makes a single trip to one of her local big box stores and gets it all done in one fell swoop. Luckily, places like Target, Staples, and Office Depot do have eco-friendly options. Whenever possible, she will buy recycled-content paper products and other eco supplies, provided that they’re not vastly overpriced. As for the rest, she’s not going to sweat it too much. Yes, she would like to be 100% eco, but no one is perfect, least of all Recycla.

There’s also the matter of life expectancy. Many eco-friendly supplies, such as binders are made of recycled cardboard, which is great, as they can be recycled once they start to fall apart. However, this also means that the binders’ lives will be short, as cardboard just does not hold up very well and rarely lasts the entire school year.

25724p_01Several years ago, Recycla bought some sturdier plastic binders and her daughters have been using those over and over again. The binders are plain, but every August, the girls decorate the fronts — usually by sliding pictures into the clear sleeves on the front covers. As they’ve gotten older, they’ve switched from cute puppies and rainbows to teen interests like  Benedict Cumberbatch and whomever is the latest Doctor Who..

One thing most students need is either a pencil box or a pencil bag.  Pencil boxes used to be made of cardboard, but now they’re pretty much all plastic.  While Recycla hates to buy plastic, it turns out that those boxes are nearly indestructible — her girls each got one in kindergarten that lasted all the way through 4th grade.  In 5th grade, they both needed pencil bags instead, so those pencil boxes are now used around the house to hold craft supplies, first aid items, and more.

As for those pencil bags, the vinyl ones should be avoided, as they barely last through the school year. Several years ago, the girls got sturdier fabric ones that have lasted well, with no signs of falling apart.

Regarding paper, the vast majority of conventional paper products have been bleached with chlorine to make them “paper white.” The problem is that this process creates dioxins.  Buy recycled, chlorine-free paper instead. If you can’t find paper that’s listed as chlorine-free, try to find some that contains recycled content.

Pocket folders, unfortunately, have a short shelf life. The cardboard ones often need replacing mid-year, while the plastic ones barely limp through until June. Recycla buys only cardboard folders and composts or recycles them when they’ve outlived their usefulness. Again, if you can find pocket folders made of recycled materials and the price difference isn’t too much, go ahead and buy those. Even though it’s a small purchase, they all add up and show manufacturers that consumers want more eco options.

Overall, Recycla is pleased by how many more eco-friendly supplies are available now than there were five or ten years ago.  Not only are there more supplies, but they are available in far more places and the prices have come down quite a bit.  She is heartened by this trend and hopeful to see even more good things a year from now.

Tell the Eco Women:  Will you be buying any eco supplies this year?

The Eco Women are not employed by any of the companies mentioned, nor were they paid to review these products. Photo credits: Yahoo Images.

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One thought on “Getting ready for the school year

  1. My kids are grown up now, but I remember the same dilemma. I made a point of reusing binders and searching out looseleaf paper we already owned before buying anything new. That also applied to my grad school program. It cost me a major bundle in tuition and books, but I at least saved a bit of money by reusing and recycling materials.

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