EDITOR’S NOTE: EACH TUESDAY MY GREEN SIDE BRINGS SIMPLE TIPS FOR GREEN LIVING TO THE CHRISTOPHER GABRIEL PROGRAM. WE ALSO HIGHLIGHT A FAVORITE GREEN SITE EACH WEEK. YOU CAN STREAM THE SEGMENT AT APPROXIMATELY 1220PM (CENTRAL) EVERY TUESDAY AT WDAY.COM OR, IF YOU’RE IN NORTH DAKOTA OR WESTERN MINNESOTA, LISTEN ON YOUR RADIO AT AM970 WDAY.
GREEN TIP: Green this year’s back-to-school shopping by reusing last year’s supplies, buying items that contain recycled materials and packing a waste-free lunch.
According to National Retail Federation’s (NRF) 2014 Back-to-School Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, the average family with children in grades K-12 will spend $669.28 on apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics, up 5 percent from $634.78 last year. Total spending on back to school will drop slightly to $26.5 billion as the survey found there are slightly fewer students in households this summer.
Combined spending for back to school and college is expected to reach $74.9 billion. To find out more information, check out their infographic on this year’s back to school numbers, https://nrf.com/news/infographic-top-2014-back-school-and-college-trends.
Here are some ways to make your back-to-school shopping a little greener while helping you to be below average when it comes to your spending this year:
- Reuse last year’s supplies. Go through the school supplies you already have at home before you hit the stores. Chances are, there are items that you can reuse. Backpacks, lunch boxes, magnets, locks and so on.
- And while you’re going through your home stash of supplies, don’t throw away unwanted items, gather up extra pens, pencils, rubber bands, paper clips and the like for donation to a local elementary school or to nonprofit organizations that accept school supplies.
- If there are supplies you have to buy new, make sure the items is made with recycled materials, including paper, backpacks and pencils, etc. Look for pens and pencils made with sustainably harvested wood or recycled content.
- Avoid polyvinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl) plastic school supplies. PVC is unique among plastics because it contains dangerous chemical additives. These harmful chemicals include phthalates, lead, cadmium, and/or organotins, which can be toxic to your child’s health. Look for PVC-free lunch boxes, binders, backpacks and other school supplies. Download the Center for Health, Environment & Justice’s (CHEJ) Back-to-School Guide to PVC-free School Supplies.
- Pack a waste-free lunch. Here are some tips from our friends at Litter Free Lunch:
- Replace brown paper bags with a reusable lunch box or bag (remember to avoid PVC lunch boxes).
- Swear off plastic bags and use stainless steel food containers.
- Switch from disposable paper napkins to reusable cloth napkins.
- Give up the habit of disposable water bottles and replace it with a reusable stainless steel water bottle. If you buy a plastic reusable bottle, make sure it’s BPA-free. Bisphenol A (BPA) is a hormone-disrupting chemical that can impact health at even very low exposures.
- Skip disposable plastic cutlery and pack a reusable spoons or forks.
- Save money by avoiding individually wrapped or packaged items like yogurt, cheese, cookies or crackers. Buy larger sizes and pack portions in reusable containers.
- Organic apples, oranges, bananas and other fruits are healthy additions to any lunch and they come in their own compostable wrapping.
- Create a weekly meal plan in advance so you can get everything you need in one trip, this will save time, gas money and reduce your carbon footprint. Also, keep a running list of needed items on the fridge, which will help you stay organized to avoid multiple, last-minute car trips.
- Explore options to safely bike and walk to school or find a classmate willing to carpool.
- Check thrift stores for reusable school supplies like binders and backpack and back-to-school clothes, giving good-quality, one-of-a-kind fashions a second life.
Visit their blog for insightful conversations about environmental health and justice at http://chej.org/backyard-talk/ and make sure to download the Center’s Back-to-School Guide to PVC-free School Supplies. They also have a convenient pocket-sized guide you can take with you while you’re shopping.