Back to School: Tips for the eco-friendly student

Keep environmental impacts in mind during this back to school season.  Photo via  flickr , used under creative commons.

Keep environmental impacts in mind during this back to school season.  Photo via flickr, used under creative commons.

With school sadly around the corner, it is time to think about back to school shopping. Before you start shopping, it is important to consider the toll the things we use takes on the environment. Imagine the huge mass of papers that comes from all of your notes, handouts, and essays that you end up tossing at the end of the school year. One way we can become greener at school is to invest in some green school supplies.

One of my personal favourites is the Seven Year Pen, produced by Seltzer Goods. Not only are these pens incredibly nice looking with fun doodles and designs on their clips , but as the name suggests, they are supposed to last seven years, which reduces the amount of pens a person may own that dry out over time and need to be thrown away. These pens are advertised to be able to write 1.7 metres a day before they clock out at the end of seven years.

Another stationary item that, like the Seven Year Pen, is nice to look at and good for the environment is the Decomposition book. As the cover of the books advertise, they have “100% post-consumer-waste recycled pages”.

Onyx and Green is a company that offers a whole range of school supplies for the environmentally minded soul out of “mostly recycled and natural materials”. For example, there are notecards made out of bamboo, rulers made out of corn or bamboo, and index strips and adhesive notes made out of water bottles. For the techies, there is even a wireless computer mouse made out of bamboo. On the website, you can browse a wide assortment of pens and writing instruments made from materials including milk cartons, bamboo, corn, and other recycled products.

Upcycling is a process where an object is reused in a way that restores and increases the value of the item. Terracycle is a company that does this to create bags, mostly from old wrappers. Through their online retailer, Dwellsmart, they are able to bring new life and purpose to items that would otherwise end up in the landfill. Instead of purchasing a bag made out of newer and unsustainable materials, you can order a tote or a messenger bag from this company that is decorated with the wrappers of some of your favourite snacks, like Larabars, Lunchables, or drink pouches.

Reusable water bottles are also something to consider when going back to school. Not only does this save you money in the long run as you don’t have to continuously buy packs of plastic bottles, which are intended for one time use, but it’s better for the environment as it prevents tons of plastic going to waste. Nevertheless, before you go crazy and buy a water bottle for every day of the week, read up on why the water bottles currently available are not the be all, end all solution for saving the world. While they are better than disposable bottles, the materials they are made from are not always sustainable and, the production of stainless steel - the popular metal for bottles - can also be problematic.

In all the excitement and stress of a new school year, with new classes and exams looming, it is very easy to forget about the world around us and the how our studying tools can affect this world --  because we are busy thinking about ourselves and worrying about whether we will make it through the year or not. Remembering to protect the world we live in while we try to learn is one of the keys to success and with the items mentioned here and countless others, both are possible in the classroom.

Emma Shou