5 Green Tips to Kick-Start the School Year
Ok, I know that for most of us, the priority is just to GET OUR KIDS BACK TO SCHOOL this year! After the unprecedented interruptions to schooling (and life in general!) in 2020 and 2021, we all have our fingers, toes and pencil cases crossed that things will run more smoothly in 2022. When it comes to back-to-school, there is a huge amount of STUFF involved. That’s what makes the start of the school year the perfect opportunity to make some sustainable changes. As always, my ethos is progress, not perfection. Don’t feel like you need to become Captain Planet overnight and change up everything in your children’s schoolbags! How about choosing one of these five ideas to kickstart the school year more sustainably?
1 The lunchbox feels like a good place to start. Let’s hope that when you pull out the school bags you don’t find the remains of last year’s unemptied lunchbox! I’m very happy to report that there are some amazing sustainable solutions for lunchboxes. Bento lunchboxes have compartments inside them, so you don’t need to wrap everything individually, or resort to expensive prepackaged snacks. Some bentos are even leakproof, meaning you can pop yoghurt or hummus straight in. Another great option is to skip the plastic altogether with a stainless-steel lunchbox. They tend to be a little more expensive, but they absolutely make up for it in terms or durability. My kids have each been given a stainless-steel bento lunchbox when they started school (fifth birthday present… check!), and the expectation is that it will last their entire primary schooling (and beyond hopefully). At the risk of jinxing ourselves, so far we are on track. Lunchbox hack: Magnets make great decorations for stainless-steel lunchboxes!
Something that we are adding to our routine this year is a lunch flask! My kids are frustratingly fussy when it comes to sandwiches, so I struggle to get something substantial into their lunch. My plan with the flask is to give them something hot to eat like pasta, rice, soup (with bread to dunk) or leftovers. Our lunch flask (from Munch Cupboard) is double-walled, meaning it can keep food hot or cold, and it doesn’t feel hot to touch. We have been trying it out on some of our Italian picnics and are super impressed by how well it works!
Beeswax wraps, food pouches, reusable lunch bags and small reusable containers are other options for more sustainable lunchboxes.
2 Like our lunchboxes, we have opted for durable, stainless steel drink bottles. I find the simpler the better, I’ve been fooled in the past by little gizmos like ‘misters’ and fancy nozzles, only to find that they quickly break, rendering the entire drink bottle unusable. Stainless steel bottles keep water cold all day, and if you opt for a double walled one, it can also keep liquid hot… a perfect alternative to a thermos! I use a permanent marker to write my child’s name on the bottom of the bottle, and sometimes my phone number too.
3 Regardless of whether your kids’ school is uniform or mufti, there are some sustainable (and cost-saving!) options when it comes to school attire. Look out for secondhand uniforms on Trademe, Facebook Marketplace, preloveduniforms.co.nz, local Facebook pages or at your school’s own secondhand shop. The same goes for sports’ uniforms. My kids pretty much live in secondhand clothes, mainly hand-me-downs, and some op-shop purchases. As I spend so little on their clothing, it means that from time to time I am happy to invest in a quality, sustainable garment that they need. At the risk of sounding like a school newsletter; remember to name your child’s clothing! That way, when (and I use when rather than if intentionally) they lose an item, it can hopefully find its way back to them!
4 Did you know that every year, six billion pens that still work are thrown away? Depending on how your school organizes stationary, you may not have much say in the matter, but if you do, here are a few tips. Have a good hunt through what you already have before you go stationary shopping. You’ll probably find that you can tick off a lot of the items without spending a cent. When you do need to buy new, don’t get lured into buying things on sale that they don’t absolutely need. Sure, a 5 cent notebook is a pretty amazing deal (technically called a ‘loss leader’, intended to act as a draw card to get you into the store), but if they don’t actually need it, then is it really a good deal? And do you really need a ten pack of glue sticks, or will they just lose them ten times as quickly? School bags themselves are a tricky one. As with everything, the most sustainable school bag is the one that you already own! But if your child needs a new one, then your best bet it to opt for a good quality one, with a decent warrantee, that will last them years.
5 A final way to up your eco ante: transportation. Is there one thing you can do to cut the emissions of your school drop offs and pick ups? Perhaps walking, cycling or scootering could be on the cards. Taking the bus, or joining the walking school bus? Ride-sharing with neighbours? Start with one day a week and see how it goes. It’s not about turning your entire life upside-down, it’s about taking small steps that work with, or perhaps even enhance your life. I know that the days I walk home from school with my kids are the days that we have the best chats. All of a sudden they want to tell me everything about their day, as opposed to the grunts I’m generally treated to in the car.
So the bag is packed and school is OPEN (all that finger, toe and pencil case crossing worked!) You’ve survived the school holidays, and the intense times that preceded them. We don’t know what 2022 will bring, but for now, as you send your children off, enjoy the moment and be proud of what you’ve all done (even if that is just survive!). Here’s to a more unlocked, predictable, and perhaps a little-bit-greener 2022!
Binfluencer, The Great Eco Journey