Students everywhere are preparing for the coming school year. For a lot of us, that means a flurry of consumerism—about $17.6 billion dollars worth nationwide—and we hope that you’ll take a mindful approach to your school supplies shopping. There are lots of exciting upcycled or sustainable products that can help make your carbon footprint a little shallower, and most of them wind up looking better and lasting longer than their wasteful alternatives. Here are a few of our favorite sustainably-motivated items for the 2015 school year.
Not only are most plastic or vinyl binders un-recyclable and produced from synthetic factory-made materials, but they also release dioxins into the atmosphere during the manufacturing process. For anyone else who is sick of tacky, toxic, and short-lived plastic binders that are destined for the landfill, we recommend Naked Binders, which not only out-last other binders but are produced from 100 percent certified post-consumer waste board. They’re also completely recyclable, and thoughtfully designed for superior appearance and function.
Klean Kanteen Water Bottles
A water bottle is a student’s best friend. When you’re at school or on campus all day, you need to stay hydrated, and a reusable water bottle is the perfect way to quench your thirst and stay green. Disposable plastic water bottles are one of the worst environmental offenders—replace it with a Klean Kanteen! Klean Kanteen produced the first 100 percent BPA-free stainless steel water water bottle in 2004, and their commitment to toxin-free reusable stainless steel bottles has lead to a great line of products that last a lifetime. Even their packaging is sustainably designed!
To-Go Ware 2-Tier Lunch Bag
The trash-free lunch is a challenge every student should aspire to meet. The wrappers from pre-packaged foods or single-use items like plastic silverware have an astonishing impact on landfills. You can work toward a trash-free lunch by preparing your own food from whole ingredients, using reusable utensils, containers, and cloth napkins, and drinking from a water bottle. The first step toward a trash-free lunch is a reusable lunch bag—we love To-Go Ware’s Cotton Carrier bag made from cotton scraps collected in India. More sustainable than bags made from virgin materials, this upcycled lunch tote is also completely washable.
Every student needs a #2 pencil, if not for note-taking, doodles, or free writes, then for those standardized tests or Scantron sheets. These #2 pencils from TreeSmart are a great upcycled alternative to wooden pencils. TreeSmart makes use of whole sheets of recycled newspaper for pencils that are as sturdy and easy to use or sharpen as wooden ones, but without the toll on our forests. And for the artists out there, they also make colored pencils!
Brooklyn & Madison Backpacks
We don’t want to be too self-serving, but our Brooklyn and Madison backpacks are two of our favorite products—they’re slick, tough, and unique, and can withstand just about anything. Students need a backpack that can protect their books, electronics, notes, cellphones, gym clothes, sandwiches, etc, but factory-produced materials aren’t necessarily the longest-lasting. With an exterior of upcycled bike tire tubes, our Alchemy bags keep contents dry, safe, and secure while re-purposing waste materials. And the lifetime guarantee means that you’ll never have to throw away another bag over a broken zipper or a ripped strap.
Good luck in class this year, Alchemists! We hope you’re able to check every box on your back-to-school list with a sustainable product you’ll love for years.