Wooden pens, a recyclable notebook and a lunch box on a green background

Go green when shopping for school supplies (Picture: Etsy/Amazon)

The back to school shop is an exciting outing for most families.

It involves spending hours upon hours looking for the perfect notebook, pens and pencil cases, along with a beautiful backpack that you can carry all your new goodies in.

Supermarkets are notorious for slashing prices a few weeks before students return to their desks, and while it may be tempting to simply grab whatever is cheapest, it’s worth considering whether the purchase you’re about to make is also sustainable.

Ask yourself questions such as: can that beautiful striped notebook be recycled?

What sort of plastic is this lunch box made? What materials have been used to make your schoolbag – and are any of them damaging to the environment?

Here are our top tips on how to do a sustainable school shop.

Make a list before you go shopping

The saying goes, don’t go food shopping when you’re hungry – because you’ll end up with far more in your cart than you intended.

The same applies to school supplies.

It’s very likely that you’ll end up surrounded by biros and multi-packs of items you don’t really need, if you go shopping in a rush.

Save yourself the headache and the money: make a list before venturing out to the store.

Do your research

Many people wrongly believe that to be sustainable, you also need to fork out a lot of money – this isn’t necessarily the case, as there are many brands that sell environmentally-friendly products at a decent price.

Once you have your list ready, go online and make notes of stores or products that are eco-friendly.

On Etsy, you can get personalised products like a striped notebook made from recycled paper and recycled ink for just £2.75. The seller even offers the option of ‘plastic free packaging’, to reduce plastic waste.

Or how about a 10-pack of eco-friendly, recyclable and vegan pens for £12.37?

And if you’re packing lunches or snacks for your kids every day and opting for plastic boxes, look at what kind of chemicals these are made from. They may be harmful to both you and the environment.

Brown sustainable notebook on a white background

The bumblebee notebook is made from recycled paper (Picture: Etsy)

There are some great alternative options like BPA-free collapsible silicone food boxes from RedBee that are currently on sale for £10.99.

If you’d rather shop in store, that’s absolutely fine, but if you know which supermarket or retailer you’re going to visit, why not read up about them first? Take a look at their ‘about us’ page to see if they have any environmentally-friendly initiatives in place.

Swap materials and make small changes

If you feel you can’t afford to go green or prefer a particular brand that isn’t all that eco-friendly, there’s always the option of changing what type of products you buy.

Instead of going for a wirebound notebook or a plastic lunch box, is there a similarly priced option that is slightly better for the environment?

As an example, you could go for this £12.99 lunch box made from wheat fibre – it’s fully biodegradable – or get an iPhone case made from sustainable wood, sold in recyclable packaging, from Paperchase (though it’s a bit pricey at £35).

It’s OK if you can’t make every purchase green, but even one small change makes a difference.

Buy less now, more later

So you went to shop without a list. It happens.

But instead of going all out and getting everything for fear that you might forget something, buy the essentials first.

If it turns out that your child needs a calculator (some schools may well supply them) pop into the store a day later to pick one up – don’t just grab one because you assume it’s necessary.

Even better, call their teacher and ask whether you could get a list of all required items for the next school year (if you don’t already have one).

That way, you save money, time and the environment.

The responsibility doesn’t just lie with parents and their kids

It’s not just families who should look closer at what products they buy.

Businesses can also do their part by opting for eco-friendly alternatives such as Pavillion Earth, a brand that sells recycled notebooks and paper clips, as well as wooden pens or Everything Branded, an online retailer that lets you bulk-buy eco-friendly products with promotional messages for a cheap price.

Doing a sustainable shop, whether on your own or as a business, is much easier than you might imagine – and the pay-off (helping the environment) is great.

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