As summer break winds down and the new school year fast approaches, preparing to return to school can be a chore. No one wants to think about that long list of supplies their teachers gave them while trying to soak up the last days of the summer.

Unfortunately, that is why most students rush through this process and end up with things they don’t need while aimlessly wandering through aisles of school supplies. Many of these items end up in landfills, contributing to deforestation and carbon emissions, so it’s essential to be mindful of back-school purchases. Plus, buying new things for school every year can be super expensive. However, BARC is here to help! With these eco-friendly back-to-school shopping tips for students, teachers, or parents, you can learn how to shop sustainably while protecting the planet and your pockets!

10 Ways to Be Environmentally Friendly at School

1. Reuse School Supplies From Last Year

One of the best ways to save money and the environment is to reuse school supplies from the year prior. We recommend inventorying your supplies before going to the store, so you know exactly what you’ll need to buy. Reusing items like a notebook you barely used or a lightly worn backpack is a great way to minimize your carbon footprint. You can also ask all your friends or family members if they have anything on your list that they don’t need anymore. You’d be surprised how many households have items you will need for school lying around!

2. Donate Supplies You Don’t Use or Need

At the end of every school year, there will be some things you won’t need for the following year. So instead of sticking them in a corner to collect dust, we recommend donating items you are no longer using! This way, someone else can use them for their school year instead of buying the item you already finished using.

3. Shop Second-Hand for School Supplies

When it comes time to start shopping for school supplies, we recommend starting your journey at your local second-hand shop or thrift store. Things on your list might already be on their shelves at a way better price than a general merchandise retailer. If you live in Northern Michigan, here are some of our top recommendations:

Kaleva Resale Shop

14407 Industrial Dr, Kaleva, MI 49645
Open Mon-Fri 9 am – 5 pm Sat 10 am – 5 pm

Kaleva Resale Shop has many excellent school supplies options, including backpacks, colored pencils, binders, planners, paper, calendars, clothing, and kids’ school desks for at-home learning!

Kaleva Resale Shop Supplies Kaleva Resale Shop Supplies Kaleva Resale Shop Supplies

Cherryland Humane Society Thrift

1258 W South Airport Rd, Traverse City, MI 49686
Open Mon-Sat 10am – 6pm

Women’s Resource Center

720 S Elmwood Ave #2, Traverse City, MI 49684
Mon-Sat 10 am – 6 pm Sun 11 am. – 5 pm

Goodwill Northern Michigan

2279 W South Airport Rd W, Traverse City, MI 49684
Mon-Sat 9 am – 7 pm Sun 11 am – 6 pm

4. Buy Eco-Friendly School Supplies

After stopping by your local thrift stores, a few things might still be on your shopping list. We recommend buying non-toxic and eco-friendly school supplies if you need to purchase anything new. Look for sustainable-made products like college-ruled recycled paper, eco-friendly notebooks for school, ethically made backpacks, and other eco-friendly school supplies.

5. Pack a Climate-Friendly Lunch

Packing a lunch at home is not only a healthier option, but it’s also more sustainable! Buying pre-made meals or ordering out creates a ton of waste from plastic packaging and cutlery, adding waste to landfills. To avoid this, we recommend bringing a lunch full of climate-friendly food choices using a reusable lunch tote, reusable cutlery, and Tupperware.

6. Shop Sustainable or Second-Hand Clothing

A new school year usually requires a new wardrobe, especially for the first day of school. However, fast fashion has a huge negative impact on the environment. Therefore, we recommend shopping for your clothes at second-hand stores or on an online marketplace like Depop, Poshmark, or ThredUp. If you want to purchase anything new, shop at sustainable and ethical clothing brands.

7. Buy Used Textbooks

Textbooks can be expensive, especially if you buy them brand new. We recommend buying all of your textbooks pre-loved, purchasing a digital copy, or renting them if the option is available. If you end up buying a used book, you can resell it at the end to make your money back and help out another student avoid buying one brand new. It’s a win-win!

8. Get a Reusable Water Bottle

Eliminating single-use plastic water bottles from your back-to-school routine is an easy way to have an eco-friendly school year. Approximately 1.2 million plastic water bottles are used worldwide every single minute. By switching to a reusable water bottle, you can be part of the solution to minimizing global plastic pollution!

9. Upgrade Your School Commute

The way you get to school is crucial when it comes to your carbon footprint. We recommend taking the bus if you have one, carpooling with a friend, riding your bike, or walking if the weather allows.

10. Get Involved

One of the best ways to have an eco-friendly school year is to get involved! Join your school’s conservation club, recycling program, or volunteer at a local organization. You will learn so much about how you can help live a more sustainable lifestyle and meet like-minded people that care about the planet too. Check out all the volunteer opportunities available at BARC here.