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Sustainable Back to School 2021

The transition of August to September will forever bring with it a feeling of needed change coming. I'm not sure if something in the air changes during that the time but the same time every year, I feel it signals change. For parents, children, and young adults it signifies going back to school. Even though I'm done with school, there is still some excitement surrounding this time and it triggers me to reflect on what I've done this year. It also reminds me to begin thinking about whats coming in the next year. I think I will be one of the few to say it, but I do enjoy change. I used to love going back to school and going shopping for new clothes. It's one of those things I fondly look back on, but will never do again (because fast fashion sucks). There was one time we went to NYC to go to the stores there and I remember being beyond excited to get to visit the city. During the first week of school, we would all go to staples and buy the school supplies our teachers instructed us to get for the upcoming year. Back to school was a fun time to be able to get new things under the guise of "needing" it for school, which yes, sometimes it was truly necessary. Other times I wanted the same pens or pencil case that all the other girls had that year.


As I grew older, I began reusing folders, binders, notebooks, and writing utensils because I learned to be frugal. I didn't want to waste money on things I didn't actually need anymore and my parents didn't want us to buy new things if we had something already. Which, of course, not over consuming is the best thing you can do for the planet. So my first susty tip of this blog post is to stop overconsuming! A new school year does not mean you need new clothes or new supplies, if you have perfectly good ones already at home. This goes for everything from backpacks, lunchboxes, or notebooks. If I didn't finish up a notebook during the course of a class, I ripped the pages out to start fresh the next year. This became particularly handy in college because I only wrote really important concepts down on paper and used google docs for the rest. If you're off to college, I suggest not going to target and browsing for everything you "might" want or need. Actually make a list and force yourself to think about what you need and also what you could get secondhand. It's most likely easier and cheaper to buy things off of graduating seniors. Join the facebook groups and check out whats for sale!

Choose Secondhand or Local First

That transitions me nicely into my next point, that buying second hand is better than buying new. After making a list, visit your local thrift shops or look online to see what you could used instead of new. Again especially furniture or TVs because they are so expensive new and you can still find awesome things second hand and sometimes for absolute steals. Local shops usually have a lower footprint because things are handmade and sometimes they're made from recovered materials.

Buy New, Ethically & Sustainably

After making the decision that you need to buy something and checking that you can't get it second hand, you know you'll need to buy it new. So my best advice for buying new is to look for products that are made ethically and sustainably. This can mean a number of things, ethical products could be fair trade, fair wage, and ethically sourced. Sustainably made products can also have a number of characteristics such as sustainable materials, recycled materials, carbon neutral, and zero waste production. I won't lie it is challenging to find anything that checks all of the boxes and fits a college student's budget. The best thing to do would be to look at all of your options and find the one that is ethical, sustainable, and affordable.

With that, even though my happy memories of back to school are laced with consumption, I encourage you to find new and improved ways to go back to school, even if virtually. Going to back to school in a virtual environment is super different, but it's a good time to make more memories of actually doing things, not buying things. Use the freedom of work from home to make a yummy breakfast or treat on the first day. Another thing that excited me as a kid was coming home to homemade chocolate chip cookies on the first day of school. There are so many ways to make going back to school sustainable and enjoyable, all it takes is intent and thoughtfulness!

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