LIVING GREEN for Aug. 2, 2012

Finding eco-friendly school supplies

In a mass market of school supply shopping, we find ourselves buying supplies that are inexpensive, but seemingly wasteful. While we hope to find the best prices at big box stores, we don’t always find the best quality of supplies. Our children will go through trends, like having to have the coolest underwear, while attending school, so we have to try and keep up. Every year, we find ourselves going through the same school shopping motions like a robotic dance.

But if we looked at our purchasing habits and made a few tweaks, we may surprise ourselves. Honestly, going green is not a trend, it’s a lifestyle to instill in our children, especially right now. So equip them with some green options for back-to-school that they can share with the class.

Second Chance Clothing – why spend hundreds of dollars on brand new clothes? Try thrift store shopping or second-hand clothing stores. You will be surprised what you will find as far as brand names go. If you have picky teens, take them to Plato’s Closet in Surfside Beach or the Recycled Rooster in Conway. Those two stores are also picky about what they sell because they want to appeal to the younger generations and their trends. As a parent, I personally love hand-me-downs from friends and family too, which is always a great alternative.

Cool Lunches – instead of disposable sandwich bags, opt for the reusable alternative made from cloth – it’s easily washable. One brand is called LunchSkins and goes for about $10 each at or you can find another brand called Itzy Ritzy at Bed, Bath and Beyond or the Kangaroo Pouch for around the same price. Don’t brown bag the lunches, give your kid an insulated cooler bag – not only will lunch stay cool, but you can reuse the bag over and over again.

Save Paper – as we all should know, paper comes from trees. So why chop down more trees for the start of school? Let’s make a greener choice and purchase recycled paper. You can also go one step further and print on both sides of the paper. Look for recycled paper in other paper products such as index cards, notebook paper, etc.

Writing Utensils and Such – the standard for school is a No. 2 pencil, but you could either opt for the refillable kind or find some that are certified from the Forest Stewardship Council. There are some distinctive recycled pencils, such as those made from currency or denim, but check to make sure those are No. 2 pencils. Rulers typically are made from wood (trees) or plastic (petroleum) but there are some rulers out there also made from recycled currency or denim.

Green Tech – some students have to have some technology for class and Canon sells a recycled calculator for approximately $20. These calculators have been rebuilt from old Canon copiers and recycled plastic. Ink cartridges are recyclable, so check to see if your school has a recycling program or sometimes the ink company has a postage-paid envelope inside the box for returning used cartridges. Instead of regular batteries, check out the easy-to-use USB rechargeable batteries, where you remove the end and recharge them using a USB port.

Green Dorms – college students are broke and dorms rooms can be stark with concrete block walls and single windows for multiple roommates. First, liven it up with live plants, but be considerate and check for allergies with your roommates before adding plants. Also be very picky with your purchases and chose items that last longer than a semester. Bring items from your parents’ house as a reminder of home and save some money in the process. Get a refillable water bottle to reduce the need for bottled water, and you’re also saving money. Go local and purchase second-hand unique pieces from thrift stores. Just because its second-hand doesn’t mean it need be old and moldy. Be creative, repaint chairs, sew cushions, or even use a trunk as a table. Get ideas on Another option to get cheap or free things could be simply checking, or even a Tweet or Facebook shout-out. You’d be surprised how many people want to clean out their house and help out a college student.

Be Tax-Free - Another tip: Friday through Sunday (Aug. 3-5) is South Carolina’s tax-exempt weekend, take advantage while you can in shopping for clothing, accessories, footwear, school supplies, computers and computer equipment.