Welcome to back to school time. I know it seems early for some of you but in some parts of the country, kids start back to school on August 1! Like a lot of things that are deemed sustainable, this article will hopefully save you some green cash too and make your back to school shopping not quite so painful.
- Recycle your old printer cartridges – Huh? Wait I thought this was a back to school piece. It is and many office supply stores now give you a credit on your frequent shopper card for recycling your old cartridges. So when you visit the store make sure you take your cartridges that you have been meaning to take and earn some credit for your school shopping. My big box gave me $2.00 per cartridge. You can also get industrious on this. If your company or your spouse’s company isn’t recycling, hopefully unlikely, but possible, ask for their cartridges too.
- Make back to school clothes shopping creative – Thrift store shopping is now oh so cool! Why actually pay for new jeans when you can buy them gently used? I realize you won’t be able to buy a whole new wardrobe gently used but if you start at the thrift store and see what you can find then other locations won’t be the stress on your budget. Kids dragging their feet on this one? Tell them they get twice the amount at the thrift store. In other words, it's a two for one. For every one item they would get at the normal store they can two at the thrift store instead. You’ll still save gobs of money, especially if the wardrobe is mostly jeans.
- Ye Olde Book List – Once your kids hit a certain age there are going to be book lists. Of course we all know about online book retailers and e-books, but before you start there, why not pop into your local used book store? You won’t have to pay for shipping and you can tell your kids this is how people read before the advent of a tablet. Take some old books in for trade or credit to add to your savings. If you have to buy online then make sure they are used.
- Save a little gas – Plan your shopping trips beforehand so you aren’t going back and forth and out for one more item. With gas pushing back up again we are all looking for ways to save. How about this? Why not carpool? Ask a friend or neighbor to carpool with you to your destination. You pay for gas. They pay for lunch or snacks. Makes it much more enjoyable that way too.
- School Box– Oh the containers of stuff. This is another great way to put some creativity into the process. Take the shoe box from that new pair of sneakers and let the kids decorate it. You wrap it in an old brown paper bag or an old map. They can put their own stickers on it. One less thing to throw away, kids get to be happy sticking stuff. Win-win.
- Backpacks – Make your own. Okay so this requires a level of sewing but really at it’s most basic. Buy a pair of dollar jeans and make a back pack. This will work with anything you can think about. Other options? Convert old clothes into wristlets and let your teenager help make some for gifts for friends for back to school.
- Off to the dorm – Decorating a dorm is a quintessential rite of passage. Never mind that it will only look awesome the first day it’s complete and they post the picture to Instagram. Yes it’s off to the thrift store again but don’t forget garage sales, antique malls, flea markets or Free-Cycle. Free-Cycle can be a bit overwhelming but hey it’s free. There are all kinds of things people are simply giving away to know it doesn’t end up in a landfill.
- Supplies – This doesn’t save any money but shop wisely and kindly. Look for items that leave a lighter footprint. Look for paper that is made out of recycled content or treeless paper, do you really need that pack of 100 pencils? Can you split it with a friend’s child? Take a shopping bag so you don’t end up with 52 million plastic bags. If you end up with a bunch of plastic bags then make sure you recycle them.
- Cell phone – Let’s face it, as a parent you want to know that in case of an emergency you can reach your child but how many cell phones has you child already lost? Why buy a new one? Buy a refurbished one and reduce your headache. I know many cell phone companies are running specials but when your kid loses that one, a refurbished one is a great replacement option. Also buying used might get them a upgrade to an iPhone. My nephew bought his iPhone used and is so proud of it because he bought with his own money. Guess what? He takes better care of it too. Got old ones hanging around? You can sell your old ones for extra cash.
- Make a commitment to walk or bike at least once a week to school or the bus stop – This might not be possible for everyone but it is great exercise for you and your child. Buy a used bike to save a bit of money. Set-up a reward system for you and your child for every week you do it and bonuses when you do it more. You’ll thank yourself over the long haul for instilling this lesson into your child.
Beth Bond is the Curator of Sustainable News at Southeast Green. Dedicating the last five years to running Southeast Green, the largest online news site for green, sustainability and environmental business news in the Southeastern US, Bond has been recognized for her leadership and insight into all things sustainable.