Thursday, August 4, 2011

Living sustainably on a budget: school supplies

I know this makes me sound incredibly nerdy, but I am already kind of looking forward to school starting (although I am glad I do not start school until September). Even though I may not be going back to school this month, students across the country are. 

Before you rush out to the store to get your school supplies I have a few tips that will save you money and be incredibly sustainable. 

1. Make a list. Plan ahead for items you will need for each class. There are some classes where I know I will use my computer to take notes and other classes where I need a notebook. I also know which classes I will need a binder for. Planning ahead not only means you will have a game plan for what you will need, it also means that you will not buy more than you need. 

2. Stay away from plastic! I know it's often the cheapest option, but most plastic items do not last — in the long run plastic can easily be more expensive. Plus plastic does not break down in landfills and it leaches harmful chemicals throughout its creation, use, and end of life.

3. Search for items that are made out of cardboard, wood, soy inks, and other eco-friendly materials. (They are typically also more  visually interesting and different from what most of your classmates or office mates will have.)

 Image courtesy of Greenroom

4. Re-use everything you can from last year. Who says we need new materials every school year. If it still works, why toss it?

5. Buy recycled paper and materials. Instead of chopping down trees for a new notebook, show recycled paper a little love.

Image courtesy of Greenroom

6. Streamline your materials. Do you really need a pencil case that goes inside of a bag inside of a bag? How many pens, pencils, markers, erasers, and everything else do you really need? Use the bare minimum instead of stuffing your bag.

7. Try to buy pens that you can refill, are compostable, or are made out of wood. The less plastic the better. Normally I can make it through the year on 3-4 pens (or less if you type most of your notes).

8. Refill your printer ink! Stores are starting to support filling the cartridges (including Costco). It may take a bit of research to find a place near you, but it will not only be better for the environment, but also save you a ton of money! (Cartridges can be incredibly expensive. To refill mine I spend $7-14 instead of $20-40.)

If you are unsure of where to find some of these materials, you can find them in person at Target, Office Depot, and online at GreenRoom, Rebinder, The Naked Truth, and The Green Office.

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