Back to school with the environment in mind

As parents prepare to shell out a stack of green for school supplies; thinking about a different type of green can help alleviate associated environmental impact – and sometimes also cost.
I was reading somewhere that even in these tough economic times; U.S. parents will spend around an average of $600 on children in grades K-12 for back-to-school supplies such as clothes, books, writing tools and electronics this year. It’s a lot of money. 
This money will be spent on a bunch of items with a fairly limited life-span; meaning more of Earth’s resources will be plundered to manufacture this equipment and more junk invariably headed for landfill.
While it’s probably neither realistic or desirable to send your kids to school dressed in a hessian sack and with lumps of charcoal as writing equipment, a bit of thought in regard to the environment can help make your child’s schooling a little greener and may save you some cash too.
“Green” products are usually associated with a premium price, but increasingly as demand for more sustainable products builds, costs are coming down. 
You may also be surprised by how switched on to environmental issues your children are. While acceptance by their peers is important and sadly what they turn up to school with plays a role in that, your child may also be more than happy to forego some non-critical or designer label items in order to help the planet.
So before drawing up your list, sit down with your kids and gauge their “green” levels. Talk to them about the impact of various items. For example, some designer gear is made by people working in awful conditions and in ways that are very unfriendly to the environment. Talk with them about need vs. want; about reuse and repurposing “old” equipment they may have. It’s important to make it a fun and engaging time rather than a “green” punishment – that they will achieve something very positive through the exercise.
Where you do need to buy new items, here are some examples of some minor back-to- school supplies that shouldn’t cost much more, or may even cost less than their “normal” counterparts. Another point to consider is longevity – a cheaper environmentally nasty product may not last anywhere near as long.
– Mouse mats made from reclaimed materials
– Note pads and exercise books made from recycled paper
– Rulers made from recycled plastic
– Pencils made with wood from plantation forests or FSC certified
– PVC free backpacks and lunch boxes
– More environmentally friendly water bottles 
.. and the list goes on. For just about every item your child needs, there’s a “green” version of it these days. If you run a search on any of the above on Google, you’ll likely find a supplier and even searching on “green school supplies” should bring up a bunch of results for some one-stop online shopping (perhaps saving a bit of gas in the process – also green!).
Bear in mind you certainly don’t have to make all your school supplies environmentally friendly; times are tough and this is not a greener than thou competition. If every parent even purchased just one item that is made in a more sustainable fashion, that would translate to millions of purchases; which in turn helps fuel demand for these greener products and consequently lowers prices even further. 
While we can’t really buy our way to a green life as consumption levels are as big an issue as the choices we make in purchases, we can certainly help reduce our environmental impact in those purchase choices and that may buy us a bit of time to tackle the bigger issues – the issues that your children will be left to deal with as adults.