Back to school

How to be More Zero Waste Friendly when shopping for back to school essentials

I know the school summer holidays have only just started in the UK, but they always go so fast and before you know it you’re thinking about all that “Back to School” stuff.   This probably means shopping for new uniforms, stationary and lunch boxes etc.  

Apparently, parents in the UK will, on average, spend just under £200 per child in preparation for the new term. 

Not only does purchasing all that stuff have a financial impact it also has an environmental impact.  Just think of all the plastic. 

So, if you’re trying to be a more conscious shopper and help the planet a little bit why not try and be as Zero Waste friendly as possible.

And, I have to hold my hand up.  I love stationery and I love nothing more than buying my Grandchildren new things at the start of a new school term. 

But now I do it with a bit more care and thought and I will look for things that are built to last such as a good quality back pack or recycled pens and folders.  It takes a little bit more time and effort, but I think it’s worth it.

Back to School Zero Waste Friendly Essential List

So, to give you a head start here’s my list of Zero Waste Back to School essentials. 

And, remember If you really are on a Zero Waste Journey the first thing you should consider is “Do I actually need to buy new”? 

After you’ve explored all the options, checking all the drawers for discarded pens and pencils, scouring the second-hand shops for pencil cases etc then the next step is to check out my ultimate list for Zero Waste friendly Back to School essentials.

1. Lunchbox

If they are taking a packed lunch, then they will need a lunchbox. Plastic lunchboxes are a huge contributor to plastic waste.

I love the food grade stainless steel lunch boxes. They are hard wearing and should last for years. Elephant Box has a great selection.

And, rather than wrapping your children’s sandwiches in clingfilm or placing them in a plastic sandwich bag why not use a Beeswax wrap or a reusable sandwich wrapper.

My favourites are Buzzcloth and Re-Wrap_it

Back to School

2. Water Bottle

Kids need plenty of water to drink during the day so make sure you buy a good quality water bottle.  If you buy a stainless steel one, it will last for years.  I love the Kids Kleen Kanteen range 

Back to School

3. Backpack

Kids need something to carry all their stuff to a from school, so a Back pack is a sensible solution.  Once they start Secondary School If you purchase a good quality hard wearing one to start with you’ll probably only ever need to buy it once. 

Think of it as an investment, spend a little bit more to buy one rather than having to replace a cheap one every year.

My favourite is the Kånken  which was launched in 1978 to help stop children getting back pain.  Priced from £70 to £80 depending on size

Back to School

4 Ring Binders,Wallets and Notebooks

Once your kids start Secondary School the list of things they need increases significantly. With all their homework and projects, you’ll probably find they need a good supply of ring binders and wallets to keep everything organised.

The range of recycled products is much more extensive now and you can easily buy recycled ring binders and document wallets. The Green Stationery Company has a great selection of ring binders, wallets and recycled paper.

You can also get some great notebooks made by Remarkable who set out in 1996 to “do some good, by recycling rubbish into products everybody can use, and highlighting that the disposable packaging and waste we throw away, is reusable.”

And, I also have some Zero Waste Back to School Stationery Sets

Back to School

5. Pens and pencils

A pencil case wouldn’t be complete without a few pens and pencils.  Again, there’s lots of choice for recycled pens and pencils.

Remarkable sells ball point pens that are made from 100% renewable plants that bio-degrade into compost.  Priced at £6.50 for box of 10.   

And, they have a range of recycled pens and pencils, I especially like the recycled newspaper colouring pencils pack of 12 for £3.00

Back to School

6. Highlighters

Highlighters are a must for putting study notes together, well there were for me.

But, did you know you can now buy highlighter pencils which last so much longer than highlighter pens.

Rymans sell the Koh-I-Noor Highlighter Pencils for £4.99 for a pack of 6.

Back to School

7. Pencil Case

For an eco-friendly and long-lasting pencil case I always think metal ones are good or you could also choose a hard-wearing leather pencil case.

If you would prefer to buy a recycled pencil case there are some good ones on Etsy.  I love this Recycled Wax Canvas Pencil Case which would be great for boys, I think my Grandsons would love it.

Back to School

8. Ruler

Rather than buying a plastic ruler which is bound to get snapped and break within a short time a stainless steel one is much more durable and long lasting.

Or, if you prefer wood there are some lovely bamboo ones on Etsy that you can even get personalised.  

You have a name put on the back of this Bamboo Ruler which would also help your child not to lose it.

back to school

9. Reusable Book Covers

Put away the sticky back plastic and buy some reusable book covers. These reusable covers from EZCovers come in 4 different sizes and loads of colours. They cost 85p each.

Back to School

10. Erasers (Rubbers)

Most erasers are not made from real rubber. In fact, these days they are likely to be made from either synthetic rubber or vinyl. And, just so you know synthetic rubber is derived from petroleum.

Why not try some recycled rubber erasers as that will at least help keep a little rubber out of landfills?

Onyx and Green recycled-rubber-erasers

in a pack of 3 for £2.35

I hope you find this list helpful and it has at least given you some ideas to start with.  

But, you’re probably wondering why I haven’t mentioned School Uniforms. 

School uniforms tend to be very specific to the individual school your child is going to attend. So, just be mindful of the Zero Waste principals when you’re buying their new uniform. Make sure you check out second hand items first, lots of schools sell on uniforms to parents. And, where possible and practical buy good quality hard wearing items that will last.  Check out my Blog Back to School Zero Waste Tips  for more information on useful places to look for good quality second hand school uniforms.

I’d love to hear if you have any tips on how to be more Zero Waste friendly when shopping for Back to School essentials.

Written by 

Hi, I’m Frankie. This is my blog (Thoroughly Modern Grandma) about blending old fashioned values with modern technology, whilst trying to reduce our waste and be a little kinder to our Planet.

One thought on “Back to School Zero Waste Style”

  1. Hello,
    I am selling zero waste mouse mats for the home or office.

    I have been zero waste for about 3 years. The first 6 weeks was the hardest and I really had to rethink a lot of my purchases.

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