Zero Waste School Supplies & Where To Find them!

Back to school: go for 0/10?

There we are, back to school again! If you are a student, you’d love to forget about that. If you’re a parent, you already got the famous school supplies list from the teachers.

You may already have observed other parents in the supermarket, a plan in hand. But why not do it differently this year?

Let’s play the game; let’s go for a big 0/10. Zero waste school supplies is our latest article attempting to give you our ideas on how we think zero waste thinking can enter your pupils’ school bags.

Zero Waste School Supplies
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We think that a great sorting, of all that is still usable for next year, is a must. Namely, many of your school supplies will be useful.

For example, from ages 6 to 18, there is no need each year to purchase a new pencil sharpener. The same logic applies to your ruler, your compasses, paper clips, your binders, and your pencils.

We tried this exercise at home, sorting and cleaning out our school bag supplies. Here is what we decided to Reuse after sorting and reconditioning—namely, recycled school supplies.

Since at puratium we know it is not always possible to reuse, we included our favorite products and manufacturers as well.

9 zero waste school supplies
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Backpack

School bags(or backpacks) are always a question themselves. Mainly the fact that is has to be a trendy item, as this is a fashionable accessory. If you get a “NO WAY” to reuse it as it is from your children, here are some of our tips to give it a new look. 

The first step is obvious: cleaning. A good cleaning once a year, and you might re-discover how beautiful your original school bag is.

For cleaning tips, have a look at Schoolbag’s article on the same here.

This year we turned a Pokemon school bag into a blue dolphin bag.

The idea here is to recover the parts of your bag that are « off-topic.» Pikachu was covered with a nice Dolphin pics to embroider, sew, or glue. In case your “Pikachu” is too big, cover it with a new piece of fabric.

And if sewing is not your forte, there are lots of clothing that only require glue and iron to be amended.

Furthermore, if your school bag could not find its way back to school this year, make sure you keep in mind that “zero waste back to school” is possible.

There are plenty of brands, such as Eco Chic, that offer zero waste products. Their aim behind selling bags is excellent: “Eco Chic is a lifestyle brand, and we aim to create products to help you make the little changes that add up in the fight against the throwaway culture” (1).

From their collection, one of our kids chose the below backpack. You’ll find something for anybody’s taste, avoid buying all of them ☺ if not needed, of course.

Finally, if you can sew, your backpacks will probably make their way back to school after some redesigning.

Otherwise, let’s check for a sustainable one this year.

zero waste backpack from EcoChic
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Image from Eco Echic

Pencils

Sport Plantable Colored Pencil
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Image provided by EarthHero.com

Let’s dig and checklist the pencil case. The pencil case is like a proper treasure box. Standard and colored pencils must first be sorted and sharpened.

Sort them by colors and decide if they all are needed. If the answer is no, then build a stock at home to replace your colored pencils during the year.

Pencils are already far more sustainable than fashionable fluorescent highlighters.

Eco highlighter Wood pencils can replace ink and avoid throwing away dozens of standard highlighters a year only because they dry.

See what Stubby pencils have to offer on here. And, be on your way to eco friendly pencils and colored pencils.

If not, then you should also take a look at the plantable pencils offered by Sprout. The idea behind Sprout is to turn these pencils into flowers.

The sprout pencil company was created in 2012 by three students from MIT and began selling their pencils in Denmark.

Sprout is sold today in over 60 countries, including North America.

The main point to remember is that regular pencils are often made in non-sustainable ways that destroy habitats.

Firstly, they are made with FSC certified wood(sustainably harvested), graphite core, and natural clay.

More importantly, the stub of the pencil is 100% biodegradable, and if you choose to bury it, the stub will decompose.

In terms of certifications, this pen is certified to EN-71, which, according to Sprout is a certificate of a safety standard that deems the pencil safe for children.

Moreover, there is no lead used in making or any toxic materials.

The pencils come in sets of 8 and unsharpened. These include six colored pencils and two graphite pencils.

And, in the specifications, you will find instructions on how to plant them. Moreover, they also ship the same day!

Please note that users have cautioned to make sure they should be planted within a year of using them.

The biodegradable capsule in the stub is easy to plant anywhere, whether in a window pot or a garden.

Paper

Paper is also a big topic for reducing our waste at school (or at home). We are usually asked to buy a variety of notebooks(not exactly sustainable school supplies material): lined or chequered, full white, small or big, perforated or plain, etc.

From our perspective, all this should first be reviewed by teachers themselves when providing the supplies list.

However, we think that you can make that list a lot more zero waste yourself. Here is what we do at home :

  1. We sort out all our notebooks from previous years.
  2. When less than half of them have been consumed, we cut out the written pages and place them carefully into a labeled binder.  
  3. We transform the front cover to match the new purpose of the notebook. How? We created zero waste tags.
  • Our tags come from newspapers that we cut into pieces. The headers’ capital letters were used to write the subject and our names on our brand new and reused notebooks.

Another motivation to create such tags is that it prevents us from using plastic, whereas most of the ones you find in shops are made of plastic.

Additionally, we wrote an entire article on eco friendly notebooks. Make sure in your search for school supplies to take a look at that article as well.

Nevertheless, we must admit that we were positively surprised that on our elder one’s list, we found a cartridge pen.

When you see how many of these marketing pens you use, forget, and finally throw away without even checking from which company it came from, it is quite outrageous.

Thus it is relatively easy to see why you should use an ink pen. A zero waste pen that you can buy from a sustainable maker and then reuse for years, buying only ink(more on this below).

And in case red and green pens are requested, be aware that red and green ink is also easy to find ☺.

However, even cartridge ink pens can be improved because the ink is still stored in plastic.

Did you know that Americans throw away an average of 1.6 billion pens a year(2)? Therefore, other solutions need to be found.

For original, efficient, and Eco-friendly Sustainable Writing Utensils, we suggest you look at ethical.net where you might find your solution, as well as pens from “A Good Company” below.

Eraser

The eraser is also probably on your list of zero waste school supplies. We were then wondering how zero waste or eco friendly an eraser is.

We never questioned ourselves about what materials are used to make it? Or if recycling was possible for our erasers? If you’re like us and love to make mistakes, make sure you’re equipped.

As erasers are mainly made of gum, a natural ingredient, we oriented our zero waste challenge on manufacturing and customizing our erasers without buying too many of them.

We then decided to produce a few of them and do it again whenever needed, instead of storing them for nothing.

It was a lot of fun and took a lot of creativity to make our little companions. We followed the preparation from the folks at Desidees: user-friendly and straightforward.

However, if you prefer to buy them, then we recommend the recycled rubber erasers from Onyx And Green.

Their erasers come in packs of 3, and rather than using raw rubber, they use recycled rubber to make erasers to reduce virgin resource extraction as much as possible.

The erasers are packaged in recycled paper blister cards, and the shipping boxes and envelopes are made with recycled packaging.

We heartily recommend you try making your own, but if not, this is a reliable alternative.

Glue

Glue is also a topic when zero waste school supplies come to mind. We ended our zero waste school supplies experience with one of the supplies that appeared to us as a « must change » in schools.

Indeed, glue is stored in plastic and hardly ever refillable. Moreover, it is often toxic. Glue is generally an issue for recycling as it is usually held in plastic tubes; it is also complicated to clean reuse.

Most of our kids use loads of these glue sticks at school. And although they are handy for kids’ crafts, you have to bear in mind that the children end up putting glue everywhere on their hands and desk.

Thus, we tried to produce our own natural and non-toxic glue. Here is our experience :

  1. Pour two spoons of water + 2 spoons of Maizena = starch or flour.
  2. Heat 30 sec in the microwave
  3. Stir together
  4. Store in a little box

If your kids, like ours, eat a lot of ice cream, make sure you clean and keep the wooden sticks for the glue. (Note: this glue is entirely natural, safe, and EASY TO CLEAN).

Bear in mind that you might need to renew the experience every two weeks as this does not elongate as long as industrial glue sticks.

And, if you prefer to buy instead. We recommend you go with the below plant-based liquid glue from Onix And Green. It is made with a plant-based proprietary non-toxic formula.

However, as we mentioned above, it is, of course, packed in a plastic bottle(7.7 oz), which is why we strongly urge you to try and make your own with the process above.

Pens From "A Good Company"

a-good-comapany-natural-grass-pen-beige-3
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image provide by Earthhero.com

While zero waste pens are still non-existent, there are alternatives to regular pens for your children. In this regard, we love the pens available at Earth Hero.

Earth Hero is an eco friendly online marketplace. Their idea is to allow us to find and buy products that are sourced and made in a way that does not harm our planet. If you are looking for a marketplace that will help you avoid post consumer waste, then this is the one.

Within their many options, our favorite is the natural grass pen by “A good company.” They create sustainable everyday products to minimize waste.

This natural grass penis is made of BPA-free recycled plastic and meadow grass(a natural renewable material). BPA(bisphenol A) is a chemical that is usually added to many products we buy every day, such as food containers. BPA can influence processes such as growth, reproduction, and energy levels(3).

Additionally, it is made using renewable energy from waste heat and biogas.

Not only is it made from eco friendly materials, but you can also refill it, which is truly as close to zero waste pens as you’ll get! So you can replace your fountain pen forever with this school supply. It incomes with blue ink, and you can have the pen in either wheat beige or dark brown color.

Moreover, they sell refills so you can truly feel like you have a fountain pen. More importantly, for every purchase of their supplies, A Good Company plants trees in Zambia. According to them, each tree planted absorbs up to 22 kg of CO2 a year.

In terms of packaging, their pens are shipped in recyclable packaging made from recycled content. And there is no extra product packaging.

The pens are 15 cm long. It usually ships within one business day in the United States and comes with a 30-day return policy as long as it is returned in its packaging and undamaged, of course. It is a fantastic eco friendly school supply to add.

Eco Lunchbox

Eco Lunchbox
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Image Provided By EarthHero.com

No zero waste school supply list can be complete without lunch boxes. Our favorite is made by “EcoLunchbox.”

Their business model is simple: packing your children’s food in healthy containers. They offer an array of products from food storage containers to cotton lunch bags.

Their three in one stainless steel lunch box is precisely what you need. In terms of materials, besides the stainless steel, it is BPA BPS(Bisphenol S) and phthalate-free. And plastic-free, making sure you are not relying on single-use plastics.

As we discussed before, you want to avoid these because they alter some of the natural procedures within your body.

As the name suggests, you get three stainless steel lunch box containers that are food grade. Additionally, they nest and clip together, making them easy to store away once used. Bear in mind that while they are perfect for dry food, the locking lids are not leak-proof.

That being said, due to the material, you do not have to worry about your food being squashed, and it is freezer safe.

Also, it is dishwasher safe.

You have a total capacity of 3.8 cups(or 31 oz). Individually, the small compartment can hold 5 oz, the medium box 12 oz, and the large compartment 14 oz.

When clipped closed, the dimensions are 4 x 5.5 x 2.75. Additionally, the total weight is 16 oz.

They ship within one business day, and you can return within 30 days as long as it comes unused in its original packaging.

Hence, they recommend that you also get the seal cup mini to store dressings or any dips. Additionally, this lunchbox offsets the equivalent CO2 of almost 5 million pounds of burned coal. Making sure your purchase is helping the planet.

Bamboo Wireless Mouse by ONYX + Green

We are sure you did a double-take on this one. But, yes, a bamboo wireless mouse is an option you should consider for your zero waste school supplies.

It is unavoidable that classrooms are turning more digital.

Thus, while it may not be possible to go 100% zero waste on your technological equipment needs(for example, this product requires the use of batteries), you can minimize the damage with products such as this one.

Onyx and Green is a company that focuses on making unique paper products by using sugarcane that is low-impact and upcycled construction waste.

As this product shows, they are not afraid of pushing the limits on what eco friendly materials they can create. Their products include calculators, backpacks, pens, notebooks, and even rubber bands.

Thanks to its production methods, upcycling is positively encouraged. Even their labels are done with considerable care, as they print their labels with soy inks(or soy-based inks).

Namely, they are always looking for ways to make their product even more eco conscious while not compromising the integrity and durability of their products.

The body of the mouse is made of bamboo, which is a renewable natural resource. In terms of the technological features, it is a 2.4GHZ wireless mouse.

Moreover, it is handmade and comes with a small USB nano receiver.

Keep in mind that while the mouse is designed to turn off after 10 minutes of non-use automatically, users have noted that an off button would be beneficial.

Although they originally designed the mouse intending to use it on a Windows operating system, reviewers claim the mouse works just as well with Apple’s operating system.

Additionally, it is packed in recyclable and recycled cardboard with a biodegradable bioplastic shell.

Final Thoughts

Our family is now ready to start again, but not like every year. This year back-to-class evolves and begins with a big 0/10. Are you ready to get started on your zero waste school journey?

Zero waste school supplies are readily available with plenty of options for your kids to feel cool while making sure they are not harming the planet.

While we recommend everybody to reuse as much of what they have and try to make some of these supplies yourselves, there are still plenty of alternatives for those who prefer to shop.

Feel free to let us know if we missed any critical supply that you would like us to review or amend. And, above all, remember to have fun with the process.

Resources:

  1. https://www.eco-chic.eu/page/about-us
  2. https://www.usi.edu/recycle/solid-waste-landfill-facts/
  3. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/what-is-bpa/

 

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