Back to School Shopping: Remembering You Can Still Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose or Recycle!

August 20th, 2011

I chalk it up to a mother’s Prehistoric background as a Gatherer, married with her primal instinct to protect and prepare her offspring. How else to explain the fact that so many of us forget all about the Cardinal Rules of The Five Rs (Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose and Recycle) when it comes to our own precious darlings’ return to school?  Sure, it’s tempting to fall into green shopping mania, but take a closer look at some of these tips…you may find that you can get away just fine without many new items for back-to-school.

Back to School Essentials?

After all, when was the last time you heard a grade schooler say, “Mom, I really need a  new lunchbox!” OK, granted, maybe girls are different – but I’d wager that boys could care less about the many new “back-to-school” items most Moms feel compelled to buy.    My rising fourth grader has been toting the same Crocodile Creek lunch box since kindergarten. Sure, it’s looking a bit beat up now, but does it really matter?

durable PVC-free lunchboxes

The fact is, if you spring for high quality gear at the outset, you may find, like me, that you’ll get years and years of use out of your back-to-school items.  Here’s what’s worked for me:

1. Lunch Boxes: Crocodile Creek’s PVC-free lunch boxes are incredibly durable. The one pictured here is going into its fifth year of service. For some reason my other son’s Crocodile Creek lunch box didn’t last quite as long – perhaps because of too much spilled yogurt on the inside.  When it got even a bit too funky for my taste, I replaced it with this Hanna Andersson lunch box, which is a bit roomier.

Do I think it’s time for a new lunch box after four years? Well, yes, so I purchased a new one…but Big Boy told me sensibly, “The other one is perfectly fine, Mom. And it’s not so eco-green to buy new every year, is it, Mom?”

2. Backpacks: Resist the temptation to buy the cheap theme backpacks. It’s amazing how soon that cool character they absolutely must have this year become so LAST YEAR or worse yet, BABY-ISH.   Perhaps because of the shortness of the “awesome factor,”  most of them are not built to last, but if you’ve got a younger one in preschool, they do make good cast-offs — even with broken zippers.

After my son’s Spiderman backpack broke after just two weeks of use, I purchased a durable Eddie Bauer backpack, which is going into its third year of use.  Sure it’s a little dirty, but again, we’re talking about a boy. And we could always …wash it!

durable school back packs

Other great sources for durable, long lasting backpacks that last for years? You guessed it…Hanna Andersson and Crocodile Creek.  And if your little one must absolutely have Spiderman, Thomas, or some other character, check the consignment shops. After waiting patiently for a season, I found an adorable Thomas backpack for $5. Of course, it’s broken now.

If you’re tempted to give in to the Back to School shopping mania, just think about all you can do with the $100 or so bucks you might save by not indulging. A nice dinner out. Some money in the savings account. Or a great little something for YOU.

What do you think? Will you be skipping any of the so-called back-to-school “must haves” this season?   Check out what the Green Moms of the Green Moms Carnival have to say about Back to School shopping at our 4th annual Back to School Carnival, hosted by Micaela of Mindful Momma on Monday.

Disclosures: In case you’re wondering, I don’t do any work for the companies mentioned here. They’re not clients, and I purchased all the items mentioned in this piece…most of them, years ago!  :)

– Lynn

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4 Responses to “Back to School Shopping: Remembering You Can Still Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose or Recycle!”

  1. Vivian on August 21, 2011 6:22 am

    Great article. My daughter’s Northface backpack is going into it’s 6th year. Still in great shape but could use a clean up, not sure how to wash these things.

    I agree that avoiding the character backpack is great advice. Also, I did not have much luck with the one’s with wheels. They didn’t even make it through 6 months.

  2. Lynn on August 21, 2011 4:21 pm

    Glad you enjoyed it, Vivian! Thanks for your comment…and glad to hear girls are fine with old backpacks too!

  3. Back to School with Microban? : The Smart Mama on August 22, 2011 3:40 pm

    [...] take on going back to school is pretty close to my good friend Lynn at OrganicMania. You can avoid back to school shopping by remembering to repurpose and reuse. I try to limit new purchases – although the reusable lunch sacks do get pretty worn out each [...]

  4. Anne-Marie Faiola on September 13, 2011 2:00 pm

    Thanks for the great advice and tips! My little man is still a few years away from school but I’m sure it will sneak up on me quicker than I know. =)

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