US EPA - Environmental Protection Agency

Advanced planning for back-to-school can save money and help the environment


Even with a tight economy parents and students still need the back-to-school shopping trip for clothes, backpacks, computers and school supplies. A survey conducted by the National Retail Federation found that this year consumers expect to spend an average of $606 for back-to-school needs.

A little advanced planning can help both the environment and your pocketbook. Here are a few tips from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that can point you in the right direction.

Buying a new computer, printer, cell phone, or other electronic device? If you are buying a new printer, purchase one that prints double-sided to reduce the use of paper. E-cycle your old electronics! Many retailers are partnering with EPA to recycle electronics. You may also be able to donate your old computer to a local school, library or charity for a tax deduction.

If you have to discard electronics, do it right! Check with your local municipality, county, state environmental agency or the EPA for the proper way to dispose of electronics safely. E-cycling conserves precious natural resources and reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills.

Before you shop, see what you already have at home. Many supplies can be reused or recycled. Backpacks, notebooks, folders, and binders can all be reused.

When you do need to buy new, choose products made from recycled materials such as pencils made from old blue jeans, binders made from old shipping boxes, and of course recycled paper products.

Buy school supplies wrapped with minimal packaging; or buy products that come in bulk sizes. Packaging accounts for more than 30 percent of all the waste generated each year.

Are there clothes that your child has outgrown that are still in good shape? Donate them to a local charity or shelter so someone else can put them to use, and earn yourself a possible tax deduction at the same time.

Share your used books with friends, relatives, or younger schoolchildren. Many schools reuse textbooks to save money and reduce waste.

For college textbooks there is a large secondary market for used books. Search the internet for resale sites. Also check with the campus and nearby bookstores.

If you bring your lunch to school, package it in reusable containers instead of disposable ones. Bring drinks in an insulated bottle instead of disposable bottles or cartons. This saves money and reduces waste.

Encourage your school to organize a recycling program if they don’t already have one.

If you drive to school, try carpooling, public transportation, walking or biking instead. By changing your transportation routine, you can save money on fuel costs, lower air pollution levels, and decrease traffic in your community.

A great way to reduce pollution is not to create it in the first place. Prevent pollution by reducing waste, reusing or recycling more. Work with your child’s teachers and friends to find ways to encourage everyone in your community to make reducing waste a part of every day life.

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