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The Back to School Shopping Frenzy: Just say NO! Going back to school with the environment in mind.

Posted Sep 13 2008 11:53pm
As usual, retailers have cranked up the 'ol marketing machine and have aimed it's barrage of near-constant back-to-school advertising at both parents and kids. The message is clear: you must buy, buy, buy or you're not cool, you're unprepared and just darn cruel to your kids for not sending them off to the new school year in style. Right?

Wrong! There has never been a better time to rethink preparing for back-to-school.

Here is some perspective into this annual ritual of consumer frenzy as it relates to our resources and environment.

Buying new things for back to school, like most consumer activity, is using up resources (like trees for paper, water for manufacturing processes, soil for cotton and much more) that we are quickly running out of. Each year of this ritual seems to get amped up even more as it is in the retail industries best interest to encourage each of us to buy more and more, without questioning. Yes, kids grow and you have to buy new clothes and sometimes school supplies do run out or wear out. Instead of heading into the school year on auto-pilot, why not take a second and prepare for the new school year with the environment and our kids future squarely in mind?
Here are some tips to a "greener" and more thoughtful back-to-school experience:

1. Before you run out to buy new school clothes, assess what is still wearable and what can be made wearable with minor fixes. If your kids are open to it, check out your local thrift store, you'd be surprised what you can find there for your kids and no one would know any different.

2. Check out the leftover school supplies and backpacks from last year. Look for salvageble supplies, pencils, pens and other supplies. Can the backpack from last year be reused? If you have to get new supplies, look for items like paper and binders made from recycled content. Many office supply retailers now carry recycled-content school supplies. Choose school supplies that use little or no wasteful packaging, its better for the environment and your usually paying less for the same product.

3. How we pack our kid's lunches is one of the biggest opportunities to help the environment. When you head to the grocery store, buy in bulk, look for items that contain little or no packaging, and avoid chips and snacks that are individually wrapped.

4. When packing lunches, avoid using plastic sandwich bags, instead try reusable containers that seal the food, but can be reused many times. Pack reusable utensils and napkins and use a reusable cloth bag to carry the lunch in. These changes not only reduce the waste generated for school lunches but also can save a lot of money over time.

Going back to school should be a fun and exciting experience for both parents and kids. Preparing for the experience with the planet's future in mind is both rewarding for the conscience and can save some money at the same time. Don't buy into the back-to-school hype, mother nature will thank you for it.

Sean
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