Green School Supplies

Photo: iStockphoto.com/sjlocke
The ABCs of stocking up on better basics to get your child through the school year.

Everybody knows academic life can be tough on students. But, it can also be tough on the environment; using up lots of resources and creating tons of waste. According to the EcoSchools program, the Toronto District School Board uses approximately 56,000 cases of 8.5" by 11" photocopy paper each year for more than 550 schools. That’s a lot of trees, which is why the Board has instituted a green purchasing policy.

Fortunately, when it comes to buying school supplies for yourself or your child, there are lots of products that will get you top marks in the environmentally sensitive department.

Leave no print

Cutting down on paper should be the goal, but if you must purchase some, make sure you're only buying top-quality, enviro-friendly paper and notebooks. Look for processed chlorine-free (PCF) paper (thereby avoiding the release of dioxin and mercury during the bleaching process) and for the highest percentage of recycled post-consumer waste (PCW) that you can find. Cascades’ Enviro 100 copy paper is made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled fibres; likewise with Ecojot notebooks. Both are widely available, even at big box retailers, university bookstores and specialty stores, such as Pistachio.

Within your grip

For kids who are still in the pencil phase, opt for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified ones. The FSC logo indicates that wood that has gone into a product is from a sustainably managed forest. (FSC also certifies paper products, rubber products and more.) Brands such as Forest Choice and Faber Castell offer FSC-certified pencils and coloured pencils. When they graduate to pens, there are also several eco-friendly options available, including pens made from post-industrial materials and corn-based biodegradable plastics. Pilot Begreen pens contain at least 70 percent recycled material. The biodegradable pens, made by Mater-Bi, break down in 12 months under a variety of conditions

Bind the green

If you're looking for a way to keep all that paper organized, forget toxic, polyvinylchloride (PVC) binders! There are lots of stylish and green alternatives. Wilson Jones, one of the leading business units of ACCO Brands, offers Recycled Binders made from 80 percent recycled material and VOC-free adhesives. They're available at most Grand & Toy stores. You can also find recycled paper binders online at Grassroots Environmental Products, which has a big selection of eco-friendly back-to-school products.

A green staple

Free yourself from pesky staples: try a stapleless stapler, such as Handy Clip, available at online at Green Cricket! Ingenious designed, they cut out tiny strips of paper and uses them to stitch up to seven pieces of paper together.  

Small is green

How many paper clips have you thrown out in your lifetime? Sometimes the smallest things can make the biggest difference. According to a 2003 report by the Steel Recycling Institute, we throw 28.6 million tons of steel into landfills. ACCO Brands, one the largest paper clip manufacturers, now sells recycled Regular and Jumbo Paper Clips. Use them to clip your PCF papers together.

Dung it

Lastly, art class is no place to forget your green lessons! Make sure your sketchbooks are made from 100 percent recycled paper. (For something a little different, try an Ellie Poo sketchpad made from 75 percent post-consumer waste and 25 percent treated Elephant dung! What a way to make a statement in class!). For non-toxic and eco-friendly art supplies, visit our guide.