How to make this your greenest school year yet

This article was first published in August 2019

Back-to-school shopping doesn't have to feel blue when you can make it green.

With us all trying to do our bit for the environment, you might be looking to make school supplies shopping a bit more eco-friendly.

We look at six easy swaps that will help to make this new school term your greenest yet.

1. Backpack

Do you really need a new one? Recycling an old one could be a good option – would anyone really notice (or care) if you reused last year’s?

If you are just looking for a change, why not try a second hand shop?

But if you are in desperate need of something new to lug all your nice eco-friendly stuff around, you might want to consider more natural fibres over synthetics. Think canvas over polyester.

2. Plastic pens

We know single-use plastic is a problem and now we are spotting it everywhere. When it comes to pencil cases, we seem to unashamedly stuff them with gel pens, felt tips and highlighters.

Maybe it’s time to swap for refillable pens. The environmental impact of anything is reduced if you can re-use it and a good refillable can last a lifetime – as any grandparent will tell you (along with tales of ink cartridges and blotting paper).

But what to do with old pens? You may be able to recycle them. Pen manufacturer Bic runs a scheme with recycling company TerraCycle which has drop off points across the UK, so always worth a quick online check before chucking anything in the general waste bin.

3. Pencil cases

So where are you going to put your nice refillable pens? In an eco-friendly pencil case, of course.

When it comes to recycled materials, pencil cases are king. Whether you prefer recycled bike tyres, old crisp packets or even up-cycled plastic pipes - the internet is full of inspirational ways to store your stuff.

And you could even have a go at making your own, if you are the crafty type. From old drinks bottles to those denim jeans that don’t fit anymore - it seems anything can be made in a way to protect your precious pens and stay friends with the environment.

Now you know what you can do with all that spare time before school starts again, maybe.

4. Folders

Ok, so this one is probably the easiest. Choosing recycled paper is climate-friendly rule one, we get it. But when we choosing new folders, it’s easy to get wooed by shiny new plastic.

If you can, the best eco-choice would be to reuse folders from last year or ask friends and family if they have any old ones you could have.

And don’t worry that your older sister is a Little Mix superfan – folders were made to be recovered. Think old posters, magazine cutouts, even unloved trading cards can be used to make your folder a bit more you.

5. Green lunch

Wrappers, cartons, drink bottles… Lunchtime can be our non-recyclable waste downfall.

Of course chucking stuff in the right bin helps, but if you are trying to shift to being a better friend to the environment its time to switch to bringing your own food in nice reusable tubs.

Search for bento boxes online and you will soon be taking inspiration from Japanese packed lunches - expressing yourself through colourful reusable containers, utensils and napkins. Lunchtime just got a whole lot lovelier.

Oh, and you’ll need a good bag to carry everything back home. See point one!

6. Care about air

Air pollution around schools is becoming a big deal and there are even calls by public health bosses to reduce cars leaving their engines running at the school gates. Pollution can lead to a whole load of nasty illnesses and is especially bad for people with heart or lung conditions like asthma.

But what can you do to help keep our cleaner? You still have to get to school everyday, right?

Well, if you live near school, and are old enough, it’s good to walk more if you can - walking is also of course a great way to keep fit.

Other greener options include riding a bike and getting a bus, but if you must travel to school by car a good idea is to “divide the ride” (in line with your local social distancing rules, of course). Helping to set up a carpool with friends and their parents can mean a cheaper, easier run to school. Just make sure to wear your masks!

So there you have it, six easy ways help shift to a greener start to the school year and a more climate-conscious you!

And don't forget to check out BBC Bitesize for help with your homework, revision and learning throughout the year.

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