The Back to School period can feel pretty overwhelming – ads on TV are screaming at you to ‘Buy! Buy! Buy!’, and your child’s book list feels a mile long. But with first days delayed in some states and shopping made particularly difficult this year, why not use the opportunity to slow down and formulate a more sustainable Back to School strategy?

There are a lot of things to consider when you’re trying to be sustainable, but the good old rule of ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ is a great first step. For sustainable Back to School shopping, this can look like:

  • Buying fewer items at the start of each year
  • Using what you have
  • Sourcing hand-me-downs
  • Repurposing old supplies that no longer work
  • Wrapping books in repurposed wrapping paper or investing in reusable covers

The best part is, sustainable Back to School shopping can make the experience more affordable, too. Wondering how to get started? Here you go…

Break down the book list

The list of supplies you receive from your child’s school is like your Back to School bible, but that doesn’t mean you need to rush out and buy every single item. More often than not, this list is copy/pasted from last year.

It’s a good idea to go through your child’s current school supplies and highlight off what you already have, then go rummaging around the house trying to find the rest (you’ll be surprised what you have hidden at the back of your drawers!).

Find out what can be fixed up rather than replaced – that calculator might just need new batteries, for example – and take note of the items your child didn’t use last year.

If you have the time, it’s also a beneficial to talk to your child’s teacher to find out the absolute essentials. Several the items on that list will be there ‘just in case’.

Choose to reuse

Often, being sustainable just comes down to being smart. Think about each and every product you will be purchasing and how long they will last. Why use a single-use pen when you can buy a refillable version?

Also consider the products that can enjoy a second life when they are no longer being used for school. Of course, things like snack bags and containers will continue to be used for packing snacks on school holidays or leftovers on the weekends – but think bigger.

Could your child’s lunch bag become a toiletry or electronics bag when you travel? What about using your reusable snack sack to organise the car for road trips, or hold hair or craft supplies at home? Or, when in years to come your Yumbox shell does eventually break, why not hold onto the tray as a spare (perfect for meal prep) or use as an organiser or paint tray? The opportunities are endless when you think sustainably.

Invest in durability

For sustainable Back to School shopping, the answer to a product’s durability will often lie in the list of materials used. Tough linens or rPET recycled fabrics are preferable to polyester or nylons both for their durability and sustainability, especially when coated. Many people also prefer stainless steel, silicone and glass over plastic. With that being said, sturdy food-safe options like Tritan that will last for years are also a great option.

In the unfortunate event they do break, opt for items that offer replacements or replaceable parts. Just take the Yumbox, for example – customers report using their Yumboxes for school lunches for as long as seven years, and they offer replacement latches should yours break (#becausekids).

For a water bottle, the Precidio Drink the Box is a fun alternative to single-use ‘poppers’ or juice boxes. It offers a replacement kit so you don’t need to throw the whole product away in the rare event that it breaks.