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Send Your Kids Back to School Seeing Green

Send Your Kids Back to School Seeing Green

There’s a reason why we don’t try to explain climate change and all of its affects in entirety to kids and instead tell them about endangered species, encourage them to recycle, and educate them about their health. The worldview of a school-aged child isn’t that of an adult’s (and maybe that’s a good thing!), and it can be hard for kids to understand the enormous, long-term impact of their actions. And yet all of our actions impact those around us, near and far, in ways we can’t even imagine and it’s important to start teaching kids to consider their community at an early age. So how can we send them back to school with a green living mentality? Read on to learn where to start.

Start Small
When kids might not even know their own weight, how can they be expected to understand the effects of the 18,000+ lbs of lunch waste they produce each year? Instead of trying to wrap their minds around an idea of that scale, start small. Send them to school with a non-toxic, stainless-steel lunchbox with reusable lunch bag and stainless steel water bottles, explaining that these items can be used over and over, for years, while paper and plastic lunch ware can’t be cleaned and must be thrown out every day. Give them the assignment of looking around the lunchroom and seeing how many brown paper sacks, sandwich bags, juice pouches, and snack wrappers get thrown into the trash each day. After a week, they’ll begin to understand just how much waste one student or lunchroom can really produce.

Hit Home
Because your student may not notice the litter in the park or the hundreds of plastic bags stuck in trees around town, he may not even think twice before tossing his bubblegum wrapper on the dugout floor at a baseball game, or his empty soda can into the trash instead of the recycling bin. By volunteering to pick up trash on a local street or at a park, you’re showing your kids how to respect beauty, the environment, and our communal spaces.

Teach Mindfulness
Does your kid wolf down dinner and dessert without once looking up, or while staring at the television, only to later complain of a stomach-ache or get a case of the grouchies? By teaching kids some simple mindfulness techniques, they can learn for themselves how healthy foods affect their bodies and how they feel after chowing down on junk. As a family, sit down for dinner together and take a deep breath before beginning the meal. Encourage kids to put down their utensils between bites, and after the meal is done ask children to notice their bodily sensations and feelings. Then ask again 30 minutes later. Children (and parents) might be surprised to notice that they didn’t really need that second helping of mashed potatoes and that a bag of cheetos before bed results in a junk food hangover. Using simple techniques like these help your children learn about health from the inside out, and the method will serve them well in other areas of life as well.

What green tips, concepts, and facts have your kids embraced? What questions do they ask about living healthy? Who do they think makes up their community?

How to Reduce Waste this School Year

How to Reduce Waste this School Year

Back-to-school time is a lot like Christmas—there’s excitement, stress, and a lot of buying. Most parents with school-aged children have spent a small fortune on school supplies and snacks at the beginning of the year only to discover a mountain of barely-used pencils and notebooks at the end of the year—not to mention a car littered with fruit snack wrappers. As parents, we lead by example, and the practices we employ today will rub off on our kids. Here are 4 simple ways to reduce waste this school year and set a green example for your kids.

#1 Avoid Buying in Bulk
Those bulk packages of pens, notebooks, snacks, and juice boxes are tempting, but the truth is that many of these products are sold cheaply in bulk because they’re unhealthy, cheaply made, or don’t follow environmentally-friendly productions standards. Instead, compile a list of everything you need based on all your kids’ school supply sheets and look for supplies that are made from recycled materials or that can be recycled or refilled later. As far as snacks, shopping locally for healthy fruits and veggies and setting aside a couple hours a week to bake a batch of granola or whole grain muffins to send the school will ensure that your kids eat healthy without creating a ton of trash.

#2 Use Resusable Lunchware
The average American family creates 4,320 pieces of unnecessary lunch waste, mostly plastic packaging. That adds up to a lot of trash in the landfills and ocean with a lot of dollars down the toilet. Instead of buying pre-packaged snacks and milks and sending lunches to school in brown bags and plastic baggies, purchase non-toxic, reusable lunch boxes and snack cups for your kids to take lunch to school in and send water and milk in stainless steel bottles. Throw in a cloth napkin and reusable cutlery and you’ll eliminate ALL of the 4,320 pieces of lunch waste your family would normally produce!

#3 Choose Minimally Packaged Products
When possible, buy notebooks and supplies that don’t come in plastic wrappers or extra boxes, which are totally unnecessary. Every piece of non-degradable plastic trash that you throw away ends up in a landfill or adding to the island of trash in the ocean.

#4 Green Your School Commute
A great, easy way to reduce your carbon footprint is by having your kids walk, bike, or ride the bus to school. Walking or biking will give kids a little exercise to boost their energy and sharpness before class and let them enjoy the outdoors at the same time. If safety is a concern where you live, walk or bike your kids to school instead of driving them, or see if another student who already walks to school has a parent who can tag along.

What are some simple ways your family has reduced waste during the school year?

4 Green, Healthy Snacks for School

snacks.jpgSchool children are growing their bodies, brains, and personalities and eating right is key for the healthy development of all three. With so much junk available to kids these days, we thought we’d provide some ideas for delicious, nutritious snacks to send to school with your kiddos. Buying non-GMO and organic when possible is far healthier than buying conventional. Read on for 4 green, healthy snacks for school.

#1: Fruits and Vegetables
Seasonal, organic fruits and vegetables are such an important part of your kids’ diet. Check out your local farmer’s market or CSA to see what’s in season, or visit the local or organic sections of your grocery store’s produce aisle—the cheapest, most abundant produce is usually what’s in season! Kids love carrots and ranch dressing; you can also pack cut up cucumber, radishes, tomatoes, broccoli, and snap peas with a yummy dressing or homemade hummus for a fiber or protein boost.

#2: Nuts and Seeds
One of my all-time favorite, classic snacks (and one I know most kids love) is organic apples and peanut butter (I buy the kind you have to stir because it’s made without palm oil). You can also substitute almond butter if you’re trying to avoid peanuts or sunflower seed butter if your kids can’t do nuts at all. Nuts and seeds are packed with Omega fatty acids, regulate blood sugar, and provide a protein-fat boost that lowers cortisol and helps stressed kids calm down. My favorite trail mix to pack as a snack is a combination of almonds, walnuts, dark chocolate pieces, dried cherries, and dried blueberries—it’s an Omega-3, super food power snack!

#3: Whole Food Bars
Whether you make your own or purchase a nutritious option, bars that are packed with protein, fiber, and good fats make for a great snack that will keep your kid full and focused throughout the afternoon. Check labels: it’s best to buy organic, non-GMO, whole food bars that are made especially for kids because they’ll pack the right amount of vitamins and be lower in sugar. Choose nuts, seeds, and dried fruits over sweet bars that will just make your kids crave candy.

#4: String Cheese
String cheeses are so much fun to eat and they’re the perfect little pick-me up as a mid-morning or –afternoon snack. Most are under 100 calories so they won’t make kids sleepy but are full of fat and protein to give their brains and bodies the little kick they need to make it to 3:00. I like to pair a string cheese with a piece of seasonal fall fruit.

What school snacks do your kiddos gobble up? Which ones come back home in their lunchbox?

5 Green Tips for Back-to-School Shopping

colored pencils

It’s that time of year again! If you have more than one child or your only has been through a few rounds of back-to-school, the novelty of buying all new supplies and clothes may have worn off now that you realize what an impact fall shopping has on your wallet and the environment. Read on for 5 simple tips for back-to-school shopping.

#1: Go Through Last Year’s Supplies
Most teachers call for a pretty generous supply of notebooks, folders, pens, and pencils. Go through your craft room or office to see if you have any untouched notebooks or folders in good enough shape to reuse. It’ll save you time and money and prevent unnecessary waste.

#2: Try On Last Year’s Wardrobe
Not all clothing items or brands fit the same—some run bigger than others. Plus, clothes that are worn less frequently have also been washed and dried less frequently and may still offer some wiggle room. Have your student try on last year’s clothes to see if there’s anything you can salvage before buying new. For items that have been outgrown buy second hand or from a sustainable, green brand in cases where you must buy new.

#3: Check Amazon
Before spending a fortune on new text books and the English class reading list, check Amazon! Chances are you’ll find what you need in like-new condition for much less. Buying used books where possible is a much greener option. If your student isn’t required to make notations, you can sell them back at the end of the year—bonus!

#4: Send a Waste-Free Lunch
The average American family spends $400 extra per year on disposable lunch ware and creates about 4,320 pieces of trash—mostly plastic packaging—unnecessarily. Not to mention the fact that plastics contain harmful chemicals like BPA and phlalates. Send your kids’ lunches to school in a reusable lunchbox, and replace bottled water and boxed juices with stainless steel bottles you fill at home.

#5: When Buying New, Buy Green
There’s no doubt you’ll still need to make some new back-to-school purchases this fall. Look for brands that use recycled paper and pen or marker canisters to make new supplies. Green backpack, shoe, and clothing brands are springing up everywhere, too!

What’s your favorite way to go green during back-to-school shopping?

4 Ways to Go Green and Save Money on Back-to-School Wardrobes

back-to-schoolBack-to-school time is upon us which means most kids will need a new fall and winter wardrobe. Because buying a new wardrobe each season can get expensive and wasteful. I have been working with ECOlunchbox to help your family go green and buy smart, so we’re sharing a few ways to keep the process green and thrifty. Read on for our top 4 ways to save money and go green when purchasing your student’s back-to-school wardrobe.

#1: Buy Second Hand
Thrift stores and garage sales are usually great places to find kids’ clothes because kids tend to only wear their wardrobe for a season before they’ve grown out of it, thus providing you with a selection of used clothes in pretty great condition—at a much lower price! If the thought of thrift stores turns you off, seek out local consignment stores where the selection is likely to be a little newer and higher-end. The one item I don’t usually purchase second hand is kids’ shoes. Properly-fitted, comfortable shoes are so essential—it’s best to buy these new or acquire a used pair from someone you know, perhaps at a clothing swap.

#2: Arrange a Clothing Swap
Finding a hand-me-down buddy, or someone who’s always willing to give you the clothes their slightly older kid has just grown out of, is also great, but with a clothing swap you get to give back while offloading some outgrown clothes! Clothing swaps for kids tend to work best with a group of families with kids in several different age groups so that you’re not just exchanging too-small clothes for new too-small clothes. Families with multiple kids or siblings staggered between your kids will do just fine! Set a date, time, and pick a house and bring gently worn, washed and folded clothing to the swap—oh yeah, and don’t forget to bring your kids! You’ll want to be able to use the old hold up method or let your kids try on the clothes to make sure they’ll fit. Bringing the kids along also gives them a chance to pick out a few pieces themselves.

#3: Go Green & Local When Buying New
If there are clothing items you can’t find used, consider eco-friendly and sustainable companies to purchase new items from. There are tons of brands and smaller businesses selling organic, sustainably made kids’ clothes just a Google away, and some big box stores like H&M even have organic lines for little ones.

#4: Keep Clothes Nice
One of the best ways to preserve clothing so that it can be passed down to younger siblings, donated, or re-sold at consignment to bring some cash back in is to keep it nice enough to be reused. When clothing encounters a stain, treat it with a non-toxic stain remover before throwing it in the wash so that the stain isn’t set forever. Having a few sets of “weekend clothes”, casual, or lounge clothes at home for your kids to change into after school is also a great way to preserve the life of their school clothes—and help them get cozy and settled into homework time!

These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg! What eco-friendly, back-to-school wardrobe tips does your family have?


Full Disclosure: This post is part of a sponsored 10 post series with EcoLunchbox – you can find all 10 posts below:

  1. 4 Ways to Go Green and Save Money on Back-to-School Wardrobes
  2. 3 Back-to-School Tips to Help Kids Make Healthy Eating Choices
  3. 3 Tips for Waste-Free Lunches for Back to School
  4. How to Start Phasing Plastics Out of the Kitchen
  5. Waste Free Lunch Gear to Add to Your Lunchbox