Back-to-school with greener goods — it’s easier than ever

Getting our back-to-school game face on is hard enough without being forced into buying reams of virgin paper and plastic goods that fail to lighten our mood.

But going against the wave of cheap, plasticky school supplies is getting easier, and more affordable. There are a few hurdles that can trip you up. You may have to order from a couple different places, adding to your shipping costs and carbon footprint. But if you have any office supply needs beyond school, you could make up for that by ordering some of these supplies in bulk.

A solution to the paper problem that doesn’t just paper over the problem

As you might guess, I’m a folder not a crusher. I’ve been delicately sliding gifts out of their festive dress and folding the useable remains for so many years, it’s instinctive.

The bows go in a bag to be reused. Paper gets folded and smoothed, destined to wrap increasingly smaller packages in future years. Gift bags are handled respectfully. Without telltale writing they can soldier on for years. Same for a few sturdy gift boxes, courtesy of a friend who used to send Harry and David. Those come out every year. And we remember our departed friend fondly.
At one time, all this anal retentive fussing made me seem like a nut, a wrapping-paper-saver hoarder, ready for a profile on that reality show about people who stash stuff away until they can’t walk in their house.

Going back to school with a green notebook will cost you

Back to school time can be filled with fun as your kids anticipate a new year, a fresh crack at the subjects they love (recess, lunch, Chatting with Peers 101 etc.) and you get to send the lovelies off (their derrières and the couch) and back into some sort of forward-lurching motion toward a fulfilling and educated future.

But just try to send them with greener school supplies. Chances are you’ll be frustrated. I’ve been at this for a few years and have searched many glaringly lit mega stores and combed countless websites looking for reasonably priced, good quality notebooks, binders, pens and pencils made from recycled material.

Show some enthusiasm for recycled TP

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

There’s a funny scene in the Larry David show Curb Your Enthusiasm in which Larry, and the displaced New Orleans family encamped in his house, wink and smirk over the toilet paper that his wife has installed in the bathrooms.

Being an environmentalist – as is her real life counterpart Laurie David – Cheryl David had outfitted the water closets with recycled TP. The running joke was that everyone had noticed the difference. And they weren’t in love with the experience.

Such is the reputation of recycled TP. Although, it seems as though I have successfully slipped it by my family. Has it gotten better (I think it has)? Or are they smirking behind my back? Probably a bit of both. I don’t really know, and it doesn’t matter because we won’t be returning to conventional stuff.

Turn over an old leaf, get a 2009 calendar on recycled paper

By Barbara KesslerGreen Right Now

I thought we’d get ahead of ourselves if we talked calendars, but now that I’ve moved into that zone where I’m noting appointments on little pieces of scratch paper because I don’t have any “January”… It’s time to get set for ’09.

Let’s first acknowledge that, yes, keeping an online paperless calendar is the greenest way to go. Hats off to my friends and colleagues who have an electronic calendar following them around on their Blackberries. I’m not so deft with tiny keyboards and as the household commissar I must have something a bit less virtual. I am the keeper of the Master Schedule and when teens related to me try to foist off the details of their next band concert or Starbucks tete-a-tete, I direct them to the Master Schedule.

Green School Supplies: Seek And You Will Find — Our Definitive List

By Barbara Kessler

Well, slap us with a ruler, it’s time once again to hunt down school supplies, to elbow into the desperate mob with our mandates to secure a thousand pens, pencils, highlighters, fine tip Sharpies, binders and the mysterious “folders with brads.”

With the eco news streaming like ticker tape from the big office stores this year, we thought it would be an easy assignment to find what we needed in recycled versions. We were surprised that this was not the case. The stores we sampled (Office Depot, Office Max and Target) offered only a handful of green notebooks and non-toxic pens. At Office Depot we nearly struck out, looking in vain for recycled filler paper, reasonably priced eco-responsible spiral notepads and pencils made from post-consumer waste. We did spot a reusable shopping bag at the checkout line. But we had only a lone green item, Ticonderoga EnviroStik pencils, to put in it!

Tired of combat crawling through towering stacks of un-green paper and binders, we turned the Internet. Aha! Here we found much greener pastures. Online, even the Big Box stores that had failed us in person had the environmentally good goods. Go figure. Serves us right for expending $4 gasoline to search out environmentally friendly products. Our findings, and a powerfully definitive list it is: