Here comes the “S” word!

We’re going to say the “S” word—school!  While some of us may still be enjoying long, lazy days of summer, for many students, the school bell is about to ring.  Students will soon head back to class, backpacks full of school supplies.

Speaking of backpacks, we have a waste-reducing and moneysaving idea! Don’t buy a new backpack this year! Backpacks are usually made from sturdy canvas with durable zippers and well-sewn pockets. They are meant to last, so why replace them each year?

Pull out last year’s backpack, check the zippers and seams, and give it a good cleaning. Take out everything in the backpack. Recycle the papers you don’t need and throw away the trash. Use a vacuum on the inside to remove remaining paper debris and lint. Then wipe the backpack clean inside and out with a damp cloth. If the backpack smells musty, add a little baking soda to your rinse water. Leave all of the pockets open and hang it on a chair or hook to dry and air out. If the backpack needed a more thorough washing inside, turn it inside out to dry.

Before you go shopping for school supplies, look through what was left over at the end of the last year. You may find a ruler, notebooks, loose leaf paper, pens, and pencils that either were never used or are still usable. If items are worn out or broken, replace them. If you are out of something, like paper or #2 pencils, buy new ones. When shopping, be sure to look for phrases like “recycled-content” or “post-consumer recycled content,” which means the products were made from recyclables!

Each year, an American family with children in grades K-12 spends on average just over $600 for school clothes, accessories, and supplies. Given that, taking the time to clean last year’s backpack and sort last year’s school supplies is both a good investment and a good way to reduce your waste. That’s a doubly good deal!

For a few more ideas, read Back-to-School Shopping.

Photo credit: © Jaren Wicklund |

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