Back to school shopping already?!?

You may be enjoying long, lazy days of summer, and it may seem like the new school year is weeks away, but the school bell will be ringing before you know it. Students will soon head back to class, backpacks full of school supplies.

Speaking of backpacks, here’s a waste-reducing and money-saving 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, and easy to clean, so why replace them each year?

Pull out last year’s backpack, check the zippers and seams, and give it a good cleaning. Remove everything in the backpack. Recycle the papers you don’t need. Use a vacuum on the inside to remove remaining paper debris and lint.

You can choose to spot clean or hand wash your backpack. To spot clean, wipe the backpack clean inside and out with a damp cloth and hang to dry. To hand wash, spot treat any stains with a laundry stain remover. Wash the backpack in a sink with a mild detergent in lukewarm water and scrub stains with a soft brush or cloth. An old toothbrush is good for ground-in stains and hard-to-reach crevices. Turn the bag inside-out and wash the inside as well. Rinse in clean lukewarm water both inside and out. 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 rulers, 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.

Now that’s smart thinking!

Photo credit: Kritchanut | iStock | Getty Images Plus

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