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Responsible Goods for Back to School: The Best Picks and Tips

back to school lunch containers

Gearing up to go back to school can be stressful if you’re trying to tread lightly on the planet. Conventional school supplies, disposable sandwich baggies and packaged food wrappers usually head straight to landfill and stay there forever, breaking down into small pieces that pollute the environment. Cheap, single-use plastic products for young students also send the wrong message. They are future ambassadors for our planet, and we should set an example by committing to use responsible products as we send them off to school.

That’s why we’re recommending our favorite products to help you gear up for back to school without all the waste.

First, Look Around

It might seem obvious, but before recommending you go shopping for back to school, you should check around the house for items that can be reused. There might be a few supplies on your child’s school list tucked in desk drawers. Check thrift shops and garage sales for book bags and other school supplies. Repurpose items you already have for a waste-free (and inexpensive) start to the school year.

Shop for “Old-School” Supplies

San Francisco-based Wisdom Supply is a one-stop shop for vinyl-free binders, plastic-free highlighters, and other old-school supplies. Founder Heather Itzla says it’s core to their mission to “disrupt what we call the shelf-to-shore pipeline, and replace it with systems that prevent plastic and vinyl from entering the global waste stream.” They also have a Zero Waste School Supply Kit — for the ultimate sustainable back-to-school supply package in one click. It includes recycled paper products, plastic-free writing materials, a PVC-free binder and more. They also have hard-to-find plastic-free and Xylene-free dry erase pencils that wipe off with a damp cloth and don’t dry out. Our partner, Plastic Pollution Coalition is a fan too, and so are students and teachers at San Francisco Bay Area schools who have tested and vetted these waste-free school supplies.

Say Goodbye to Single-Use Food Packaging

Skip the Ziploc baggies, plastic Tupperware, paper lunch bags, and packaged foods, and instead opt for U-Konserve’s long-lasting containers in a variety of sizes and colors, backed by a Lids for Life guarantee. They’re versatile enough for pre-school snacks, on-the-go college lunches, and everywhere in between. See the full assortment of waste-free containers and accessories, or choose from tried and true back-to-school best sellers. One of the benefits of durable stainless steel containers for back-to-school lunch packing is that you don’t need new ones every year. Another benefit? Read about the new guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommending limiting chemical exposure from some plastic food packaging. All U-Konserve products are tested free of BPA, phthalates and lead, and meant to be reused, washed and reused again and again—good for you and the planet.

Source Eco-Friendly Backpacks & Lunch Totes

If you have to buy new, look for durable backpacks with recycled and organic fabrics that are fluorocarbon-free, from respected companies with high sustainability standards like Fjällräven, and companies that have take-back and repair programs like Patagonia. Better yet, find a previously owned backpack through Worn Wear, and get a deal on a hidden gem that will last a lifetime. Look for machine washable lunch totes made from recycled fabric with durable straps and buckles so you’re not replacing it year after year. U-Konserve’s Insulated Lunch Totes are long-lasting options made of recycled fabric and come in two sizes with pockets for ice packs, reusable utensils and straws.

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