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Sustainable school supply shopping survival guide

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It is easier now than ever to shop for eco-friendly and affordable products if you know what you are looking for. Green school supplies can be found at just about any big-box store from Five Below to the Dollar Tree. While some products may present as eco-friendly, greenwashing can easily trick consumers into thinking products are being sustainable when they are actually not. Learn how to shop smart and eco-friendly this year with the Recorder’s sustainable school supplies survival guide. 

Ditch single-use, go reusable

Ditching plastic water bottles and grocery bags and sandwich bags for reusable water bottles and sandwich bags is a great way to save money and be environmentally-conscious at the same time. Recent estimates of carbon dioxide emissions from bottled water have resulted in higher levels than before. Water consumption from bottled water creates as much Co2 as of the entire aviation industry. Americans use an average of 365 plastic bags per person per year. Reusable snack bags and water bottles can be found at Five Below and other box stores. While the initial investment may be more, it will save money and the planet in the long run. 

Gauge the green

One way to gauge if a product is green is by its packaging. Many school supplies like pencils, pens, etc. can be eco-friendly without the green packaging. Some products that sway consumers with pretty green leaves and packaging may not be as eco-friendly as they appear. Recyclable or compostable packaging is a great indication that there may be some commitment to the environment. If a package contains single use plastic wrap, it may be a good idea to investigate that company’s commitment to being eco-friendly. 

Additionally, opt for paper folders over plastic and products that use recyclable materials. As you shop for products, keep these details in mind:
Is the packaging itself sustainable?
Are the ingredients and materials used recyclable or clean?
Will the longevity of the product be better for the environment than single-use?

Third-party certification

There are a number of organizations that exist to vet sustainable products, from assessing a product’s environmental impact to materials to transportation and production. Products with third-party certification can be trusted as eco-friendly and sustainable. There are plenty of trusted third-party certifications to look for, but to get you started, here are a few common certifications: 

Certified B Corporations are businesses that are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, community and environment. The certification is recognized in 37 states, including Indiana. Brands must apply for and receive voluntary certification from the B Lab, a nonprofit that ensures companies meet high social and environmental standards of transparency and accountability. 

Climate Neutral is a mission-driven nonprofit organization that certifies companies and brands to drive millions of dollars into climate change solutions. Their mission is to help brands and companies measure, offset and reduce their carbon emissions. Currently, 92 brands are certified through Climate Neutral. 

Fair Trade USA is an easily recognizable logo on products that can indicate they are sustainable. Fair Trade products work with more than 1,500 partners, such as Amazon, Kroger, Dole and Target, to certify fair trade products. 

Looking for vetted third-party certification is the best way to ensure a product is sustainable. 

With just a little bit of pre-planning and research, parents can ensure longevity and sustainability of their children’s school supplies shopping this year. 

Contact staff writer Jayden Kennett at 317-762-7847 or by email jaydenk@indyrecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @JournoJay.

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