In my house, we ‘shop’ for back to school supplies in June, not September. I’m a grade school teacher. Every June when my students do “locker clean-out”, it’s sickening to see all the school supplies they throw away. Barely-used binders, pencils, pens, pencil cases, crayons, and spiral notebooks. All tossed into the trash without a second thought. Even lunchboxes and backpacks in good condition! To celebrate the start of summer vacation, the family of one of my students actually burn everything on the last day of school in the backyard! (Note: Literally don’t try this at home. It’s not only a waste of materials — the fumes can be downright toxic!)
Then, a short two months later, throngs of parents and kids head to the Staples and Wal-Mart to buy loads of new stuff for the upcoming school year. Some people even consider it a fun ‘tradition’ to shop for new school supplies. But I have a different idea…
Since preschool, I’ve told my two sons, now a high school freshman and junior, that backpacks and lunchboxes are to be used for at least two years. Then, once backpacks become “ratty looking”, we use them for Boy Scout excursions until they are completely beyond repair.
Prepping the School Supplies Box for the Basement
On the first day of summer vacation, my boys and I go through their school supplies. We take apart the partially-used spiral notebooks, we recycle the used paper and the metal spiral, and we keep the blank sheets for next year.
The sturdy plastic-covered binders are spruced up (with a green brand of cleaner), and used again. Pencils are sharpened and put into the pencil cases; accompanied by all the pens, markers and highlighters that still work. Ditto for the rulers, protractors, 3-hole-punches and erasers. Backpacks and lunchboxes are washed and air-dried. Then everything goes in a box in the basement, awaiting Fall.
Helping the Environment and Saving Money, Too
During the first week of school, when my boys get their respective lists of needed school supplies, we buy only the things that are absolutely needed. This year I spent less than $20, and last year, we didn’t buy anything new!
We’ve been doing this since pre-school so they are accustomed to it and do not feel like they are missing out on anything. In fact, it feels perfectly natural to them — and they actually like helping the environment. How’s it going in your household? Any ideas to share?