5 Quick Tips for Finding the Best Eco-Friendly School Supplies

Photo Credit: Aubrie Pick for Simply Sustainable

When back-to-school time rolls around, your child dreams of fresh notebooks and colorful art supplies. You dream of a backpack magically filling itself.

We know you want to give your little one top-quality products while still taking care of the planet. But school shopping can be hectic, with crowded big box stores and busy schedules to navigate.

The good news is, we have your back. We’ve rounded up our favorite eco-friendly school supplies to help you save time. Plus, we’re sharing five simple ideas to help you make this back-to-school season low-waste and low-stress.

1. Start By Taking Stock of What You Have

Before you go out and buy a bunch of brand new school supplies, take inventory of what you already have at home. Reusing what you have helps reduce waste and saves you time and money, too. 

You can make this fun by organizing a “school supply treasure hunt.” First, make a list of what your child needs for school. Next, invite them to hunt through their room or craft area for anything on the list. Once you regroup, match the items they found to their list. Then celebrate with a zero-waste treat like watermelon or homemade popsicles.

You may be surprised by what you find. Last year, we discovered an entire box of pencils and three unused notebooks under my brother’s bed. (Unsurprisingly, we also found most of his missing socks.)

After your treasure hunt, check your list to see what you still need to shop for.

2. Buy Secondhand or Swap with Friends

When possible, source school supplies secondhand. Check local or online thrift markets, or talk with friends who have children to see if you can swap unneeded supplies. 

You can often find gently used items like:

  • Backpacks
  • Lunchboxes
  • Binders
  • School clothes
  • Athletic supplies

Buying secondhand reduces your carbon footprint and can help you get high-quality items for a lower price. 

3. Shop Sustainable Storage Options

Help your little one store their eco-friendly school supplies in style. Look for storage options made from eco-friendly materials like recycled content, organic cotton, metal or silicone.

Jem + Bea Kids Eco Backpack from The Tot

This backpack may be the most adorable thing on our list. And it’s made from 100% recycled materials! The company reclaims old fishing nets and turns them into regenerated nylon thread. It’s durable, water-resistant and easy to clean. The chunky zippers are easy for little hands to use and the animal faces are sure to have them smiling. 

Sustainable Mini Backpack from Terra Thread

This backpack is made from heavy-duty 14 oz organic cotton canvas, so it’s ready to stick with your child for years to come. You can also shop the larger size for older kids or adults. We love the 14 fun colors it comes in, and that it’s carbon neutral. 

Aluminum Pencil Tin from Wisdom Supply Co

This eco-friendly pencil case protects your child’s essential writing supplies. It stands up to serious wear and tear, and it’s fully recyclable. 

Stainless Steel Tiffin Lunchbox from To-Go Ware

Inspired by traditional Indian tiffins, this stackable lunchbox helps you pack a zero-waste lunch. Stainless steel is surprisingly light. It’s also dishwasher & oven safe and 100% recyclable. 

Silicone Pocket Bags from Stasher Bags

Say goodbye to wasteful plastic bags. These silicone storage bags are sized to slip into your child’s pocket or backpack. They’re ideal for storing snacks, paper clips or keys, and they’re dishwasher safe for convenient care.

4. Choose Responsibly-Sourced Paper Products

Around the world, 80,000 acres of forestland disappears every day. You can help fight deforestation by looking for paper products made from recycled material or tree alternatives. Reduce waste by encouraging your child to use both sides of paper whenever possible!

Natural Recycled Drawing Paper from Discount School Supply

Encourage your budding artist with this natural drawing paper. It’s made from recycled materials and is fully recyclable. Don’t be fooled by the unbleached brown color — your little one’s art drawings will show up beautifully.

Recycled Paper Products from Decomposition

Decomposition’s eco-friendly school supplies are made from 100% post-consumer recycled paper. Their line includes notebooks, binders and planners with unique hand-drawn covers.

Organic Biodegradable Bandages from Patch

Whether it’s a paper cut during class or a scrape at recess, a few boo-boos are bound to happen during the school year. These compostable bandages are made from 100% organic bamboo fibre and come in a recyclable cardboard tube.

5. Look For Eco-Friendly School Supplies That Last

When you’re shopping for the rest of your eco-friendly school supplies, choose plastic-free options whenever you can. For plastic-packaged items like school glue, buy a bulk-sized package and refill a smaller container as needed. And opt for products with more than one use to help minimize your impact on the environment.

Handmade Recycled Newspaper Pencils from ByAmberAnd Rose on Etsy

These beautiful pencils bring character and eco-friendly flair to your child’s school day. Since they’re made from 100% recycled newspaper, they help preserve trees.

STABILO woody 3 in 1 Colored Pencil from STABILO

Let your child’s imagination run free with these multi-use colored pencils. You can use them as wax crayons, watercolor pencils and they wipe away easily, even off of walls and windows. Their thick style makes them long-lasting and easy for small hands to grip.

Crayon Rocks from Wild Creek

These crayon rocks are both whimsical and practical. They help strengthen your child’s tripod grip so they can hold a pencil more easily. With vibrant colors, non-toxic wax and plastic-free packaging they’re a great addition to your eco-friendly school supplies.

Brown Kraft Paper Packaging Tape from ThePackagingBubble on Etsy

You can reduce plastic use during your child’s craft time with this kraft paper tape. It’s made from biodegradable, recyclable materials and tears easily without scissors.

Refillable Pen from Wisdom Supply Co

Make flimsy plastic pens a thing of the past. This stylish .7 ballpoint pen is durable and reusable. It comes with a red ink plastic cartridge, but the supplier also offers black ink refills in recyclable metal cartridges.

Insulated Stainless Steel Bottle from Kleen Kanteen

Keeping your child hydrated is crucial, especially when they’re busy learning and playing. This bottle has a spill-proof sport cap, soft silicone spout and keeps beverages cold for up to 40 hours or hot for up to 12 hours.

A Sustainable Back-to-School Season

With these tips, your child can still enjoy their freshly sharpened pencils without a negative impact on the planet. And as other kids see their eco-friendly school supplies, they’ll take notice — and your positive influence can grow!

Whether this is your little one’s first year at school or their last, we wish you the best of luck with your back-to-school preparations. Do you have any recommendations for sustainable school supplies? Leave them in the comments!