Greening Back-to-School: My Report Card

Almost exactly one year ago, I was preparing to send my firstborn to kindergarten, and I shared my plans for greening school with you. Here is what I intended to do to reduce the environmental impact of Hannah’s first year at school:

  1. Pack litterless lunches.
  2. Walk to school and back each day.
  3. Choose sustainable school supplies.
  4. Buy school clothes second-hand, or opt for sustainably produced new clothes.

As I write this post, I have just finished back-to-school shopping for Hannah. A few hours ago we finally made our way home from the mall, reusable bags loaded with loot. So, how have I done? Did I live up to my green goals last year, and how are my preparations going for this year? I’ll share the good, the bad and the ugly with you here.

Hannah on the last day of school
Hannah on her last day of kindergarten

Amber’s Green Back-to-School Report Card

School Food: A+
Last year I packed all of Hannah’s snacks in reusable containers, and sent her tap water in a stainless steel water bottle to drink. I didn’t pack any disposable items, to the best of my recollection. To make things even better, the school held up their end of the bargain. They had a composter in the court yard for fruit and veggies, and the teacher took other food scraps home to compost herself. Some fruit was provided through a healthy school snack program, and that was also litter-free.

School Commute: A
I kept to my commitment to walk Hannah to school and back through rain, snow and heat. There were about five times when we were out all morning, and I dropped Hannah off at school (in the car) on my way home. I think those are reasonable exceptions. There was one time when I attended a class party with Jacob in tow, and a big tray of snacks, and I drove. And there was one time when it was really rainy and we were running really late and I caved in and drove. But on the whole, I feel that I lived up to my commitment.

School Supplies: C+
Last year I ordered supplies through a program at Hannah’s school that allowed me to just write a cheque in advance. The supplies showed up in Hannah’s classroom on the first day of school. This is a fairly sustainable option in the sense that the program allows bulk purchasing, and reduces the need for parents to drive all over town. But it doesn’t allow me any control over the supplies themselves, and it’s possible that I could find better options on my own. I planned to do a little bit of investigating this year, and then just wrote the cheque again instead. Writing a cheque is awfully easy. However, I did donate Hannah’s leftover supplies from last year back to the kindergarten for kids who can’t afford their own supplies or just general class use, so I know that those won’t go to waste.

School Wardrobe: B-
Last year I ended up buying Hannah’s back-to-school clothes on sale at a retail store, and her shoes were new, mostly because it’s awfully hard to find good used kids’ shoes. I did, however, score a second-hand pair of soccer cleats from Craigslist, so I did do some thrifting. This year, Hannah has a lot more school-ready clothes, many of them hand-me-downs from a friend. I bought her two pairs of pants and two shirts, all second-hand, and that’s the extent of her new clothes. But I had to buy new shoes again, and I just hit up the mall to find them.

Bonus Category – The School Itself: B-
I mentioned earlier that the school composts some fruit and veggie waste, and Hannah’s teacher took food waste home. They also recycle paper and beverage containers, which account for a lot of their waste, and they re-use scrap paper. Hannah’s class did a unit on Earth Day, and Hannah learned to avoid sending anything to the landfill. I think the school is really trying, and I commend them for that. The biggest pitfall that I see is probably the cars that sit idling outside the school at pick-up time. The parking situation at Hannah’s school is atrocious, and many parents park illegally as they wait to pick up their kids, so they opt for not turning off their cars. They are re-building the parking lot and things may be different this year, but I think that there really needs to be better management of traffic so that cars don’t sit idle, spewing out carbon dioxide, each and every school day.

How do you keep back-to-school green? And how does your school hold up their end of the bargain? I’d love to hear!

I was inspired to write this post for the Green Moms Carnival, which is being hosted by the lovely Micaela at Mindful Momma this month. If you want more ideas on greening back-to-school, check out Green Moms Go Back-to-School!

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  1. It is amazing what connecting to another parent with a child a year or two older can do..regarding hand me downs. My son is only in first grade but the supplies he needs are little. His back pack and lunch box from last year are still in perfect shape. It helps that we bought or were given as gifts good quality ones to start with. nobody has told me son that he is ‘supposed’ to get new things at the start of the new year…and I hope he never thinks that because that is not a good reason!
    Naomi’s last post … Care ChartMy Profile

  2. I live a 5 minute walk from the kids’ school (both the preschool and school are in the same building) so I will continue to walk (or run) each day. We are supposed to pack litter-less lunches which means that I will have to figure that out. It shouldn’t be too bad. The supplies I bought through the school…I was not really given an option although I suppose I could argue it. K’s teacher has been called “a battle-axe” by more than one person to me, and apparently she insists on all school supplies being exactly the same. Since I already have some concern over K acting out in school, I figured I wouldn’t make him stand out over this one issue.
    Marilyn @ A Lot of Loves’s last post … Damn! Dam. Swearing in Front of the Kids.My Profile

  3. Love the report card idea Amber! I find school supplies to be the trickiest purchase too. We don’t have a pre-order program but I never seem to order eco-supplies soon enough and end up grabbing what I need at the last minute. 🙁
    Micaela @MindfulMomma’s last post … Two Reusable Lunch Sack Giveaways: Graze Organic & Kids KonserveMy Profile

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