Five eco-friendly ways to start the school year

Kids can help care for the planet with sustainable tips for their school supplies, projects, and lunches.

Bottle goals

About a million plastic beverage bottles are sold every minute around the world. Equip your kids with personal reusable water bottles they can take to school, sports, and activities. And if their school isn’t already recycling plastic bottles, consider talking to officials about how to start. (Learn more about how kids can help reduce plastic waste.)

Write choices

Three green tips for coloring, drawing

  1. Store pens, markers, and highlighters topside down to keep the tips moist.
  2. Look for supplies that use recycled materials—colored pencils made from old newspapers or mechanical pencils created from recovered plastic. (Here's an Earth-friendly guide to back-to-school shopping.)
  3. Most crayons contain petroleum and don’t easily biodegrade—so save broken bits for another use. You could melt them down in the oven to create cool color combos, or mail them to a group that recycles crayons, such as crazycrayons.com.

Shop your house

Rummage in drawers at home for usable markers, scissors, and notebooks before buying new ones. Still missing some items? Check stationery shops and bookstores for packaging-free school supplies.

Lunch boost

Yes to taste, no to waste. Got picky eaters? Bring your kids to the grocery store and let them choose their own snacks—fresh fruit, trail mix, popcorn, banana chips—from produce or bulk food sections where foods aren’t wrapped. (Discover more innovative food packaging ideas.)

Trip takers

Outings for awareness. Ask your child’s teacher about a field trip to a landfill, recycling center, or creek. Seeing how waste is managed will encourage youngsters to recycle. And teaching them how to carefully observe nature builds environmental awareness.

For more stories about how to help the planet, go to natgeo.com/planet

This story appears in the September 2021 issue of National Geographic magazine.

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