Before we know it, August will be over and school will be in full swing! Did you know that almost all common school supplies are either not recyclable, or kids just don’t recycle them at the end of the school year?
The Wisdom Supply Company points out that at the end of the school year, kids clean out their lockers and the pencil cases and binders and all go straight into the trash. Can these things be recycled? Let’s look at each item, and see if they’re recyclable, and see if there’s a sustainable alternative.
The Wisdom Supply Company works with schools, mainly two right now, near San Francisco, CA. Through this partnership, they have avoided throwing away .5 tons of plastic over the course of two school years! They have calculated that EACH STUDENT was previously throwing away 4.3 pounds of plastic school supplies, every. single. year.
As a culture, we’ve developed a tradition called “back-to-school shopping.” And it’s true, kids do get truly excited to pick our their shiny or plastic cool looking stuff. But, we need to shift this mindset and create new traditions that don’t harm us and the planet. We can do this!
Here are some awesome sustainable, healthy, non-toxic, and in many cases biodegradable school and office supplies!
One of my FAVES is the China Marker Wax Peel “markers” – they are truly awesome and WAY better than the highlighters I always used before!
#1: Notebook, NO SPIRALS
Municipal haulers tell Wisdom Supply Co. that they have to send spiral notebooks to the landfill because the twirly bits (the spiral) junks up the recycling machines and/or generally decreases the value of the recyclable paper. And, let’s be real. Do you take the time to rip off all the pages from the spiral, so you can at least recycle the paper? hmmmm….
Sustainable alternative: Environotes non-spiral Notebooks are neat – and the paper is made from sugarcane fiber in the U.S.A. Wisdom Supply Co also offers non-spiral notebooks that are cheaper. You may also be able to find non-spiral notebooks at your local store.
Here are some travel-size notebooks: https://www.guided.com/collections/notebooks/products/rewrite-recycled-notebooks-mini
#2: No-plastic Pencil Sharpener that will last forever
Buy it once and have it forever. No electricity or plastic is needed in this manual pencil sharpener. Attach it to your wall, a bookshelf, or a table.
#3: No-plastic scissors or low plastic scissors.
The only true non-plastic scissors are offered by Wisdom Supply Co (Westcott Forged scissors) and Tanegashima. The Kai scissors do have plastic on the handles, but they are such good scissors I added them to the list.
#4: No-plastic Ruler
Ruler – stainless steel: Wood River brand. 12″ (300mm) cabinetmaker’s rule is also an excellent value. It is made of hardened stainless steel with deeply engraved graduations. The finest graduations are in 64th and .5 mm. The rear face displays an inch to metric and fraction to decimal conversion table.
Ruler – mostly wood: Wescott 12″: https://www.wisdomsupplyco.com/collections/products/products/ruler-metric-imperial
#5: Biodegradable, No-plastic Tape
- “scotch” tape: cellulose 1″, found at http://www.LifeWithoutPlastic.com
- Packing tape – biodegradable: gummed paper tape 2″, found at http://www.LifeWithoutPlastic.com. works well with a sea sponge which can be found at hardware stores.
#6: Compostable and Recyclable Binders!
Binders are a huge contributor of landfill waste. The metal part of the binder can’t be detached from the plastic, and the whole things gets tossed. NO MORE! In the words of Wisdom Supply Co:
Why send any part of a binder to landfill? EVER?
No matter what material a binder is made from, it takes a beating as it’s lugged and tugged between lockers, classrooms, and backpacks.
adding Replacement Covers to the assortment next season
- Spine Width 1.56″ W
- Front and Back Cover Size: 10.5″ W x 11.625″
To replace the cover, unscrew two screw, and then replace with the new cover! Super simple.
#7: No-plastic, no waste, MARKERS!
In the words of Wisdom Supply Co….
“We (humans) throw “away” a stunning amount of markers (many hundreds of millions per year).
And what for? What really justifies the use of a marker that will inevitably dry out and then exist on the planet longer than we can fathom? Kid’s drawings? Poster Projects??”
- For school, try the Dermotograph Goldstar China Marker Wax Peel “markers”
- and for bright, vibrant color that just glides onto the page with no smearing, we recommend (when budgets allow) the Caran D’Ache Wax Pastels
#8: No-plastic Highlighters!
Ask Wisdom Supply Company for a few single yellow China Marker Wax Peel “markers,” or buy the whole set of China Marker Wax Peels linked above. I use these and I LOVE THEM. When the wax tip wears down, you peel off a layer of paper to reveal more wax. Skip to minute three of this video to see how to do this.
#9: Colored Pencils
Forest Stewardship Council Certified. Forest Choice 12 real cedar wood colored pencils.
#10: No-plastic, no-toxins natural Rubber Eraser
Charles Leonard natural rubber eraser. If you buy them from the manufacture, you have to buy 24. If you buy from Wisdom Supply Co, you can buy only one, if you want.
There are other non-toxic erasers out there, but they are much more expensive, such as this Tombow Mono eraser from Dick Blick, for $5.16, which is made with natural latex and silica. This Prismacolor Artgum eraser may be made of non-toxic materials, but you’d have to research more to know for sure…it is $0.89.
Conventional erasers are made from a variety of substances that I personally don’t want to add to the dust of the home when the bits get swiped off the paper onto the floor. Some may read this and think I’ve taken things too far, but if we’re going to clean up our homes, there’s no reason to not seek out natural erasers. Just because it’s a small item, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be considered.
#11: Refillable Pens
If you want to get fancy, try some old fashioned wood “pens” with metal tips, and make your own ink from black walnut hulls! I’ve made mine in the following way, but I’m sure there are easier ways to be found on the internet:
#12: Dry Erase Markers Full Set with refill ink
There are two options here. The first is a sharpenable ‘marker,’ (Stabilo brand).
The other option is: “Auspen Brand Refillable Dry Erase Markers
- Aluminum Barrel
- Replaceable Nibs
- Endlessly Refillable
Math: 6 (endlessly refillable) Pens x 6 Bottles of Ink = (conservatively) the equivalent of 114 disposable dry erase pens
Each bottle of ink will refill a pen 18 times (25 drops per refill)
From the Auspen website: “Most people think ‘disposable = cheap’ – what we found is that it’s the other way around. Disposable costs more and its a terrible cost on the environment.”
#13: Metal hole-punch
Vintage Wilson Jones Hummer or Boston hole punches can be found on ebay or Etsy.
#14: No-plastic Pencil Case
Let’s face it – plastic pencil cases break within a few weeks. Kids like buying new plastic pencil cases, and they also enjoy decorating them with permanent markers while they’re bored in class ;), but maybe you can persuade them to go with a waxed cotton or cotton zippered alternative. Buy it once, not every year. Look on Etsy for these. I recommend RainbowBeeDesign, because she actually applies the beeswax to the fabric herself, rather than buying a toxic fabric that is pre-waxed with who-knows-what-wax. Here is a link to her pencil case: https://www.etsy.com/listing/517402743/pencil-pouch-gift-for-artists-artist. Here is a link to a canvas pencil case on Amazon for $8: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00JTGEVJC/ref=ox_sc_act_title_1?smid=A2U2HP2MJM8J7H&psc=1
#15: No-plastic Folders
These wear out each year, regardless if they’re plastic-ish, or if they’re recycled paper, so we might as well go with the humble recycled paper, from Roaring Spring Environotes folders.
#16: Non-toxic Glue
Make your own wheat paste glue anytime you need it by simply mixing water with white flour until it has the consistency of pancake batter. After a few minutes, it should be ready to brush onto your paper like regular glue – this tutorial shows it being used to paste paper labels to glass jars.