You picked out the perfect sustainable backpack! But what about all the goodies you need to stuff in it? We've rounded up the best Eco Friendly Zero Waste School Supplies your kids will love. From pencils to pens to notebooks, we've got you covered.
Sustainable stationery might seem like a lofty goal when you consider how many trees are being cut down to make paper products. Americans use 68 million trees per year for their paper needs which results in massive deforestation, destroys habitats, and contributes to climate change. The good news is, that there are lots of great companies offering sustainable paper products and other school supplies.
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1. Eco Friendly and Zero Waste School Supplies: Paper Products
Opting for 100% recycled paper is a great way to support the planet. Be on the lookout for a third-party certification like Green Seal, EcoLogo, The Chlorine Free Products Association, and of course the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
Printworks makes paper from 100% recycled post-consumer waste that comes from beverage and food containers and is certified by FSC and is also chlorine-free. Most recycled papers are made with only 30% recycled fiber, this paper is 100% recycled content and it's around the same price. So choosing this paper is a no-brainer!
Staples also carries 100% recycled paper products. This paper is FSC certified and made with 100% post-consumer recycled content, which is fantastic. The higher the post-consumer content the better!
If you have an artist in your family, recycled drawing paper is the way to go. These are natural unbleached paper made from recycled materials AND it's fully recyclable!
Notebooks & Notepads
For sustainable notepads and notebooks you have a few to choose from:
Michael Roger Inc. makes notebooks called Decomposition books. They are made with 100% post-consumer recycled paper and are fully compostable. These are really pretty, you can choose from an assortment of beautiful nature-inspired covers. They are made in the USA with soy ink. This company is the OG of paper products, having been in the industry for over 70 years!
Plantable notebooks, yep you read that right, these are made using recycled paper that is infused with seeds, so when you are done with the book, you simply plant it! I mean how cool is that? The seeds include Snapdragon, Bird’s Eye, Black-Eyed Susan, Clarkia, Sweet Alyssum, and Catchfly. These are made by PML Studios, you can choose between 30 and 60 sheets and they are 5" x 7" in size and come in packs of three and six. PML is based in the USA and is run by Pauline M. Lewis, who is an award-winning artist based in New York.
These spiral notebooks are made with 100% recycled paper and the cover is made of Kraft paper, durable and compostable. A good alternative to plastic or hardcover journal. And they are super affordable.
Ecojot has these gorgeous jumbo-sized journals that have 150 lined sheets / 300 pages. They are perfect for taking notes. The paper is 100% post-consumer recycled and made from paper that would otherwise end up in a landfill. This Canadina company is based in Quebec and they run an award-winning sustainable paper mill. Ecojot is a family-run business founded in 2007 by brother and sister team Mark and Carolyn Gavin. Their love for paper and great design has enabled them to create a sustainable brand made entirely in Toronto, Canada.
For the budget-conscious (who isn't these days?) you can choose Northbooks Notebook/Journals, these are 5x8 in size and made with paper that is Forest Stewardship Council Certified. They also work with Eden Projects, so each time you place an order, they plant a tree!
Probably the most eco friendly paper is one that is tree-free.... banana anyone? Ecopaper's Tree-Free Banana Paper Notebooks and Journals are made from the waste generated from coffee, mangoes, hemp, tobacco, sugar cane, and lemons! They are also chlorine-free. Make sure you check out how this paper is made, it's super cool. You know we are all about fair wages when it comes to the items we suggest and this company is all about that too!
All that eco paper needs a home, here are our top picks for binders. You want something that is durable and going to last. Binders are kind of a fashion statement, they were when I was a kid, it would take forever to pick the right cover. But I think if my mom explained to me how bad the plastic waste that is created is, I would have been happy to choose a plainer one. I mean you have the option to decorate the front yourself, which can be fun.
Here are three eco friendly binders to choose from:
The Guided Products Recycled ReBinder is made with recycled chipboard. They can fit about 100 sheets and have 0.5” rings. Each ReBinder comes with a one-page labeling system at no extra charge which you can easily print to customize the front, spine, and back of your binder. Guided Products are doing some great work with communities, non-profits, schools, and churches, where they offer discounted prices to make sure they all have access to items that are the best choice for the environment.
Naked Binder carries a 3-ringed binder. This is what they say about this binder on the website:
"The Naked Binder is crafted from one piece of board with the hinge pressed directly into it. This leaves no weak spots on the binder and makes for a super-strong 3-ring binder. An independent lab flexed the Naked Binder 250,000 times without failing which means if you use this binder 20 times a day for 34 years, you still will not break the hinge. Now that’s strong."
Naked Binder makes file folders that are made from left-over chipboard and are durable and are also 100% recycled FSC-certified post-consumer waste. These binders are made in the USA and sold in packages of 25. Naked Binder is a member of 1% For The Planet.
2. Eco Friendly and Zero Waste School Supplies: Pens, Pencils, Crayons, and Markers
Lucky for us eco-friendly pen and pencil alternatives come in all shapes and sizes. What's the problem with pens, well, they are made from plastic, most do not come with a refill so they end up in a landfill. Earth911 reports that "Americans toss 1.6 billion disposable pens annually." Sheesh...that's a lot of waste. And if you think pencils are better, think again, "82,000 trees are cut down annually to produce pencils!"
If you have a bunch of old pens lying around you can recycle them. TerraCycle and Staples Canda have a partnership to provide a second life for used writing instruments. Save used writing instruments and recycle them at your nearest Staples store.
"Through in-store collection at over 300 locations across Canada, we have successfully diverted over 2 million writing instruments from ending up in landfills."
Eco Friendly Pens
So many to choose from. One option is a refillable fountain pen. They may seem a little daunting at first, but they are actually really lovely to write with. They can be a little costly, but there are so many secondhand options available on places like eBay.
Not everyone will be into a fountain pen, so here are some other options:
EarthHero, which is one of your favorite zero waste online stores carries a Natural Grass Pen from A Good Company. These pens can be used over and over again as they as refillable and made from meadow grass paired with BPA-free plastics. They are also manufactured in a factory that is powered by biogas, and renewable energy. A Good Company plants trees in Africa to mitigate carbon emissions from production!
Eco Pen Club offers a pen that's made up of recycled craft paper and soy-based ink, which is non-toxic. You can compost the pen and recycle the cartridge. Eco Pen Club is also a carbon-neutral company show's motto is "Pen by pen, highlighter by highlighter, we’re working to reduce the amount of waste going into landfills, to reduce the amount of harmful, toxic ink we’re all exposed to, and to plant trees."
Conscious Concepts is another really cool eco-friendly pen. These are made from cork and wheat straw. They are not 100% zero waste, but nothing really is. Cork is a really sustainable fabric and the Wheat straw they use is the leftover byproduct from harvesting grains. This waste is often burned for disposal. Instead, they repurpose it as a plastic alternative to their pens.
I could not find a 100% zero waste pen. All of the ones above offer lots of really eco-friendly benefits but finding a truly green pen was a challenge. There is also a TON of greenwashing in this space.
There are also a ton of pens made from recycled plastic bottles like this one from Pilot B2B. They come in assorted colors and a fine point and medium point. You can replace the ink when it runs out. B2P pens are the world's first pens made from recycled bottles.
I don't typically show brands that are not 100% eco in all aspects of their business. But recycled school supplies are hard to come by so I want to give you as many options as possible.
I LOVE Sprout Pencils from Sprout World. Their sustainable pencils are the world's first plantable pencils. They have a water-soluble seed capsule instead of an eraser and are made with PEFC-FSC certified wood. The idea of a plantable pencil comes from a group of MIT students five years ago. Sprout World is also a member of the UN Global Compact corporate citizenship initiative. Available in eight different colours and nine seed types.
"Write, draw, doodle and design until your pencils become too short to use. Then simply turn them upside down, plant the stub and enjoy watching them grow into fragrant herbs, beautiful flowers or fresh vegetables." Oh, they also make the world's first plantable eyeliner!
Three Leaf sustainable pencils are another option, these are pretty cool, they are made from torn strips of recycled paper, making them completely tree-free, eco-friendly, and biodegradable. Crafted from tight rolls of paper, these pencils are as hard as any other wooden pencils. They do have a latex-free rubber eraser.
In the zero waste pencil category, I really love these recycled newspaper pencils. They are super innovative and made with newspapers, Paper Scraps, Fabric, and Graphite. These are from an Etsy shop called PARWANA Beautiful Handmade Paper, all of their paper products are handcrafted, using cotton and silk textile remnants and plant fibers.
Crayons seem pretty safe but they are actually made from paraffin which is a petrochemical, they are toxic and not biodegradable. A better option would be these from Etsy Shop Earth Grown. These zero waste crayons are made with a combination of vegan soy wax and mineral pigment which are all organic too and certified by the Art and Creative Materials Institute (ACMI) for being non-toxic.
They are so cute for kids! And adults too! They come in these really cute shapes, unlike transitional sticks. I mean come on, imagine getting a box of these to draw with!
These Honey Stick Crayons are another non-toxic alternative for kiddies. They are made from 100% pure New Zealand beeswax and have no cheap fillers or paraffin in them. They use non-toxic pigments that are safe for everyone from infants to adults. Their chubbiness makes them easy to hold and heard to break! The beeswax used to create Honeysticks is a natural by-product of honey production. They come in 12 really fun colors.
4. Eco Friendly and Zero Waste School Supplies: Accessories
It's amazing how many things we need for school! I was reading an article about schools in Sweden, did you know the taxes they pay to cover all these items, so they don't have to purchase anything! Pretty cool if you ask me. For accessories, there are a few essentials we will cover.
Eco Friendly erasers
Most erasers are made from plastic (usually a type of vinyl) and wrapped in plastic. The key is finding one made from natural rubber and little to no packaging.
I Live Eco carries natural rubber erasers that are great for graphite pencils. This online store also carries other natural and eco-friendly office supplies, based in Ontario they pride themselves on non-toxic and safe products for the whole family.
Tombow carries a natural rubber eraser that is made from a mixture of sand and rubber which can be used to erase the pencil as well as ink markings. It's wrapped in a paper sleeve that can be recycled. Tombow has been around since 1913 and makes all kinds of office products and states on their website that "Safe products that take into consideration the environment are developed and produced; environmental awareness is communicated through sales."
Eco Friendy plant-based glue
There are non-toxic glues available in the market but they come in plastic containers. Onyx + Green makes these glue sticks, they are made with plant-based materials, the tube is made from recycled plastics and the cardboard box it comes in can be recycled as well. It's eco-friendly but now zero waste. Ultimately the choice is yours!
If you want to go to zero waste and have some fun with your kids, you can always make your own glue.
Tape is made from plastic and can't be recycled, it's one of those weird items we don't tend to think about, mostly because we can't see it. There are much better options available. Net Zero Co. sells Self Adhesive Kraft Tape made from recycled paper, which can go into the recycle bin with other paper waste, you just can't compost it. If you are wrapping a gift and want it to be zero waste, this is your best!
Available in 2 widths:
- 24 mm / 0.94 in
- 48 mm / 1.9 in
Length of each roll is 50 m / 164 ft
Onyx and Green also make eco-friendly scissors for all your cutting needs, the blades are stainless steel and the handle is made from corn plastic, which is biodegradable. Oyxn and Green have been making sustainable school supplies for years and use low-impact, recycled, and recyclable materials like bamboo, stone, corn starch, sugar cane, and biodegradable fabrics like ramie, jute, and cotton, in all of their products, including their rulers and calculators.
You have two options, this one from Onyx and Green is made from sustainably harvested bamboo, and it comes with 1000 staples. It does come in a plastic cover FYI. You can find it on Amazon and at EarthHero. Make sure when composting paper, you remove the staple!
Another option for a stapler is to choose one that is staple-free. It's a very innovative item and the best part is there are no staples! It's from a company called Plus Paper Clinch, I like this idea because you do not have to keep buying staples, so there is less waste. It uses a special folding technique to mind the page together and you can only find 10 pages at a time.
The item itself is made from plastic. Its also available at most big box stores, which makes it more accessible for people who are trying to reduce their school waste. The bottom line is you have to choose what works for you.
Again Onyx and Green offer the best selection for an eco-friendly sharper. Like the stapler, it's made from sustainably sourced bamboo that you can compost, just make sure you remove the blades. The packaging it comes in is cardboard and plastic. Even though it's not 100% zero waste, it's a great green choice. It's annoying that we have to but this, I remember when I was in school, we had a sharpener at the back of the classroom that we use. Not that was zero waste! Do you remember those?
Many of these are made using conventional cotton, and we already know the environmental impacts of that. Best to choose one made either from scarp materials or organic, natural fibres that are eco-friendly.
This adorable Etsy shop makes eco-friendly pencil cases from left-over and recycled fabrics. Each one is so unique and there are so many to choose from. Eco-Boheme is a small, local shop based just outside of Quebec, maker Alexandra Beauregard says being green is a lifestyle she is happy to lead. She handmade all of her items, including makeup bags, aprons, and recycled shopping bags, all out of scrap fabrics. This Etsy shop offers some really great ideas for eco-friendly gifts.
These are a great option if you are seeking eco-friendly school supplies. Besides these, a quick Etsy search will uncover a ton of options too.
5. Eco Friendly and Zero Waste School Supplies: Gear
Buying a durable backpack that's built to last is the way to go. You certainly do not want to be buying these each and every year. Most of them are made with synthetic materials and can't be recycled. In fact, textile recycling rates are really low in Canada and the USA which makes buying an eco friendly backpack more important than ever.
We love Patagonia's sustainable backpacks, there are so many to choose from, they have waterproof ones, vegan ones, one's for girls and boys. They are made from organic cotton, and recycled materials and their NetPlus® material is made from 100% recycled discarded fishing nets collected in fishing communities in South America! All of their fabrics are ethically sourced and they are members of 1% For The Planet.
Protecting your gar from daily wear and tear is important if you want it to last longer, which I assume you do. These adorable laptop covers are made from Jute. Jute is a really great sustainable fabric. It's 100% bio-degradable and recyclable. A hectare of jute plants consumes about 15 tonnes of carbon dioxide and releases 11 tonnes of oxygen. Cultivating Jute enriches the fertility of the soil for the next crop promoting further vegetative growth!
Hey Jute (ok this name!) has a fabulous selection of laptop covers, backpacks, and even reusable grocery bags. You can check durable off your list. These covers are made from jute on the outside and recycled terry cloth on the inside. Hey Jute is based in Canada, they work to empower underprivileged Women & Children by way of their Ethically minded branding partnerships.
Cork is another really great option. Cork is considered to be one of the most sustainable materials on the planet. It is also a vegan leather alternative. It's durable, waterproof, and does not scratch easily as conventional leather does.
ByCopola based in the UK carries some of the most beautiful cork laptop covers. I love the fact that the cork can be composted. Copala is another sustainable Etsy shop that also sells recycled leaf pencil cases, craft paper laptop sleeves, and kraft paper backpacks.
A few final tips on Eco Friendly Zero Waste School Supplies
Like all things, the most eco friendly option is the one you already own. Before you go out and buy new stuff, take an inventory of what you already have at home. I bet you will find a lot of the items listed above. When you do shop, if you can't find what you are looking for, ask! It's a great opportunity to let shop owners know that sustainable alternatives matter to you.
It's also a good idea to try to find these items secondhand hand. eBay and Facebook Market Place are just two places that come to mind.
So many universities offer options for second-hand books and textbooks, take advantage of that! Another great tip. Consider Apps like Good Notes or Notability, these turn your tablet into a notebook eliminating the need for paper and pens altogether. They allow you to organize notes, and send PDFs. There is a cost associated, but you will end up saving in the long run.
We tried to cover all the bases with this, if we have left anyone out, please share in the comments below.
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