Whether it’s school, apprenticeship or PhD, the end of August clearly means one thing – it’s nearly time to go back. For many people that brings with it the strain of consumption; the feeling like you should come back equipped with the latest and greatest in school supplies, which often leads to buying things we don’t even need. A waste for our wallet and for the planet.

Whatever you may be starting or returning to, there are always options for keeping your new scholastic season sustainable. Here is my favourite eco advice when it comes to the world of academia:

Take stock and make a plan

When you’ve had a few months off it’s hard to remember what we actually need to be prepped for that first day back. Don’t just google a list of school supplies to buy. Go through your items and take an inventory of what you have, then make a list of what you need and stick to it when heading to the shops. Try and think about what you will definitely need vs what you might need vs what you might want but will never actually use. Think about what your days will realistically look like and what you’ll actually use so that you don’t end up buying random things you never open. And make sure to resist the random offers in store. Will you actually use a multi pack of glue sticks or three tiny staplers? No!

Switch to eco stationary

Did you know it’s actually super easy to swap out unsustainable stationery for much better options? A quick google will show you a host of options like refillable fountain pens, these sustainable pensbiodegradable pencils and recycled printer paper, there’s a whole world of choice out there! When it comes to paper buy products with the highest percentage of recycled content possible and that is processed chlorine free, as well as looking out for recycled notebooks that are sewn, not ring bound, so they can biodegrade fully back into the earth. When it comes to text books save some money and the environment by opting for used books, which are often half the price of the originals. Most can be found extremely cheaply in campus bookstores, or on websites such as eCampus and Amazon Textbook Rentals.

And non-toxic options too

If you need a new backpack this year avoid PVC, which is both unsustainable and contains chemical additives like phthalates. Choose bags made of recycled materials, hemp or organic natural materials for some super cool and eco-friendly options. For products like binders look for brands that are labeled PVC-free.

Invest in a reusable lunch box

One of the quickest and easiest ways to green up your daily routine is to take your lunch on the go. Avoid plastic packaging (and save money) by bringing your own food, but no need to buy plastic tupperware that’s cheap and unsustainable. Opt for an eco-friendly box made from stainless steel and you’ll be good to go for the whole year!

If you’re moving house, minimise your impact

Sometimes heading back to school requires a new location. Instead of buying moving boxes, head to local stores and ask to use the boxes their products were delivered to them in (I’ve done this heaps of times with corner shops – they will give them to you!) and opt for eco-friendly packing tape. If you need new furniture, clothes or other supplies for your new home, check out thrift/vintage stores in your area and join that circular economy life. You’ll be surprised with the treasures you can find!

I hope this helps some of you, happy new school season!

Until next time, stay magic y’all.