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Back to School: Healthy, Stylish and Green

First ride on the bus

Creative Commons License Photo credit: busymommy

Breakfast: good for you and the planet!

Many teens either skip breakfast or grab something starchy and sugary on the way to school. However, from a nutritional point of view, breakfast is the most important part of the day. The solution? A fast and easy breakfast smoothie. You can make your own with protein powder, yogurt and frozen berries, or try Vega smoothie mixes. They have protein for energy, plus all your vitamins and minerals to start the day right. Vega compared its Whole Food Optimizer to a “traditional North American breakfast†including hashbrowns, eggs and bacon, and a “light North American breakfast†including yogurt, cereal and banana. According to the Vega website, there are 38 times more greenhouse gas emissions created by traditional breakfast and 10 times more greenhouse gases created by the light breakfast compared to Vega. Thus, switching to Vega for a year would be equivalent to turning off a 60 watt light bulb for 12,500 hours, or 521 consecutive days (Source: http://sequelnaturals.com/).


If no school bus is provided for your school, consider car-free ways of getting to and from class every day. Walk, bike, or create a “walking school busâ€, where a group of children walk to school supervised by one or more adult. It’s safer in numbers, easy on the planet, good physical activity and simple for parents, who can take turns supervising. Visit http://www.walkingschoolbus.org/ for more details. If all else fails, carpool or take transit.

Waste-Free Lunch

Use stainless steel water bottles instead of plastic disposable ones. As I’ve mentioned before, stainless steel is non-toxic, durable, easy to clean and does not rust. Green Bottle (http://www.greenbottleonline.com/) has plenty of fun designs kids will love to brag about to their classmates. They come in 12 oz, 20 oz and 25 oz sizes with a variety of lids including sport tops.

Look for non-toxic, BPA free Tupperware such as Preserve. Some companies like By Nature and Bento Box Systems offer complete lunch sets for kids including cloth napkins, reusable bags and storage containers. Nubius Organics sells toxin-free reusable cutlery made from bamboo.


For back to school clothing shopping, thrift stores are the way to go. Treasure hunting at second hand stores can be just as much fun as showing off the new fashions. It’s amazing to see how many designer labels and never-worn items there are. Plus, kids and teens love having unique pieces that’ll be the envy of all their friends.

For new clothes, even the biggest stores such as Roots Canada, H & M and The Gap are jumping on the organic cotton bandwagon for kids clothes. It’s never been easier to find eco-friendly clothing close to home and at reasonable prices. Just make sure the percentage of organic fibre is high—be wary of 10% organic cotton/90% polyester blends! Bamboo, hemp and soy are other great earth-friendly fabrics.


Before school starts, sort through supplies from the previous years and keep whatever possible. You’ll be saving money in the process.

Refillable pens and pencils are a smart alternative to disposables. Or, if you prefer, Earthzone pencils are made out of 100% post consumer recycled newspapers—no wood used!

Paints should be water, not oil based.

From binders to notebooks, avoid PVC plastic, instead opting for cardboard and paper. In all your paper purchases, look for recycled and non-chlorine bleached options. Remember that unless it says “Post-consumer waste†it may be scrap paper that never left the factory. Try Ecojot Notebooks—they come in cute, stylish patterns and are 100%  post-consumer recycled. For printer paper, most big brand retailers offer recycled options as well. Along the same lines, reduce before you re-use—don’t print rough copies of assignments unless absolutely necessary.

Backpacks should ideally be made from all-natural materials, such as durable hemp. Otherwise, check out PVC free options at http://www.nubiusorganics.com.

At-School Projects

Environmental class projects don’t have to be reserved for Earth day. There are tons of fun ways to encourage environmental activism to suggest to teachers and school staff. Younger children may enjoy taking nature walks, going on field trips to the recycling depot, and planting trees in the school yard. Students in older grades may wish to start a class vegetable garden and school compost project, or petition for organic options in their school cafeteria.

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Thanks Leah- another good article!

I'm back to school myself this fall, and it's shocking seeing how people load up on unnecessary binders, pens, felts, etc. People just have the mindset that they must kick off each new year with a cartload of new stuff, even when they have old equipment that still works perfectly well. Agh!

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What a great article! It is amazing to me that parents let their children skip a meal as important as breakfast. I understand that people are busier than ever now a days, but we are only gonna continue to get busier, and breakfast being an essential part of our days is not going anywhere. Your suggestion for using a smoothie was awesome, if only more people would take part in this activity. I also really enjoyed the part about back to school shopping going green. Thrift stores are incredible. I work for a green junk removal company and we are constantly removing people's unwanted clothing and donating to thrift stores, and there is some REALLY nice stuff there some times, that is sold for next to nothing. Shopping at thrift stores is a great "green how to" move for sure. Keep up the great work!



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