Eco-Friendly Tips for Parents of School-Age Kids

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Image by Joe Wolf via Flickr Creative Commons license
Image by Joe Wolf via Flickr Creative Commons license

With most school-age kids back in their classrooms, you (as a parent) may be interested in a few tips designed to help you save money, stay green and be eco-friendly. Of course you know the school supplies, new clothes and lunch boxes you bought at the beginning of the new school year are not all you’re going to have to get. The question is, how can you make sure you’re being eco-friendly and saving green at the same time? Most schools have fundraisers, teachers need additional materials throughout the year, many kids like to bring their lunches (which can be far healthier when done right), you’ll need to arrange transportation to and from school, and more. How can you do all these things while still being eco-friendly and not breaking the bank? I’ll tell you.

Kids Walking to School

Getting To and From School

If your kids are able to walk to school safely, have them do so. Walking to school is a way for your kids to get exercise at least twice a day, and help establish their independence. (Of course kids should always walk in group, never by themselves). Having your kids walk will also save you time and gas money. If walking isn’t an option, your kids may be able to bike to school with friends, carpool with another family or take the bus.

School Supplies

Non-Toxic School Supplies

Unless you are looking for it, you may not realize many school supplies can be found with non-toxic and recycled options. It’s an important factor that many people forget. Who wants to have their kids being exposed to toxic chemicals and toxins at school? Nobody! Fortunately, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has its own guide for back-to-school shopping. In this guide you can find out what you’ll want to watch out for if you plan to shop on your own, as well as a link to Amazon where you can purchase items recommended by the EWG.

Image by U.S. Dept of Agriculture via Flickr Creative Commons license
Image by U.S. Dept of Agriculture via Flickr Creative Commons license

Healthy Lunches

When kids are responsible for packing their own lunch, and bringing food from home, those kids will be more likely to eat organic, natural and healthy, as well as avoid the processed foods often found in school cafeterias. If your kids can, have them pack their lunch and bring it along with them. Remember to get a freezable, non-toxic lunch bag to keep their food cold and safe to eat. Besides being the healthier option, bringing their own lunches can save money too.

If your kids really want to buy their own lunch at school, take a look at your school’s menu and go over healthy food choices with your child ahead of time. I know our kids’ school has a fresh fruit and salad bar at lunch where the kids pick at least one vegetable and one fruit option. You can also encourage your school to opt for organic, non-GMO products and/or gluten-free options for those who want it.

Run for Funds

Fundraising Done Right

Every school has a different way of raising funds. While some fundraisers may be eco-friendly, others not so much. A few of the fundraisers our kids’ school has done in the past include:

  • “Nights out” where families go to a local restaurant on a certain day and a portion of the proceeds go back to the school
  • Bag sales where the kids get family, friends and others to buy reusable bags
  • Popcorn sales, magazine sales and other misc items
  • Run for Funds (one of my favorites as it reminds me of the bike-a-thons I used to do in Junior High)
  • Penny wars (each grade has a change jar where they try to raise the most money to beat out the other grades: pennies and dollar bills in your jar are good, other coins in your jar are bad and bring your overall total down)
  • Silent auction (for seats at school plays, graduation, etc.)
  • Movie nights

As fundraising is key to most schools, encourage your child’s school to do eco-friendly fundraisers. Sell environmentally-friendly materials, stay away from the junk food, have nights out at organic restaurants or those with locally-grown food, put on a water-less car wash, organize a walk-a-thon, jog-a-thon or bike-a-thon to get your kids active, or have a recycling drive where families can bring in their recyclables. With so many options from which to choose, your bound to find a few fundraisers worth your time and money.

Image by Billie Greenwood via Flickr Creative Commons license
Image by Billie Greenwood via Flickr Creative Commons license

Encouraging Your Kids’ School to Go Green

Anything you can do to encourage your kids’ school to go green will help with your efforts to be green and eco-friendly. If your kids need book covers, don’t buy covers, offer to bring in paper grocery bags and teach the kids how to make their own book covers. Ask your kids’ school to send emails and do paperwork electronically to avoid excess paper usage. Encourage the school to promote and participate in National Bike to School and Walk to School days. Suggest parents be asked to recycle old newspapers and magazines to be used in school projects (so no new supplies are required). Find out what environmental projects your kids’ class can do such as grow an organic garden, make a solar light in a mason jar, build a small wind turbine or learn more about renewables.

These actions will not only help you save green and continue to be eco-friendly, but you will be helping others do so as well.

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