Starting next week and continuing through the month of August, millions of kids across the United States are heading back to school. Parents are buying school supplies and perhaps heaving a sigh of relief (or shedding a tear). It's a rite of passage.

It seems back-to-school shopping lists get longer every year! This year, you can reduce the impact your back-to-school shopping has on energy and the environment by making a few simple choices.

Just Use the Mantra: Reuse, Reduce, Recycle!


Reusing items is the best way to minimize your environmental and energy footprint. Think of the items your household consumes, and look into investing in their reusable counterparts. You can take 180 brown paper bags and plastic bottles off the road by sending each kid to school with a reusable lunchbox and a water bottle!


Reduce the amount of new items you're buying. The best way to save energy and money is to not buy anything; the most energy-efficient product is the one not manufactured, packed, or shipped at all! Take a detailed inventory of the school supplies you already have on hand from last year and make sure not to waste money on new items that you don't need.

Another way to reduce is to ensure the items you do need to buy use the least amount of energy possible. If you're planning to purchase computers or electronics, be sure they are ENERGY STAR® qualified. Purchasing energy-efficient products helps ensure you will save money and energy all through the school year.


We all know it's important to put things like paper and plastic into the recycling stream, but it's even more important to complete the cycle! You can help drive demand for recycled goods by purchasing items that contain a high level of post-consumer materials. Look for paper notebooks, pens, bags, reusable food storage items, and even clothes made from recycled materials!

You'll send your kids back to school knowing you've saved as much energy (and probably money, too) as possible.

Back-to-Green School Supply List

  • Reusable lunchbox made from recycled plastic
  • Reusable food storage containers made from recycled plastic
  • Food utensils made from recycled plastic or from sustainable biomass such as bamboo
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Reusable snack bags
  • Last year's backpack, or purchase a backpack made from recycled plastic
  • Last year's pencil pouch and combination lock
  • Last year's ruler, pens, and markers
  • Paper notebooks and filler paper made from recycled paper
  • Writing and color pencils made from recycled fibers such as denim and newspapers
  • Solar powered calculator
  • Manual pencil sharpener
  • ENERGY STAR computers and electronics.