Hey, parents! It’s that time of year. Summer’s coming to a close, and that means it’s back to school — but things are clearly a little different this year. 

As we all know, the world is still grappling with the effects of the pandemic on our society. This includes how our kids learn and play. Some kids are at school (for the time being), some are at home for the whole semester, and some will start at home then attend in-person classes. It’s all over the place, folks. 

But regardless if you’re children are at school or at home, there’s always a little room to make the classroom, virtual or not, a little more green — even if it’s just the little things. From the parents at Chariot Energy to your little tyke or full-fledged teenager, we’ve got our 5 best tips for an eco-friendly back to school. They’re easy, eco-friendly and Chariot-staff approved! 

1. Start with Your School Supplies

Back in our day, eco-friendly school supplies weren’t really a thing. These days, recycled and sustainable school supplies are all the rage and widely available for purchase. Some of our favorite sustainable supplies include:

  • Backpacks made from recycled water bottles
  • Notebooks made from 100% recycled content 
  • Mechanical pencils made from recycled plastic
  • Pencil lead refills (so your kids don’t have to throw the pencils away)

Take it even further by using these items through the end of their life. A new backpack every year is nice to have for a fresh start to the school year, but reusing the one you’ve got until you can’t anymore is always the more sustainable option! 

2. Ditch Single-Use Plastics for Reusable Containers

If you’re still using those plastic sandwich bags for hearty hoagies, PB&Js and other snacks for school, then it might be time to invest in some reusable tupperware, water bottles and silverware. 

Investing in some reusable tupperware and silicone sandwich bags is a great way to do your part and reduce the use of single-use plastics. So, instead of throwing plastic away every day, you can reuse what you’ve got again and again. It doesn’t have to be the top-of-the-line name brand stuff by any means — any ones that are non-toxic and BPA-free work great. 

3. Let’s Talk Lunch Bags

For lunch bags, you have a few options:

  • Consider buying a sturdy reusable lunch bag. You only have to buy it once, and you can reuse it over and over. 
  • You can also just use an old grocery sack. It’s not the most stylish option, but using it as a lunch bag is a great example of reusing something before throwing it in the trash. They can also be recycled, so encourage your kids to bring them home! 
  • You can’t go wrong with the classic brown bag. While brown paper bags are technically a single-use item, they’re plastic-free and a lot of them are actually made from recycled materials. 

3. Consider a Reusable Face Mask

These days, it’s no secret that people are wearing face masks to help slow the spread of COVID-19, including our kids who are ages two years and older. If your child is required to wear a face mask to school, consider a reusable face mask over the single-use ones. Not only can you reuse them again and again, leading to a lower footprint, but some of them have really stylish patterns.

Just remember that the CDC recommends you choose masks that:

  • Have two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric
  • Completely cover your nose and mouth
  • Fit snugly against the sides of your face and don’t have gaps

We recommend visiting the CDC for any and all information regarding COVID-19 and how to select, wear and clean your masks

4. Commute to School with the Environment in Mind

There are lots of ways you can get your kid to and from school, and they all range in their eco-friendliness.

  • If you’re close enough to school, it might be beneficial for you to walk them to school. Not only is it good exercise, but it’s also a great way to save on gas. If they’re old enough, your kids can even bike to school.
  • If walking or biking isn’t an option, then you could try chaperoning with other kids in the neighborhood. This also saves on gas.
  • You could also try the bus. This saves gas and time! 

If you drive your kids to school, just remember to take out anything that might weigh your car down, which will make it less fuel-efficient. 

5. Unplug Your Kid’s Computer Once School is Over

After a day of Zooming and doing homework online, remember to unplug your computer from the wall or flip the switch on a powerstrip at the end of the day. If you don’t, you’re actually wasting electricity and inadvertently running up your bill. Why?

Desktops, laptops and computers monitors are all considered a kind of vampire appliance. They get their name from their ability to leech electricity from your outlets even when they’re off. If left plugged in, these devices can cost you an average of $200 a year in wasted electricity — just by leaving them plugged into the outlet. 

The solution: powerstrips! They’re super easy, cheap and will save you literally hundreds in electricity costs (and the possible emissions it took to generate that electricity). With a basic powerstrip, all you need to do at the end of the school day or when their homework is finished is flip the red switch. It’s that simple. 

Life Has Changed, But We Can Still Make a Difference

Since March, a lot of our daily lives have been affected — not just school — but nearly everything from the way we work, live and play. 

That said, even though a lot’s changed and probably still will change before it’s all over, we can still find ways to do good by the environment. And whether that’s buying a backpack made out of water bottles or buying a cute lunchbox for our kids to take to school (or open up at the kitchen table), it’s those little things that add up to make a big difference and make the future for our kids a little bit brighter. 

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