Summer’s not over yet! In fact, if you like the sultry heat, we still have some of the best days of the season ahead of us. That being said, if you have children, it’s probably not too soon to start thinking about back to school. The yearly preparation for a new school year can be overwhelming…and anything but good for the environment. This year, take a greener approach to back to school with these simple tips.

1. Aim for a zero waste lunch. School lunch = unnecessary waste. According to Treehugger, the average American school child wastes an estimated 67 pounds in discarded school lunch packaging every school year (that’s 18,760 pounds of waste per elementary school). Start your quest for a more eco-friendly lunch by skipping plastic sandwich and snack bags, and opt instead for reusable or recyclable containers. We love Stashers, reusable silicon storage bags that come in a variety of sizes perfect for your child’s lunchbox (or yours). Next, if your kids like what they’re eating they’ll be less likely to toss it! Give them some buy in; take them shopping and let them pick one or two items each week.

2. Get your kids a reusable water bottle. Stainless steel or glass are the most eco-friendly options (and you won’t have to worry about toxins from a plastic bottle seeping into their water).  Some schools have water filling stations where kids can refill their bottle throughout the day; encourage them to “refuel” and stay hydrated. Our stainless steel HydroFlasks and glass Life Factory bottles both work well for this purpose.

3. Inventory your supplies before you shop. This will help you avoid repurchasing items you already have. Make a list of what you really need and stick to it. If you find you have too much of something, donate it! In fact, you can bring your extras right to Rising Tide; we are currently a drop-off point for the Glen Cove Youth Bureau’s Fill-a-Bookbag drive, and they are our Charity of the Month for August.

4. Purchase consciously. When you do buy school supplies, look for those with minimal packaging and/or made from recycled or sustainable materials. Your child will still have everything they need to succeed, but in a planet-friendly way. For example, some Post-its are made with 67% recycled materials, Tree Smart makes recycled pencils and pens, and Oxford Earthwise makes pocket folders from 100% recycled paper.

5. Keep germs at bay with a nontoxic hand sanitizer. To avoid spreading the common cold and other viruses, regular hand cleaning is a must in schools; however, it doesn’t always happen as often as it should. Sending your child with a green hand sanitizer such as the sprays and gels from EO and Dr. Bronner, and the hand sanitizing wipes from CleanWell can make it a healthier year for all. In fact, send in a few: one to keep in the desk, one in the backpack, and one in the lunchbox.

One last tip: schedule some time outdoors even after school starts. We know there will be homework and other activities, but time in the fresh air is good for a child’s focus, mood, and overall health. Plus, studies show that a child who learns to love nature as a child is more likely to become a steward of the Earth as an adult. SO…go outside!