The Ultimate Eco-Friendly School Supply List

Start the school year off right with these earth-friendly school supplies that are made from sustainable and recycled materials.

The air conditioning blasted throughout my in parents’ home while the hot sun beat down outside. The cicadas whirred in the background as my college boyfriend, who was visiting for the weekend, and I debated what to do on this hot July day.

Pool? Nah, too crowded. Movie? Nope, we had already seen all the summer blockbusters on our list. Mini golf? Ugh, too hot.

That’s when a brilliant idea popped into my head.

“Ooh, I know what we can do. Let’s go to Staples!”

colored pencils, scissors, and highlighters on a white table

Though the start of our sophomore year was weeks away, I felt energized by the idea of stocking up on school supplies. Notebooks with crisp blank pages, boxes of freshly sharpened pencils, and unblemished binders danced around in my head.

Yes, I was that person.

I loved the feeling of starting the year off fresh, the literal and figurative blank page of new classes, new professors, and new school supplies.

While I still enjoy the feeling of cracking open a brand new journal, it’s blank pages practically begging to be marked by the smooth lines of a new pen, walking into an office supply store doesn’t quite fill me with the same sense of glee.

Now, all I see are trees that have been cut down to make paper, pens and markers made from plastic that will soon meet their end in landfills, and a vast array of things meant to last a short period of time.

(Geesh, way to lighten the mood, Bev.)

While your children might not get to revel in the glee of filling their cart with unused school supplies, you can help them start the year off right with these tips for stocking up on school supplies that are better for the environment.

Take stock of what you currently have

It’s really satisfying to start the year fresh with an arsenal of brand new school supplies. The problem with this method is you end up discarding or forgetting about perfectly good supplies. That means wasted energy from making and shipping unused school supplies and going out to buy new ones.

(Not to mention wasted money for you!)

Who wouldn’t love sorting through this mess?

Before you go and purchase new school supplies, see what you have left from previous years. Tear out used papers from partially used notebooks, gather together all the partially used pencils and crayons, and see what pens and markers still work.

The most environmentally friendly school supplies are the ones you already have.

Buy what you can used

Once you have that in place, check out your local thrift store. I have found the one near me often has three-ring binders available for purchase and other assorted office and school supplies. Then it’s time to supplement what you still need.

Related: Want to be more environmentally friendly? Start with these four questions

Purchase environmentally friendly school supplies from sustainable companies

You can buy lots of eco-friendly school supplies from the big box stores or Amazon with a big of digging. For example, if you are looking for paper made from recycled content, make sure it’s from post-consumer waste (PCW). (In a nutshell, PCW means it’s made from products that were previously used and then recycled, rather than the leftovers from the production of other products).

Look for the labels B Corp and/or 1% for the Planet to help you identify it as a company that focused on sustainability.

These companies below also do a lot of the vetting for you to make it easier for you to discover eco-friendly school supplies.

(Please note, the links below may contain referral links, which means if you click on them and make a purchase I may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. You can read my disclosure here.)

EarthHero — A fantastic Certified B, 1% for the planet, and Carbon Fund online for products, including school supplies, that are better for the environment. They even give you a summary of how the products they sell are more sustainable. Use the coupon code bevgoesgreen for 10% off your order

ECOlunchbox — A go-to source for plastic-free reusable lunchboxes and food containers

MightyNest — Another great source for reusable lunchboxes and food containers

Ultimate Green Store — Similar to EarthHero, another great source of eco-friendly products for the entire home, including school supplies

Wisdom Supply Co. — Another go-to source for low-waste and zero-waste school supplies. Use the link provided for $10 off your order of $50 or more.

Here are some of my top picks for envrionmentally school supplies.

The ones with a * are ones I have personally used.

Paper & Notebooks

hand writing school supplies in a blank notebook

Decomposition notebooks* are notebooks and sketchbooks made from 100% PCW

TreeZero Tree-free* paper made from recycled sugarcane waste fiber

Recycled Composition notebook by Tree Free Greetings

Binder made from 100% PCW

Bonus: whenever you can, print out things on the back of used sheets of paper whenever you can that would otherwise go in your recycling bin

Writing utensils

Onyx + Green Bamboo Pens* or consider pens with refillable inserts

Sprout plantable pencils*

Rubber erasers* — Buy pencils without erasers attached and use this instead

Bonus: Try to avoid using markers as much as possible since they’re made from plastic. Otherwise, see if your child’s school has a marker recycling program set up with Crayola

Coloring utensils

eco-crayon sticks, colored pencils, and notebook with school supplies on a wood desk

Onyx + Green colored pencils* made with recycled newspaper

TreeSmart recycled paper colored pencils

Eco-crayon sticks* made from beeswax, soywax, stearic acid, soy-based organic picmints (Made in Portland, Maine!) – no paper (Earth Hero)

Lunch & Snacks

Silicone Stasher bags*

Stainless steel food stacking container*

U-Konserve steel food containers*

Related: 7 waste-free lunch ideas for your kids that are better for the environment and your wallet

Other school supplies

Backpacks made from recycled plastic

Plant Cellulose Tape* — Take this one with a grain of salt because claims of being biodegradable is not verified

Onyx + Green glue* — This does come in a plastic bottle, but it’s made from plant-based materials instead of who knows what

Non-toxic glue stick — Again, this comes in a plastic canister, but it’s free from petroleum

World Centric compostable tissues* made from discarded wheat straw fiber

Who Gives a Crap Bamboo tissues

Staple-free stapler

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