an eco-friendly guide to back to school (covid edition)

Thanks to the Green Living Show for featuring this post on their blog!

Back to school this fall looks very different for teachers, students, and parents alike. Whether learning is in person, online, or a combination of both, back to school preparation presents new challenges for us all. For our family, focusing on adapting our eco-friendly values to this time has been a great way to put a positive spin on the new reality. For us, this looks like incorporating more reusables into our routine, stressing the importance of sharing with your community, and staying committed to green living wherever possible.

For a variety of reasons, we opted for in-person learning (with the caveat that choosing at all is privilege). Easing back into the school year this fall may seem impossible with all the uncertainty, but giving kids a sense of agency and control goes a long way! If wearing non-medical masks is part of returning to the classroom, you can help normalize it by discussing all the big feelings, the reasons for doing it, and use it as an opportunity for your kids to demonstrate responsibility. Avoid waste by investing in a few inexpensive, reusable non-medical masks. Let your kids choose their patterns, picking a few great ones that they are excited to wear.

You can also teach your kids about the benefits of refilling products by topping up their own little bottle of hand sanitizer for their school bag each night. Many refill stores are now stocking sanitizer, but if you don’t have this in your area, buy the largest container you can to cut down on plastic waste. 

New clothes are a usual staple on the back to school list, but this year has really changed the way many of us shop. We had to pay closer attention to what we really needed and think about how to access it safely. Quarantine saw a huge uptick in neighbours sharing with each other, a trend we should bring into our new normal! Kids go through things quickly, which means the secondhand market is brimming with perfectly good items just waiting to be used again. Shop secondhand first for everything from clothing, footwear, backpacks, and even school supplies! Thrift shopping not only saves you money, but it teaches kids about the life cycle of the things they use, how to take care of things to be used again by someone else, and patience when buying things. Check out your local thrift and consignment shops, as well as contactless options such as Buy Nothing or Facebook Marketplace.

thrift shopping for kids

Thrift shopping is something I have been doing since high school when grunge was in and old cords and grandpa cardigans were The Look. I carried this habit through university and the (sometimes very) lean years between then and now to save money. These days, I still look for secondhand first for so many other…

The lunch box is the perfect place to create an enjoyable, eco-friendly routine with your kids. Even packing a lunch for at home learning creates a sense of continuity and normalcy. Reusable containers are an easy way to eliminate single-use plastics. Choose stainless steel options where possible, as these are dishwasher safe for sanitizing. Spend time planning out the week’s lunches with your kids, using the time to discuss feelings big and small while you pre-chop veggies and prep package-free snacks. Having control over this part of their day goes a long way for your kids and the planet too.

how to pack a zero waste school lunch

Thanks to Kind Humans for sponsoring this post and donating a zero waste lunch kit to our local school community. For many parents, figuring out what to send for school lunches is a challenge unto itself. We worry about nutrition, allergies, convenience, and now more than ever, plastic. With 180 school days on average, this…

Staying connected to your kids is the most important thing you can do as we all move into this next phase together. Remember that your mental wellbeing as a family is just as important and your physical health. Be sure to spend time in nature together each week to replenish yourselves and have a little fun!

What does back to school look like for your family this year?

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