Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Back to School Daze (Day 5)

Yes, I know, it's not back to school time yet.  But the school supplies are out, so I thought I would get a jump on my shopping this year.  I left it too late (mid-August) last year, and had a hard time finding certain items.  So I thought I buy early this year, and just store in a safe place until September.

I also thought I would "green" the school routine.  Boy, I was wrong.  Do you know how hard it is to find recycled, recyclable or otherwise "eco-friendly" school products that don't cost a fortune?  Almost impossible.

DD needed a new backpack for the coming school year.  We managed to get two years out of the last one, so I can't complain.  Fixing the broken zipper and torn pockets would cost more than a new backpack, so we relegated last year's to the dress-up bin, and went shopping.

No eco-friendly packs to be found at the two stores I visited (i.e. none made with recycled materials).  I'm sure I could have found other options if I went to a specialty store, but realistically, I'm not going to travel 1/2 hour or more and waste gas like that to look for something that will be last one or two years.

As for school supplies, I found some that fit the bill of environmentally-friendly.  But the cost - 2 to 3 times the price of "regular" supplies!  Not going to happen, my friends. 

I love DD, but she loses things at school.  She was supposed to take 9 glue sticks last year - I think I ended up sending 15.  Pencil crayons?  One pack was supposed to last the year - I sent at least two, plus a few stragglers from our pencil crayon bin at home.   Erasers?  Ditto. 

Here are some sample prices of "green" vs "regular" items: A package of 2 "latex and PVC free" white erasers - $3.79.  A package of regular white latex free erasers - $1.79.  Recycled wood pencils - $3.50 for a pack of 5 or $2.25 for a package of 10. 

Guess which I bought?

There is just no way I can justify spending that kind of money for stuff I KNOW will get lost, broken or "borrowed" never to be returned, within the year.

I wasn't going to get any green supplies, but she reminded me about the eco-challenge I have undertaken, so we comprised - I bought recycled lined paper for her for school.  "Regular paper" cost $1.99 for 200 sheets vs $2.28 for 150 sheets of recycled paper. 

Not really a bargain, but at least I've done something.


  1. I have to say it is a sad state when we expect a backpack will only last two years! Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS) used to build back packs with a life time guarantee as did North Face. Including free zipper repair. My best friend growing up had the same pack for a good 10 years!

    My guy is starting preschool this fall, so I guess I will be in the same boat as you soon. For now I'll cross my fingers that whatever I find is sturdy.

  2. It might be worth it to shop for some of these things online. amazon.com has a great selection of green/eco supplies
    something this large might even be worth it for the amount your kids would go through over the next couple years

  3. THanks for the comments, ladies. The issues really come down to money. Right now I only have two of my three children in school, and one only needing supplies for this year. But soon it will be all three, and that's where things get expensive. I'd love to be able to afford "green" stuff for all of them, but to be practical - most of it is going to get lost or broken within a year. I'll save my "green" money for things that I know will last or will be used appropriately.

    Nicole - I'll definitely check out the Amazon site in the future. I had no idea they sold recycled stuff. Thanks for the tip!

  4. It's not made from recycled materials, but I bought an Eastpack backpack in college that I have a good *ahem* 10 years later. I think they will repair it too. I guess this might be a bit more affordable option if you threaten you kids not to lose their backpacks!

    As for the losing school supplies thing. Do the kids have to take all 10 glue sticks, pencils, etc. to school at once? My mom doled that stuff out to me one or two at a time. Since I only had one of something like glue I was less likely to lose it because then I wouldn't have any. She also told me that she was only buying one of something like scissors or a lunchbox and that I'd have to take care of it because I wasn't getting another if I lost or broke it. It worked on me but maybe I scare easy :)

  5. Have you tried Staples/Bureau en Gros? They've committed (in Quebec, anyway)to having a reasonably-priced, green equivalent to most of their products on offer.

  6. Hi everyone - re: DJP's comment. Yes I did try Staples - that was one of the two stores I shopped at, and actually their prices were higher for certain items than at the other store. I did purchase the recycled lined paper there, and had hoped to find lower priced recycled duotangs, but no luck.

    As for CB's comment - I wish I could threaten DD with having to buy stuff out of her own allowance. She has AD/HD and one of the classic characteristics of this challenge is disorganization and losing things. It wouldn't be fair to penalize her for something she can't help. I've been told by a friend that I got off lucky last year with only having to replace everything twice - she had to send some things in 4 or 5 times! Yikes! I'm hopeful that with my other two, I won't have to worry about this and will then be able to be more sustainable in their school supplies. However, that is at least another school year away.

  7. LL Bean is worth a shot for backpacks too. I'm pretty sure they repair/replace at no cost. Or try consignment shops or Goodwill (do they have Goodwill in Canada?) I always see kids packs there and they are super cheap!

  8. I haven't tried consignment shops before for school supplies. Any time I've been in one, it's usually for clothes or toys. I'll have to check closer to September to see about backpacks. Thanks for the tip!