Thankfully, due to superstar celebrities putting environmental issues in the spotlight (Leonardo Dicaprio, Jessica Alba, Mark Ruffalo, Elon Musk and so many more – we love you all!), and some kick-ass artists incorporating climate issues into their music – thank you Childish Gambino, Jaden Smith, Billie Eilish, et al. – living green is becoming normalized. And thank goodness for that as we start planning with our kiddos for back-to-school and off-to-college… an eco-centric lifestyle not only saves on the pocketbook – but also the environment, and usually includes supporting a local business or two – which means #winning all around!
To mentally prepare for the transition to back-to-school and off-to-college life, and general green-values-setting, one idea to reflect on with the kids is “minimalism”, and to re-frame the 3 R’s – “Reduce-Reuse-Recycle”. If it were up to us? “Reduce, Reuse, REFUSE” would be the 3. Reducing, Reusing and Refusing result in very little waste to recycle! A minimalist mindset can also help counter the nerves around back/off to school and quell the over-preparing/over-shopping. Just remember, stick to the basics, you can get more as needed, which is more pleasant than dealing with excess and waste. To be honest, sometimes all the extra stuff can be what makes it all seem more daunting and overwhelming than it actually is! So, take it easy, get organized, and breathe through it – enjoy this transition!
3 Top Tips, no matter the age:
- REFUSE Fast Fashion: Back to school fashions (and accessories!) can be found at second hand and consignment stores, vintage shops, and online sources like Facebook Marketplace. Find unique stylish threads, no matter your size, age or budget – bonus is that the quality and originality can be much better than the fast fashion on the racks in the malls, for a fraction of the price! #NormalisBoring (<-That said, basics are definitely in abundance 2nd hand too!)
- REUSE School Supplies: Don’t forget to take your school supply list to the thrift store too! Especially for crayons, scissors, rulers and the like for the younger kids, and notebooks, loose leaf and binders for the older ones. Rip out the used pages and use up the rest – plenty of writing can still be done on those pages!
- REUSE School Gear: Backpacks, lunch cases, food storage containers, pencil cases and locker accessories also abound at thrift stores. Not to mention sports equipment and exercise gear. Heck, you could even find a different backpack for every outfit/ every day of the week! (though best not be greedy!)
For the college kids, especially those living alone for the first time:
Shopping List for Living Space (Second-hand Store First!):
- Begin with the basics – a “go-green” starter pack if you will! (The travel mug and water bottle are perfect for the commute, and for those *dry* classes!):
- Collapsible cloth shopping bags
- Insulated lunch kit
- Travel mug*
- Water bottle*
- Cutlery and
- Reusable straw.
- (*Can personalize with band stickers! The more mismatched, the better…)
- PRO-TIP: if buying new, visit https://lftbrands.com/store-locator/ to find a green retailer near you for any of these items in a travel friendly, durable, eco-conscious format!
- Resealable/reusable sandwich bags are perfect for snacks, and also great to use to freeze water and use as ice packs to keep the rest of the lunch cool.
- Food storage containers can be found second hand – bonus: you haven’t wasted a lot of $ when accidentally forgotten somewhere!
- Stock up on healthy kitchen staples like organic brown rice, granola and non-perishables. Splurge on organic and higher quality goods – it doesn’t have to all be ramen! Growing brains and growing bodies need the good stuff, goodness knows there will be enough of the less-than ideal along the way!
- A thrift store is the perfect source for furnishings, decorations and implements for your new pad! And you can always swap out items to customize for your taste and needs over time… guilt free!
- Don’t forget to look for desk lamps, shower curtains, sheets, cushions, artwork – thrift store hunting for treasures can be an adventure! Remember to think green and purchase LED bulbs and rechargeable batteries where needed.
- Another nice second-hand score can be frames for favourite photos of family! Looking at you mom! *wink*
- All-purpose concentrated cleaners are an excellent idea to take up less space for tackling whatever messes may arise…. And not adding noxious fumes to cramped spaces. We recommend “Elbow Grease” All-Natural Cleaner.
- We also recommend Live for Tomorrow’s concentrated laundry detergent “Dirt Happens” rather than hauling a big ol’ jug of toxic-toting laundry soap.
- Small plants in the college dorm/apartment can add a feeling of home and peace, as well as improving air quality.
For the studies:
- Second-hand textbooks can be found in campus bookshops, or online on sites like eBay. Digital versions of the texts are also an option and can be read on an e-reader, or any tablet at all. Often, most can also be accessed from a laptop. The e-version means there is really no carbon footprint at all!
- Blue light glasses help protect eyes from screens.
- To save paper, use a laptop or tablet for notes rather than a notebook (set it to airplane mode to avoid distractions!)
- And, use scraps of used paper in place of sticky notes.
Habits to start:
- Meal Prep: Prepping a big healthy meal on a weekend can save money and time for the week – think soups, stews and curries – one pot wonders that keep well and can be dished out for 5-7 days (especially if they are meat free).
- Meat-free Meals: If you are reliant on the cafeteria, opt for meat free 2-3 times a week (at least) to save money, health and enviro. If this is new-ish to you – don’t be scared! Meat free usually means the meal has more flavour and spices as creative alternatives to meat… resulting in some scrumptious treats!
- Morning Routine: Starting a morning routine of drinking a glass of water and doing some light stretching can set the tone for energy and ease as you go into the day
- Time Management: Time-management is a tricky thing. Chart out a schedule for your ideal days, and review and adapt as necessary. The first step to mastering time-management is acknowledging time-management!
- “Me-Time”: It’s a good idea to schedule in time to spend time by yourself. Setting boundaries for time alone (away from buddies and roommates), as well as time to get schoolwork done (of course), can help keep your mental health in check. (Also calling Mom!)
- Get Inspired: Be intentional with setting up your space – be sure to include things that inspire you and light you up, especially for those times when you might feel overwhelmed and in need of a boost.
- Getting Around: Bus passes, carpooling, bicycle – all excellent alternatives to worrying about driving, parking… and polluting!
- Dealing with Waste: Make a note of recycle bins and/or schedule. The inevitable pizza boxes and soda cans will need to end up here!
- Community: Always check the bulletin board! Food sharing, ride sharing, cost sharing – you never know what you might find! Not to forget, often cool local events that you might not hear of otherwise – ie. Soccer tournaments, open mics, poetry slams.
- Save Power: Even if it’s included in rent – don’t get in the habit of cranking the air-con or heating – develop good habits for yourself and the environment. In the same vein, run the laundry only on a full load, unplug devices not in use, and try to go as long as you can in the day using natural light from the window alone!
- BONUS: For some apps that can save time and money (and the planet) – check out this article https://www.lft.community/2021/06/09/eco-living-in-2021-green-apps-and-resources/