That new backpack full of requisite supplies (read: expensive) might be good for the three Rs of school (reading, writing, and arithmetic) but they certainly are not good for the three Rs we hear more about these days (reduce, reuse, and recycle).
Now that you've shopped (for only what your child needs rather than wants), short of safety-pinning or duct taping everything to them, how do you get them to bring home what matters and leave the unwanted at school? Hopefully, with a little luck on your side and what follows, you'll achieve what we're all after -- a happy, healthy family.
Bring Home - BACKPACKS
An environmentally-hazardous plastic, PVC (polyvinyl chloride a.k.a. vinyl), can be found in shoes, boots, supplies and every so often in backpacks. If you are in need of new backpacks, ensure they are PVC-free and manufactured responsibly -- there are easily accessible options on the market. Google is your best friend for this, or ask your retailer. If they don't know what you are talking about, suggest they look into it too!
Bring Home - ART and WORKSHEETS
What do you do with all of that (fabulous?) art and hard work your kids create? Well, um, throw it away? How awful (not because you don't want it, because it doesn't belong in landfills). Try and reuse it by making notepaper or cutting it up into cards and gift tags. And, of course, frame the really worthy pieces. You can also take pictures of the art you are going to reuse and create an album of their works that will be theirs forever.
Bring Home - FRIENDS
Playdate season is open! A successful playdate should always involve a great snack -- ensure that it's a "safe" snack that's peanut and nut-free and also healthy. Many children have allergies today, so it's always important to be prepared. Allergies are on the rise, so companies are making safe snacks that you should always have on hand. And friends are important. Don't play video games -- play outside and be active. Don't let nature deficit disorder kick in!
Bring Home - REUSABLES
As a result of you packing your litterless lunches, you are keeping the weight of an average grade 2 kid out of landfills. Just make sure what you are preparing daily is lead-free, and toxin-free and is full of healthy foods your little eater will devour. After investing in the right containers, a great way to make sure everything gets returned home (a.k.a making your kids responsible) is to pay them off! Try giving your kids a pre-set "fee" each day they remember to bring their containers home. Have them earn it with pride and at the end of the school year, your children can use the money they've earned for something they have saved up for, or donate the funds raised to a charity that they are connected to through your family.
Leave at School - FLU AND OTHER VIRUSES
You may be inclined to pack a jug full of anti-bacterial liquids and wipes with your kids but, the anti-bacterials that contain triclosan might not do anyone much good. In fact, some medical experts worry that the overuse of anti-bacterials are actually creating more problems. In my opinion, hot water with soap and proper handwashing is more effective -- and if you need something on the go, try safe, clean choices from your local health store -- make sure you read the ingredients and understand them before you check out!
Leave at School - LICE
It's a big head-scratcher that we would use pesticides on our bodies to treat something when there is an alternative that, in my opinion, is so much safer. If you are unfortunate enough to have to endure a lice outbreak, I would suggest using coconut oil. (Yes! Another solution brought to you by your well stocked kitchen pantry)
Leave at School - NECESSARY SUPPLIES
Buying hundreds of pencils over your child's school career is expensive and you're not the only one paying the price -- all of those pencils had to come from a tree and other resources somewhere. Although some supplies are advertised as "wipe-clean," they are, unfortunately, leaving an indelible mark on our planet. Shop wisely (perhaps you don't need to buy everything new this year?) but what you do put in your cart is important so I think you should choose stapleless staplers, tree-free or post-consumer waste paper and pencils and ensure that all is PVC, phthalate and lead-free at the minimum.
Bring Home AND Leave at School - YOUR INSPIRATION
Share your thoughts and pay it forward and you will make a difference -- ideas from home should be taken to school and ideas from school should be brought home. Maybe it's banning disposable bottles of water, implementing a strict litterless lunch policy, or cleaning without chemicals. Or maybe it's about ensuring that all students learn about giving back to their communities. If only all of our kids could be part of Project Giveback, imagine what the next generation would be empowered to do.
Best wishes as you and your family get ready to pack up and come and go each day!
Follow Lisa Borden on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lisaborden