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Your Guide to Sustainable (B)ack-To-School Shopping

Giveaway alert: read to the end of this article to learn how to get FREE B Corp products to help you keep your cool as you get the kids back to school.

This post is part of our Conscious Consumerism series to encourage our readers to live – and buy – responsibly. As marketers in the purpose economy, we see it as our job to help people make purchasing decisions that align with their values and contribute to the greater good. Want to learn more about our mission? Download our Manifesto.

I used to start planning for back-to-school towards the end of July. I rejoiced in writing out my get-ready-for-school routine in 5-minute intervals, purchasing stylish yet functional school supplies and buying outfits to reflect the strides I’d made in sophistication and maturity during my two-month respite from the public school system.

The night before The First Day of School always felt more like New Year’s Eve than December 31 – there was so much possibility.

I don’t get to go back to school now, but I’m going to enjoy this time of year vicariously through you and your children. I’m tracking down the best sustainable school supplies, the greenest lunch boxes and exploring other eco-friendly options for a successful start to the school year (Click to Tweet!).

School-aged me would be shocked that we’re not addressing these things until the end of August but adult me thinks now is the perfect time. Ready class? Let’s begin.

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School Supplies

Raw Office

Raw Office Score Card

Raw Office generates a scorecard for each manufacturer highlighting how many sustainable products from the company Raw Office sells and how sustainable they are. The one above is for 3M.

This B Corp and 1% for the Planet member primarily stocks office supplies so the items older students need are readily available.

They give all of the items they stock a “Raw Eco Score” between 0-5 stars based on factors including recycled content, non-toxic ingredients, valid eco claims and social impacts (more stars); use of virgin materials, toxic manufacturing practices, greenwashing and greenhouse gas emissions produced in the manufacturing (fewer stars).

Raw Office also generates a scorecard for each manufacturer highlighting how many sustainable products from the company Raw Office sells and how sustainable they are.

Find pens made from recycled plastic bottles, highlighters made from recycled materials, notebooks made from recycled paper and printed with soy ink and 100% recycled printer paper for your older kids’ essays and term papers. By purchasing paper made from sugarcane you can even counter deforestation, protect the biodiversity of our world’s forests and conserve water. Pretty sweet.

The Green Office

If your school supply list will also include the fun school supplies (colored pencils, markers, etc.) check out founding B Corp The Green Office.

The Green Office has catalogued and ranked over 34,000 products by sustainability. They offset all of the carbon emissions associated with shipping your order; will match any price you find (refunding you the difference plus 10% just because); and hold several certifications beyond B Corp including Bay Area Certified Green Business, Green America Gold, Energy Star Partner, EPA Wastewise Program Member, EPA Smartway Transport Member and Carbon Neutral Operations.

All of that is impressive, but it’s their product listings that really set The Green Office apart. They rank every product as conventional, green or dark green and then indicate ALL of the following information for EVERY product:

  1. Whether it contains recycled content and how much it contains
  2. Whether it’s biodegradable and / or compostable
  3. Whether it has traits associated with reduced chemical content like chlorine free, soy based ink, BPA free, etc.
  4. Whether it holds any of 57 third party certifications for sustainability (Made in the USA, 1% for the Planet, B Corp, Biodegradability, Cradle to Cradle, Green America, etc.)

Check out the listing for this pen to see all of the traits and certifications The Green Office notes for its products.

Because The Green Office also carries conventional products, they will have most everything you’re looking for and their in-depth eco-analysis puts the information you need to shop consciously right at your fingertips. You can even arrange search results by “greenness!”

Public – Supply

Public Supply offers plain notebooks like the red one above and more unique limited edition designs produced in collaboration with various artists.

B Corp Public Supply offers plain notebooks like the red one above as well as limited edition designs produced in collaboration with various artists.

This B Corp supports creative work in US schools by donating 25% of the profits from each sale to a classroom in need. They support a variety of projects and programs, funding the purchase of everything from trombones to acrylic paints to robotics programming kits to speakers. The “Thank You” notes on the site that accompany catalogues of donations are incredibly heartwarming and really demonstrate the impact Public – Supply has on classroom communities near and far.

So what can you buy from Public – Supply? The company offers good old basic pencils and notebooks of various sizes in classic blacks, blues and reds or adorned with beautiful designs. Their notebooks are constructed from FSC Certified, Rainforest Alliance Certified, Acid Free paper containing 10% post-consumer recycled content. These notebooks aren’t cheap so you might want to save these for serious writers, college kids or yourself. Still, if you want to do some tangible good when you buy notebooks, there’s no better place to shop than Public – Supply.

Lunch Time

B Corp Bixbee offers fun backpacks and uses a One Here One There model to get bags with supplies to kids in need.

B Corp Bixbee offers fun backpacks and uses a One Here One There model to get bags with supplies to kids in need.

If you’re on the lookout for a new backpack or lunchbox, check out B Corp Bixbee. Their “One Here. One There.” mission means that for every backpack purchased, another is donated to a kid in need – and it arrives full of school supplies.

Bixbee offers a variety of lunchboxes and backpacks with bright designs that kids will love. Some designs are even customizable!

Goodbyn makes bento-box like sets and containers that will help you do away with the waste that accompanies single-use plastic bags and their kin. As a 1% for the Planet member Goodbyn donates one percent of their annual revenue to an environmental organization.

There are many other reusable food packaging options out there from brands like lunchskins and B Corp BlueAvocado. You can also score some custom creations from B Corp Etsy that will really capture your kids’ style. Looking for a variety of solutions? 1% for the Planet member reuseit curates a huge variety of eco-friendly snack, lunch and other living products.

Back to School Fashion

Kids grow fast, so check out local thrift stores and chains like Plato’s Closet and Once Upon a Child. Also look online at shops like ebay and threadUP.

One website that I particularly like is Schoola. They sell second hand clothes for girls, boys, juniors and women and proceeds benefit the schools that collected the clothes. So far, Schoola has supported over 30,000 schools and accomplished things like helping to fund an orchestra and build a playground. To further their impact, they also partner with organizations like Malala Fund, VH1 Save the Music and Girls on the Run.

If you’re buying new, shop for eco-friendly and ethical fashions. Look for sustainable fibers, fair labor practices, local production, and clothes free of chemical finishes and toxic dyes. Here are a few B Corp options to get you started:

What About You? 

Enough about the kids! Here are a few of products to set you up for a happy back-to-school season. BONUS: Keep reading to learn how you can get a FREE pack of these products to ease your back to school transition.

Energy

Fall and the accompanying flurry of activities, school-related and otherwise, can be tough after a summer with a less stringent schedule. B Corp Kuli Kuli has your back. Their moringa-based energy shots and snack bars are a quick way to get the energy you need to drive your kids to school, soccer practice, violin lessons, play rehearsal and whatever else they’re doing.

Coffee hurts my tummy and I get skeeved out by energy drinks but I’m down with the idea of drinking some leafy greens high in vitamins and iron to get myself going. I’m not driving kids anywhere but just getting myself from place to place can be exhausting so I’d imagine parents really need this!

Pain

More run around has impacts for you and your kids. If you find you’re waking up sore or just want a little relief between workouts, B Corp Topricin’s MyPainAway Sports Cream could be exactly what you’re looking for. Using all natural ingredients, it minimizes swelling and pain associated with chronic conditions and gets rave reviews online. Just what you need to make that 6 am trip to the bus stop a bit less painful!

I hope that this roundup of products for you and the kids helps you start the school year off right. It’s tempting to go with the easiest solution, but getting off on the sustainable foot from the first school bell will set you up to make good decisions all year long. That effort deserves an A+!!

FREE GIVEAWAY

bcorp-product-give-away

Thanks to the generosity of Topricin and Kuli Kuli, one lucky reader will receive a gift basket full of pain relieving and energy boosting goodies so you can keep your cool as the kids go back to school!

Enter through September 2.

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Alison was RoundPeg's content marketing specialist though November 2016. We are sure she still spends her days seeking inspiration, writing inspired content, then trying to inspire other people to read it! When she isn't trying to save the world by the might of her pen, she hangs out with her dog Wall-E, reads contemporary literature and eats an impressive amount of chocolate.
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