Kids love back-to-school shopping and getting hordes of fun, new products. But for parents, the lists can get pretty overwhelming, especially if you have to buy these items year after year. This year, use your shopping as a unique opportunity to teach them sustainable habits—because, let’s face it, the plastic pencil carriers and practically disposable backpacks we carried when we were in elementary school didn’t do much for the environment, and today there are a wide range of awesome sustainable products to tote around. Here are some of our favorites:
All Good kid’s sport water-resistant sunscreen, SPF 30
This sunscreen is lightweight, certified organic, and non-greasy, so your kids won’t look like they’re covered in sweat when you drop them off at school. All Good uses a zinc oxide formula, so you can feel good about what your kids are putting on their skin and what you’re putting into the water stream. Plus, the ingredient list includes natural substances like green tea, rose hips, and buriti oil, which may help repair damaged skin, and gentle chamomile for sensitive kiddos. Plus, when you’re done, All Good has some cool ideas on how to reuse the bottles on their website—like filling them with water-soluble paint and water for a fun after-school project.
Despite environmental concerns, Ziploc bags have been a consistent trend in the U.S., but LunchSkins is helping people kick the habit with alternatives like reusable lunch carriers and recyclable paper snack and sandwich bags. The lunch bags are BPA- and lead-free, dishwasher safe, and can be folded flat for easy storage during weekends or summer vacation. The paper snack and sandwich bags are sealable and recyclable. LunckSkins also donates 10 percent of purchases to nonprofits that help fight plastic pollution, like 5 Gyres and the Sea Turtle Conservatory.
Price: Lunch bags: $10-$13, sandwich and snack bags: $6-$12
Launched in 2010, S’well has grown to be one of the fastest woman-owned companies in the country. Their mission is to eliminate plastic water bottles by “combining fashion with function.” In addition to great kid-friendly designs, the bottle is also ideal for kids on the go. Beverages stay cold for up to 24 hours and hot for up to 12. From an economic standpoint, it’s a no-brainer. If your kid spends $2 a day at the vending machine on water, you’d break even on the cost of a cheaper S’well bottle in just two weeks.
TreeSmart’s recycled pencils—in both classic HB#2 and color pencil sets—are made from 100 percent recycled newspapers with latex-free erasers. The pencils also have a cool newspaper design, too, way better than those boring yellow ones. The pens are made of recyclable plastic bottles, come in a cool aqua green, and have a retractable tip so you won’t be forever looking for the lids.
Price: $12 for a pack of pens or $10 for a pack of pencils
Originally designed to repurpose old sails that would otherwise end up in landfills into carryalls for wetsuits, today Mafia bags offers a range of backpacks and duffels, perfect for school and gym class. Every bag is handmade in San Francisco with U.S.-sourced materials. The company also operates with as little environmental impact as possible—like reusing the cardboard shipping boxes and guaranteeing each product with a lifetime warranty. That means these bags can last from elementary school through college.
Price: Backpacks: $75-$175, Duffle bags: $110-$198
A perfect replacement for plastic cutlery, these bamboo utensils are durable, made with renewable bamboo, and pretty cute. The utensils are made for smaller hands, so they’ll be easy for your kid to carry and use. They’re also certified phthalate- and BPA-free, dishwasher safe, and don’t absorb flavors, making them the perfect accompaniment to your kid’s reusable lunch bag.
Price: $6 for a set of three forks and three spoons.