Back-to-School Sustainable Swaps

by Bria Zegarelli


September 1, 2023

When preparing for school, it is easy to buy new things every year or to automatically reach for name-brand, plastic products. However, now that the 2023-24 school year is right around the corner, it is time to think about supplies, clothes, technology, and dorm decor that are high-quality, reliable, and good for the environment. You can use the following list as a reference for ideas to use this upcoming school year!

1] Reusable Water Bottles

Reusable water bottles are one of the simplest ways to support the environment. By using only one water bottle — or a rotation of a few — for the school year, you will be able to limit so much plastic waste that would normally occur if you were throwing out water bottles every day.

2] Mason Jars for Dorm Decorating

Mason jars are perfect for college students because they are very versatile for dorm rooms. Not only can they be used as cups, but they can store food, makeup, school supplies, money, or plants. You could also paint them and make them match your room. 

3] Ecosia Web Browser

Consider using the Ecosia web browser, which uses 100 percent of its profits to plant trees around the world. Over 180 million trees have already been planted by the company, and the more you use the browser, the more trees that are planted. 

4] Cloth Pencil Pouches Rather than Plastic

If you need to buy a pencil pouch, cloth pouches will reduce plastic waste, and they usually last a lot longer than plastic ones. 

5] EarthHero and Decomposition Websites

You can also buy your school supplies from websites and companies whose missions are focused on sustainability. For instance, the company EarthHero is an online retailer that focuses on selling only eco-friendly items with the best ingredients and materials for each product category. The company has a vast selection of products and is perfect for shopping sustainably for school. The company Decomposition is also great for back-to-school shopping because it sells aesthetically-pleasing composition notebooks that were made from recycled materials and are also recyclable themselves. 

6] Sustainable backpacks

In terms of backpacks, the most sustainable route is just using the one you already have. However, if you need a new one, try purchasing from a company that prioritizes sustainability. Some brands that are committed to eco-friendly products are Patagonia, Terra Thread, The North Face, or Fjallraven. If you are looking for alternative bags, EcoBags sells other types of bags that are still sustainable. 

7] Thrift Stores and Second-Hand Stores

Thrift stores or second-hand stores like Goodwill, Poshmark, Plato’s Closet, or Depop are great for back-to-school because you can easily buy and sell used clothes for lower prices. Goodwill is specifically good for dorm shopping because it sells other items besides clothes, such as furniture and home decor/supplies. 

8] Used Textbooks and Books

When buying textbooks and books for the upcoming school year, see if there is a “Used” or rental option when checking out. Also, if you know anyone who has taken the class before, you could borrow their items so that you do not have to buy another copy. Additionally, many college bookstores will buy back books you bought at the beginning of the year or semester. 

9] Wooden and Recyclable Pencils 

Instead of regular or mechanical pencils, try buying wood pencils or pencils that are recyclable. The brand Sprout World is great because it sells pencils that you can actually plant after using!

10] Rocketbook 

You could try the company Rocketbook when buying notebooks for the school year! Rocketbook is really interesting because it combines sustainability and the art of technology in order to make reusable notebooks. After you write on the pages with the company’s special Pilot FriXion ink, you can scan them to the Rocketbook app, and then you can wipe the pages clean with a wet cloth so that you can use them again later! 


Bria Zegarelli is a regular contributor for The Green Voice