Here are our recent zero waste school supplies that help us be more sustainable every day. You really don't need to make huge purchases at the beginning of the year and only stick to things you really need.
I almost never buy school supplies before the term begins and this year is no different. This is because I'm never totally sure about what we need and I feel like there is too much pressure with all the advertising on what parents supposedly have to buy, and most of it is unnecessary.
Here are the very few things we needed and now we're in week 10 of the school year and about to start holidays again which has been plenty of time to mindfully decide our purchases.
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So far, our insulated bags from 18 months ago are still going strong and the school bag we have, came with a 10 year guarantee, so this should last into high school.
I do find all the pretty unicorn bags very tempting, but I hate the idea of purchasing a new school bag every single year and trends come and go pretty fast. Going for quality over quantity is the best option and saves an awful lot of time and money too.
I don't want to waste all my time replacing poorly made items (like bags, drink bottles, and lunchboxes) every year, or term and then debating how on earth i can dispose of them mindfully.
We are at the stage where we have almost no landfill rubbish and are paying close attention to reducing our recyclables, so school supplies need to be included in these goals.
Here are the 4 zero waste essentials we needed, plus one little extra thing.
Stainless Steel Reusable Drink Bottle
The more I learn about plastics, the more uncomfortable I am with using them particularly water bottle. We have several plastic reusable drink bottles but I hate that they are prone to mould AND that I can't really be sure if they are completely safe to use as they get older.
I spent a lot of time researching options and debating prices but in the end, the Klean Kanteen seemed the best choice for us.
The BIG deciding factor was that all the parts can be replaced. So if the lid is lost or damaged, we can just replace that component instead of purchasing a whole new item. This means what ends up in trash and recycling is minimised as much as possible.
Plus this brand comes in cool colours and is just so much better quality than the stainless steel bottle I bought myself at the supermarket.
It has no plastic or BPA, no paint and has a lifetime guarantee and of course replaceable parts. The company has great quality products, strong ethics, B Corporation Certified, and takes an active interest in protecting the environment.
We got the 532ml pink bottle which is a great size for kids and not too heavy in the school bag. It's also chip resistant and durable for kids that are a little rough on items and still drop things.
We have been using lunchboxes for what feels like an eternity and I am so sick of bits breaking off and issues with giant compartments or limited compartments that make packing lunches awkward.
I've been drooling over the yumboxes for a couple of years and now we finally have one, I can't believe I waited this long to purchase our own. But, I was waiting until we really needed it.
They are super compact and this one (pictured above) fits 5 half cups of food into the lunchbox, which is quite a lot and the lid creates a seal meaning you can place dips and wet foods into the sections without it migrating across.
The 6 sections have suggestions for fruit, veggies, dairy, grains and even treats, this Paris theme is pretty cute!
The first thing my daughter wanted to put in was a handful of marshmallows. I pointed out that only one would fit in the treat section. She wasn't exactly wrapped with that idea, but started coming up with other ideas on what foods fit into the various categories.
We aren't big dairy eaters at all, so the criticisms I have of the yumbox is the huge dairy section, along with the fact carrot sticks wont fit into the veggie section.
It also surprisingly came in a plastic wrapper which I wasn't expecting, and don't think is necessary (that will head to RedCycle).
I do like that it makes a hurriedly put together lunch look much more appealing!
(There ARE enough perfect images on instagram of amazing yumbox lunches, so I'm only sharing an average lunch that was put together in a hurry which is pretty typical most days)
I don't like that some of my daughter's friends have yumboxes that they take to school filled with lots of junk food snacks and I need to remind her we don't always eat the same things as other people.
Snack Box To Go
We are definitely making a big shift towards less plastic this year, and as our containers are getting worn out, damaged or chewed up by the dog, we are looking for long lasting, durable and safe food storage. Glass is a great option but not ideal for kids snacks and can shatter when dropped.
Again, this choice was based on the fact that this brand has replaceable parts like the water bottle. So, should the lid or divider get lost, eaten, or used as a frisbee, we can just buy the bits we need.
The sections are brilliant and it means we can take chopped fruit, veggies, eggs, crackers or banana bread without all the food getting mixed in and soggy. The lid is really good quality plastic and actually feels better than Tupperware which I didn't expect.
It fits a surprising amount of food (over 800mls) , is lightweight and absolutely ideal for taking with us for snacks on the go (AND of course can be used as a lunch box too).
We'll also be using this when we eat out because it allows for 4 different leftovers to be taken home without being mingled or ruined.
This is a brand we'll be highly likely to buy more of as we phase out our existing containers. I'm so impressed with the one we have and it's such an affordable swap AND going to last the distance with the rough treatment it will no doubt get. You can check out their range here.
Tinted Lip Balm
This was absolutely NOT essential, but my daughter is interested in lipstick and lipbalm and she has had way too many dodgey ones that we have had to throw away.
Why is it a school supply? Well....purely because I know that book week is coming AND I won't know about it until the day before. Why there is such short notice and such high expectations on book week celebrations is beyond my understanding.
So, my daughter is going as pink something - maybe pinkabella, pinkalicious or some other book character that is super pink and we are yet to discover. She already has a pink dress that will definitely fit her all year from the opshop, we have some pink hair chalk and now this pink lip balm that is perfectly safe to use.
This brand is called No Nasties, and they make a whole range of cool stuff for kids without the chemical crap, including makeup kits, eye shadow, blush, face paint, hair chalk, lip balm and other accessories. It's also vegan, cruelty free and low waste, eco-friendly packaging.
We aren't doing the whole makeup thing yet, but when the teen years come I guess that might be on the cards. I never got much into makeup, but at least i know we can find safer products and hopefully she influenced by our green life.
Head Lice Shampoo Bar
For some crazy reason, head lice seems to get us when school holidays start, and mid year seems the worst time. I have no idea if that's just our bad luck, but I do know I want to be prepared.
Many of the head lice treatments have harsh chemicals and I have a reaction to most of the mainstream lice products. We have had a lot of success with more natural products however they do involve quite a bit of plastic packaging.
This cedar + stone headlice shampoo bar is completely plastic free. It's also far cheaper than its plastic equivalents, so its a win win.
It's also palm oil free, vegan, and cruelty free, but more importantly NO SLS.
One of THE WORST things about SLS is that it makes your scalp dry, flaky and itchy - this is bad news when you are trying to figure out if you still have head lice after a treatment.
Having a bar soap, means no plastic waste, and its super compact. This means, when we head off for a school holiday get away, we can easily take this with us and not get caught out having to buy brand new head lice products in an emergency.
This has happened to us a couple of years ago over Easter and it's absolutely a fun killer.
We usually use olive oil or coconut oil to remove the live head lice. This means covering the scalp and hair in oil and letting it sit for about an hour before combing out with the comb. Then we give it a really good wash. The shampoo bar will be perfect for this and the follow up washes for treatment and prevention.
I am actually going to use this before the holidays start.
Our zero waste school supply list is pretty short and easy to manage.
We probably don't really need to purchase anything more this year. (I should also mention, our school provides books and stationary, so we never even look at that stuff other than for use at home).
I purchased these online and had them delivered in plastic free, recyclable packaging.
Next year, I'll be waiting until March or April again, to decide if we really need anything at all and completely skipping the usual commercialisation hype of the new school year.
My biggest tip is to Only buy what you need, when you need it
What are your zero waste essentials for school? Do you buy new things each year before school starts, or do you give yourself some extra time like I do?
The one thing I can never time is when to buy school uniforms. Kids grow at such a fast rate, it can be pretty hard to predict exactly what you need at the beginning of the year and I've never understood the push for brand new shoes for the first day back at school.
Happy school holidays, and don't forget to keep an eye out for the eco-friendly activities I'll be sharing over the next few weeks.