Photo: Nicole S. Young / Istock
By Carol Thompson
The final days of summer are rolling by and the back-to-school commercials, sales and magazine advertisements are not going to let you forget it. For the first day of class, kids will want to be loaded with shiny new binders, pencils, backpacks and school clothes not the greenest way to start the year. (Though you can make the process more earth-friendly with these green school supplies.)
Reusing your school supplies is the best way to reduce the environmental impact of back-to-school time. But if you can't find uses for your old supplies, donate them to give your old stuff new life!
Donate general school supplies:
- I Love Schools allows you to donate your gently used school supplies (from notebooks to footballs to musical instruments) or to fund a classroom wish list.
- Local schools, offices and shelters frequently take donations of school supplies for low-income families in the area.
Reuse and recycle general school supplies:
Sometimes school supplies are too well-used to donate. In those cases, we have a few ideas for making the best use of those few leftover sheets in the old algebra notebook.
- Break down and recycle the individual parts of your school supplies if they're truly unusable. For example, most binders contain cardboard, so tear off the plastic lining to recycle the cardboard inside.
- Use old or broken school supplies for crafts. Melt broken crayons to make candles, or use scrap construction paper (even if it has writing) to make your own home-made paper.
- Use extra paper from old notebooks as loose-leaf, scrap or homework paper.
- Keep old notes, worksheets, quizzes and tests in a binder and make a valuable resource for younger students!
- Donate your used shoes to Soles4Souls, an organization that will clean them and distribute them around the world.
- Greenspot Travel collects and sends clothing donations to used clothing stores in Central America. Proceeds from these stores fund local schools.
- National non-profit organizations like Goodwill and The Salvation Army collect clothes donations for resale in stores.
- Vietnam Veterans of America collects clothing donations to sell in thrift stores throughout 30 states. If you're in one of the 30, the VVA will pick up your donation at your doorstep! Funds raised benefit VVA programs.
Donate used backpacks
- The American Birding Association collects gently used backpacks (as well as digital cameras, laptops and other birding equipment). Equipment is distributed to scientists, conservationists and educators in Latin America.
- The Backpack Project collects backpacks, fills them with donated essential items like food, toiletries, books and art supplies and then gives them to homeless youth.
- Also consider stitching up old backpacks to reuse for another year of school, or to use as diaper bags, gym bags or grocery bags.
Donate old computers
- You can send working and not-working computers to Interconnection.org. The organization deletes the personal data from your hard drive, teaches computer use and repair skills by refurbishing computers and then sends repaired computers to developing countries.
- Also look on
Earth911 and EPA's page on eCycling for nearby stores and recycling centers that will take old computers and electronics. Typically the components are used to make new electronics devices, and recycling these parts keeps harmful chemicals out of the environment.
So don't forget to donate your used school supplies, clothes and computers! You'll be helping the environment by keeping stuff out of the landfill and helping someone else at the same time. If you have another option for donating or recycling school supplies, tell us in the comments section below.