school themed flatlay
Shop your home first for back to school supplies this year.
Photo by olia danilevich on

According to an email sent out in from the in early August:  


The average American family spends about $600 on new school supplies, clothes, and college gear every fall. But with all the additional waste that is created, it’s the environment that pays the highest price for this annual autumn spending spree.

Sustainable Shopping Says Farewell to Fast Fashion –

That is a pretty steep number! It is well-known that back to school comes with a list of necessary supplies but perhaps this is the year to approach that list from the perspective of the Buyerachy of Needs – inspired by and adapted from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The  Buyerarchy of Needs prioritizes saving money through several reuse and procurement choices leaving buying as the last and final option. 

Buyerarchy of Needs. Photo credit: Sarah Lazarovic

In the melee of getting organized for back to school and making sure everything on the list has been acquired, it may be easy to forget the simplest of first steps – begin by evaluating what you already have.  Put that that Buyerarchy Pyramid into action! Shop your own closets, dressers, art supplies, and home offices. Include the kids in this scavenger hunt-like activity. Together, find the items on the list that you already have at home and see what remains on the list after applying the Buyerarchy. This article offers a gentle approach to sustainable choices for filling in the gaps on that prescribed list. 

Packing lunches in reusable items, rather than individually packaged ones, reduces the amount of waste created each school year.

The start of a new year is also a great time to set goals and start new habits.  Maybe this is the year to change the way you prep lunches. Packing lunches with disposable and individually packed snacks creates plus or minus 60 pounds of waste per student per year according to various sources. Or maybe it’s time to prioritize sustainability into everyday choices. This Portland Mom writes about how to do that.  Maybe you want to be better about recycling this year or just want to survive a week without forgetting to feed the dog! Small actions matter; it’s executing the action that makes the difference. 

Here’s to a safe, healthy, and happy school year! 

Earth Day Reuse Projects

If you are interested in discovering some sustainable products to help fill in those gaps on that list in a planet-conscious way, check out our Resources – Lamoille Regional Solid Waste Management District ( page.

We’ve also updated our Resources page for school staff and faculty. Find links for technical services and classroom activities here:

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