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Back-to-school

Stationery supplies

There's a great temptation, and sometimes pressure, to buy a whole new set of supplies at the beginning of every year. While some supplies are necessary, there are many ways to minimise the impact and cost of the back-to-school buying spree.

Coloured pencils lined up

©iStockphoto.com

Before you set out, work out what you really need. Take a good look around the house for items you already have that can be re-used. You may be surprised at how many perfectly good pens and pencils are lurking about in cupboards and under beds—invigorate last year's pencils with a sharpener. Do you really need a new ruler, or a new set of markers when last year's work just fine?

If you do need new items, think carefully about purchases and consider materials, packaging and longevity. Here are some tips to reduce the impact of your stationery purchases.

  • Make a list—and stick to it.
  • Look for products that are re-usable or contain recycled content, especially paper products. Lower impact options are becoming more widely available—look online for the growing number of stores specialising in eco-friendly and recycled school and craft supplies. Try to avoid notebooks with plastic covers—opt for cardboard instead.
  • Try to avoid items with unnecessary packaging. It's not just the items we buy but the way they're packaged that consumes energy and resources. Buy in bulk where you can to reduce packaging and cost, but don't buy more than you'll use.
  • Buy well-made durable items wherever possible. While some things may seem cheap in the first instance, they may not last as long as you need.
  • Choose non-toxic options when you have a choice—for example, water-soluble glue or water-based paints rather than acrylic paints.
  • Look for natural products—for example, crayons made from soya bean oil instead of paraffin (a petroleum-based product).
  • Label items to avoid losing them, or personalise pencils with pencil charms.
  • Opt for solar-powered calculators. If a battery-powered model is required by your school, use rechargeable batteries. When a calculator is no longer needed, pass it on to a friend or sibling, or sell it through school networks. Check if your school has a newsletter or noticeboard to sell unwanted school items.

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