I had the opportunity recently to connect with some amazing Mom’s who blog on all things “green.” These special ladies also use their collective powers to amplify issues, large and small in a regular forum called The Green Moms Carnival. This month, the focus of the “Carnival” is on an issue many of us grapple with at this time of year: “How to make back to school a more sustainable effort;” it’s being “hosted” by Mindful Momma. I’ve opted to add my “two cents” into the mix!
For me, back to school always evokes feelings and thoughts of …new beginnings. When I was in grade school this meant a special day with my Mom, picking out a new outfit for the first day of school, new supplies and a new backpack. Later on, it meant “butterflies in my stomach,” excitement and anticipation…”who would be in my classes, did I get the good teacher or the bad one?” Back to school was always a time of fresh starts, of saying goodbye to summer and summer friends, beginning a new year, and a new grade that came with new challenges and new “mountains to conquer.” The New Year didn’t begin January 1st for me but rather, the first day of a new school year.
In an era of “climate change and the quest for environmental sustainability” how do these views about new beginnings and back to school jive both for my children and for me? Living in the shadow of New York City, a multi media marketer’s paradise, driven in large part by an “over the top, consumer product oriented culture,” the trend seems to always be for – Bigger, Better, Best – for almost “anything” one needs, wants or desires….even school supplies!
On a personal note, I feel fortunate (and less stressed!!) that my middle school children understand where my “environmental mojo” lies, and luckily, theirs is not too far off. They seem to be able to make connections, subconsciously or otherwise and this seems to transition over to “stuff” needed for “back to school” too. If last year’s backpack, or the backpack from 2 year’s ago has “all it’s zippers intact”, no worries, it’s fine; my kids don’t blink an eye. My daughters latest and greatest “hand me downs” from her BFF are exciting new finds, and deciding which of these many outfits to wear for that first day of school presents the challenge. Shopping in her friends “closets” or at the “mall” seems to generate the same excitement. Along this line, a new “find” of ours you may want to try out is thredUP.com, where you can “swap” kids clothes with new “friends” from around the country!
For school supplies, we often start by “shopping” in our own school supply drawer at home where many “new” pens, pencils, paper and notebooks lay hidden, bought and forgotten from previous years. Together, my children and I also enjoy perusing the latest “green school supply lists” which grow in number each year (a testament to the growing demand and the exciting new supplies). We, as parents, are often the ones that subconsciously buy into the media hype that our children need to have “new” and better stuff, each year… when left over stuff from last year is more than fine! By necessity, some “new things” are required but think before you act, not everything on the school supply list needs to come from the store, and when it does, does it need to be made from plastic or virgin paper…? Google “green” school supplies and a wide range of lists will pop up! Some of our favorite lists for grade school, high school, and beyond come from Rodale, Grist, and Treehugger. Don’t forget to check in with Climate Counts and let them help you and your kids get your school supplies from companies that care about their climate footprint – participate in The Climate Counts “Back 2 Cool” campaign!
Finally, for me, “back to school” is a code for “re-energize and get back to work!” This New Year, I plan to redouble my efforts, harnessing my passion and excitement as I help others “make the connections “ to what they are doing everyday and climate change. In the USA this summer it has been challenging at times to be a climate change advocate, as a dysfunctional Senate “dissed” the climate bill, and even crazy weather the world over and an unimaginable oil spill haven’t yet been enough to spark a mass movement on climate change. I’m taking the lead from Franke James, and telling myself: “amplify your voice, listen to your green conscience and imagine a better world.” Back to school is coming, and I am almost ready for it….what about you?“ Share your ideas, thoughts and inspirations….practical or otherwise!