I am now the mother of a kindergartener. OK, so maybe school does not start for another four weeks, but I just bought my first round of school supplies so I feel official. The hardest part in this transition is how to stay environmentally responsible as a parent of a school-ager.
As I headed for the store, supply list in hand, I was immediately struck by the fact that I was not alone. It was about noon in the middle of the week, yet there were other moms obviously doing the same thing.
The first strike against my environmentally responsible intentions was my printed list. I was shamed by one of the other shoppers who was using her smart phone to look at the school website. I slowly hid my paper list in my pocket, heaven forbid being seen carrying paper with my Bluegrass PRIDE shirt on!
The next thing that thwarted the “greening” of my shopping trip was the uniformity of the list. Apparently all of the parents buy the exact same thing so that all of the school supplies can become universally used with the least amount of tears. This is a concept I understand well, after five years of play dates that include: “I want the pink one,” “No, I want the pink one!” But how was I supposed to buy products with the most recycled content? Or supplies that would last forever?
Unwilling to upset the apple cart in my first year as a school mom, I went with the program and followed the list. I understand the reasoning behind the school supply list, but it still makes me a bit unhappy. I have friends who have gone through the supply list for many years. The most disturbing part is that it all has to be bought again the next year, for the next grade. What happens to the six boxes of crayons I just bought? I am sure that by the end of the year, most are broken, but don’t they still work? Do our kids require new, pointy crayons each year? What happened to the sharpener Crayola used to install in the BIG box of crayons when I was little?
Maybe there are things I can do with my daughter’s school in the future to help make the process more environmentally responsible. In the mean time, I will concentrate on things I can change.
No Waste Lunches. My plan is to pack my daughter’s lunch. Even though most schools in Lexington offer recycling, a lot of what is in a traditional packed lunch cannot be recycled, so buying in bulk and using reusable containers is my best bet.
I bought a nice, insulated reusable lunch box that will be big enough to carry multiple washable, reusable containers. The bottom section can hold a sandwich box, and the top has plenty of room for small containers to hold chips, carrots, a serving of yogurt, etc. Instead of buying individual packages of these, I will buy the large packages and separate out the servings I think are right for my daughter. I also bought a nice reusable drink bottle for her juice or water. The good news is that this is cheaper too! It will also be easier to see what she eats since she will have to bring it all home instead of throwing away the chip or yogurt package.
School clothes. I love hand-me-downs. Maybe it is because I am an only child and never really had anyone to hand me down clothes, but until my daughter throws a fit (my guess is about middle school), I am going to do my best to buy from garage sales and second-hand stores. For my youngest daughter (still not out yet, despite my pleas and triple digits), she will be outfitted entirely from clothes given to me from friends and from her sister.
Because kids grow, it is almost impossible to go a year without replacing the majority of their wardrobe, especially since we live in a four-season state. I am not only an environmentalist, but am also fairly cheap, so if I do buy new clothes, I usually buy them as big as I can get away with in the hopes that they will last until the next year. This has worked until recently when I have noticed that stains get harder to get out as kids get older.
Almost half of the money spent on back-to-school shopping is on clothes. I hope to reduce this amount by frequenting the numerous second-hand kids clothes stores throughout Lexington, and if I can handle the heat, going to garage sales. The good news is, is that if it is a dress my daughter will wear it. I also have some winter clothes from last year that I think will fit.
I am very excited about our family’s move into school. I can’t wait to see my daughter meet new friends, learn to read and transition to having more responsibility. I am also looking forward to helping the school through the PTA (in fact I have already joined the green committee). Maybe I can bring a realistic environmental approach so that future moms can easily do the green thing.
Amy Sohner is executive director of Bluegrass PRIDE and a graduate of the University of Kentucky in Natural Resource Conservation and Management. Sohner has worked with PRIDE since its inception in 2002 and is a Certified Environmental Educator. She is involved with the Kentucky Environmental Literacy Alliance, the Bluegrass Rain Garden Alliance, the Licking and Kentucky River Basin Teams, and serves as vice-chair of the Keep Lexington Beautiful Commission. Sohner lives near the Kentucky River palisades with her husband, 5-year-old daughter and a multitude of pets.