Eco-friendly and low-cost back-to-school shopping

By Danel Wentzel, 12th January 2022

January is here, and it’s time to start getting ready for back-to-school shopping! Choosing new stationery and school supplies is exciting for most kids, but it can be stressful for parents.

Walk into any mall, and you are bound to find a variety of shops with back-to-school sections selling shiny new markers, colourful notebooks, binders, and any other stationery your child might need. But before you rush to buy these, we want to challenge you to try and shop as eco-friendly as possible this year.

Back to school time is exciting for most kids, but it can be stressful for parents. Photo © Monkey Business Images | Shutterstock

To help you make this task easier, here are our top tips to keep your carbon footprint and costs low this 2022!


1. Use what you have at home
Not everything needs to be purchased. Most kids already have a stash of markers, coloured pencils, and notebooks at home stuffed into a closet. Take a pencil case, scrounge up loose pens and see how much you can fill it up with things you already own. You probably have piles of school supplies from the year before that are in perfect condition. Sure, the crayons may not be shiny and new, but the most eco-friendly purchase is the one you don’t make!

The most eco-friendly purchase is the one you don’t make! Photo © Suriya Yapin | Shutterstock

2. See what you can find second-hand
Living in the age of technology means you can find almost anything second-hand online. Kids have been taught that every year requires a brand new bag and pencil case. If your child isn’t up for bringing their old bag to school, or if they are required to have a specifically sized backpack, you might be able to find them the perfect second-hand alternative to a shiny, new polyester bag. We recommend looking at Facebook Marketplace, where you can find anything from Paw Patrol bookbags to Casio scientific calculators.


3. Ask for a list
Can’t find what you are looking for second-hand? Then why not ask the teacher or school to send out a list with the school supplies for that year. Buying what you think your child needs might just lead to over-purchasing. Knowing how many notebooks, dividers, and binders they need for a productive school year will ensure they aren’t left with a bunch of brand new but useless school supplies that will sit on the shelf the entire year. Save time and your budget by only purchasing what your child needs.

Ask for a list to avoid buying unnecessary stationery. Photo © New Africa | Shutterstock

4. Opt for eco-friendly alternatives
Eco-friendly stationery is more than just notebooks and paper stock made of recycled newspapers. Going green includes sustainable stationery, like zero-waste (fully recyclable) pens and pencils, and ethical stationery made from locally produced materials like sustainably managed timber. Here is a list to get you started with our favourite items and shops:

–       A4 Carry Folders from from R59.00
–       Eco-friendly wood colouring pencils from from R48.95
–       Bamboo Eco stationery set from from R32.99
–       Eco ball-point pens from from R7.57 each
–       Sprout eco writing notebooks from from R32.88


5. Consider donating
We all have those boxes of old pens, half-used notebooks, and those markers with odd colours we just never used. Why not consider donating the stationary you no longer need?

Consider giving unused stationery a second home by donating them. Photo © White Bear Studio | Shutterstock

One of our main goals here at the SOSF Shark Education Centre is to give back to underprivileged communities, and this time we need your help. We want to focus on giving once-loved stationary a second chance. This January, we will be hosting a ‘drop-off station’ at our Centre in Kalk Bay. We urge you to please donate any unused stationery to help those less fortunate.