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Go Back to School and Be Green

With many area schools beginning their fall semester between mid-August and early September, many students and their parents will be heading to the stores for back-to-school supplies.   Your back-to-school purchases make a huge difference. Here’s why:
14 billion pencils are produced every year, many made with wood from ancient forests. Americans use about 31.5 million tons of printing and writing paper each year, requiring 535 million trees (most from virgin tree fiber) and 12 billion gallons of oil to make. The average American consumes about 660 pounds of paper per year, compared to 550 pounds in Japan and only about 8.8 pounds in India.

Focusing on reducing waste and preserving natural resources is a core tenet in Judaism. Use the steps below to help reduce waste and protect the environment as you shop for back-to-school items:

  • Re-use and Recycle:  Where possible, re-use binders, pencils and markers from last year. There may not be a need to replace everything you purchased just 12 months ago.
  • Purchase eco-friendly supplies:  Look for recycled content paper, notebooks, green printing supplies and pencils made from certified, sustainable-harvest wood.  These items can be found in most office supply stores, including Staples and Office Depot.
  • Buy school clothes from vintage and resale shops:   The St. Louis area offers a range of resale clothing shops, including vintage shops for the middle and high school age student.  A few  area resale shops (that also benefit worthy area charities) are the National Council of Jewish Women- St. Louis Section shop (located at 295 N. Lindbergh 63141; http://www.ncjwstl.org/the-resale-shop/)  ReFresh, a resale shop to benefit the Foster and Adoptive Care Coalition (1710 S. Brentwood 63144; http://refresh.foster-adopt.org/)  and The Scholar Shop (with two locations-8211 Clayton Road 63117 and 7930 Big Bend Blvd. 63119; http://scholarshopstl.org/ )
  • Create a waste-free lunch:  Make a waste-free lunch and make a difference. It is estimated that the average school-age child using a disposable lunch bag and disposable plastic bags generates 67 pounds of waste each school year.  Buy a reusable lunch bag or box, try a thermos for drinks rather than using disposable juice boxes, and bring re-usable bags or plastic containers for sandwiches and salads.

Happy eco-friendly first day of school!

Resources:  Green Schools Initiative   www.greenschools.net

Gail Wechsler is the Director of Domestic Issues/Social Justice at the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis. She is the staff person for the Jewish Environmental Initiative (JEI), a committee of the JCRC and a part of the JCRC's Bohm Social Justice Initiative.
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