I think it is safe to say that most of us recognize the need to protect the planet; however, we are so bombarded with information on environmental problems that we often become stymied on where to start to make a difference. I think a good start would be with our children and incorporating green tips to improve their lives. The education of our children is the most important responsibility for most families today, and with school starting soon, a few green shopping tips really could be beneficial.

Before taking that annual trip to the store to purchase school supplies, take inventory of items on hand. Try to use products left over from last year, or consider donating items that cannot be used to less fortunate students. When purchasing paper products, shop for recycled, renewable school supplies. Several stores, including Target and Office Depot, offer biodegradable pencils and other eco-friendly products. Backpacks also are major purchases each school year. Invest in a good one made from eco-friendly, well-padded material well suited for your child’s size. A good backpack will be friendly to both the environment and your child’s back.

The return to school signals big changes in meal schedules and food purchases. Be ever mindful of the need for your child to start the day with a good breakfast. Try to incorporate fresh fruit and wholesome grains into breakfast and avoid cereals loaded with sugar. Eating a good breakfast is the first step to take to be prepared to learn. Lunches also are important. Opt for reusable containers for sandwiches and snacks as opposed to plastic baggies. You will save money and the planet. Bamboo cutlery as opposed to disposable utensils is a stylish and economic alternative. Of course, the choices of food that goes into these containers are important. Be creative. Plan healthy lunches and snacks, and try to stay away from processed foods full of salt and other preservatives. Make sure your child stays well hydrated. Invest in BPA-free water bottles, and try to avoid sugary drinks.

Transportation is a big issue during the school year. If your child’s school does not provide bus service, consider walking or biking to school, making sure the routes and pathways used are safe. If you do not accompany your child to and from school, please make sure that your child travels in a group and not alone. If walking or biking is not an option because of distance, contact other parents and form carpools. This will save time, and gas and also eliminate traffic congestion.

The biggest purchase for school, of course, is clothing and shoes. Before going out to shop, take an inventory of clothing on hand and only purchase what is needed. Once again, consider donating clothes that no longer fit or are no longer wanted. When shopping, be sure to look for eco-friendly clothes and even consider organic and recycled clothing. With careful planning, your child can return to school in style.

Preparing to return to school can be costly and overwhelming. However, with planning, careful shopping, it is possible to get this accomplished while buying eco-friendly. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change you want to see to save the world”. Live green, be green.