It’s a back-to-school season so you know what that means, a roundup of eco-friendly school supplies. These all work for eco-friendly office supplies, too!
Before we jump into swaps you can buy, shop your stock first. I don’t know about you, but when I was in school, I insisted on new book covers and folders, and pencil cases EVERY YEAR. Wow. Looking back, I realize how wasteful that is, not only in waste but also in money! I had perfectly good items I could have repurposed. So, save items from years prior to get the most life out of them that you can before throwing them away. Thankfully, my mom was stingy was saved all of our still useable supplies for spares and to use in her own classroom. She now saves school supplies throughout her school every May for kids to use the next fall!
If you’d like more ideas on how to live zero waste at school and how you can make your school low waste, watch this video here.
Here are some other honorable mentions videos to check out:
Now, let’s say you’re out of items you’ve already purchased new, now what? I highly encourage you to check out your local thrift store before browsing the items I have listed below. I see sooo many binders and notebooks and other school supplies at Goodwill for wayyy less money than you’d be spending to buy those items new. You can also check out used book stores for these items too. Places like eBay are also great for finding things like used scientific calculators and other more expensive items you may only need for a year or two. You can also check out this video to learn more about buying tech second-hand without getting scammed. If you need a new computer for class or work, this is your resource.
Okay, now you’ve exhausted all your most sustainable options, what now? Check out these brands and products I have listed below to make your school year the most eco-friendly one yet (products may be affiliate links that supports my work without costing you any extra).
What to look for
Even if you don’t need any of these products, what should you look for when buying eco-friendly office and school supplies? I highly recommend looking for recycled materials (paper, plastic, metal, etc) and natural materials (cotton, hemp, wood, etc) instead of virgin materials, especially virgin plastic. But, also look for recyclable materials, too. Generally speaking, standard school supplies like scissors, rulers, and so forth are made of plastic, so try to find a metal one instead. Think about how you’re going to dispose of this item before you even buy it.
If you want a one-stop shop, I highly recommend Earth Hero. They have an array of school and office supplies on one webpage so you don’t have to spend too much time browsing multiple sites. Plus, that only means one package versus several, cutting down even more waste! They have everything you need from recycled paper, waste-free crayons, organic cotton bags, recycled scissors, plantable pencils, and more!
Another great one-stop shop for all your eco office supplies needs is The Ultimate Green Store with options such as metal tiffins and lunchboxes, pencils, markers, and even non-toxic ice packs!
And you can check out the Wisdom Supply Co for all your eco school and office needs
If you’ve been around a while, you may be wondering why I have some products listed on Amazon. I get it, it’s not a great company, but it’s convenient. Sometimes people need things in a pinch. Amazon is also generally much cheaper than other brands. I highly encourage you to support greener companies when possible, but I understand that is not always possible. It’s also unfortunate, that some brands are ONLY available on Amazon. So, do what feels right to you, I just wanted to be completely honest. Your purchases through Amazon with the below links also support my work without an additional charge to you. Thank you.
I’m not going to go in-depth really into any of these products, they are all linked if you’d like to order or learn more.
Fountain pens are a great option you can find almost anywhere. They are designed to be refilled so you don’t have to buy pen after pen after pen. This one from Lamy is a great option made to last
Naturally made out of grass pens from A Good Company if you still want your regular ballpoint pens (I’m a sucker for them) with less of an environmental impact
Pilot pens are your standard gel pens made from plastic. So why am I recommending them? Because they have refills as well. Sure, you still have to dispose of the empty cartridges, but if you like gel pens, this is a great option as now you only have to dispose of the cartridge and not the entire pen each time.
Eco Pen Club creates pens out of recycled materials and non-toxic, soy-based ink
Conscience Concepts is a pen made from cork and wheat straw
Sprout Pencils have seeds in the pencil ends so when they run out of lead, you can plant them!
Three Leaf makes pencils out of recycled paper which means they are tree free AND biodegradable
Most crayons are made of oil-based paraffin wax, but these vegan soy wax crayons on Etsy are earth-friendly AND paper wrapping free!
Honeysticks are another oil-free crayon option without paper wrapping. These are made from beeswax
This may be an unpopular opinion, but I think mechanical pencils are very eco-friendly. Buy a nice one, even if it IS plastic, and take care of it. This way you don’t have to buy pencil after pencil after pencil, it just refills with lead! Jet pens make a high-quality metal mechanical pencil. These ones from Onyx and Green are made from recycled plastic, too
Onyx and Green also makes recycled newspaper-colored pencils for all your artsy needs
Seltzer makes a traditional pen but they claim it lasts seven YEARS! Check it out!
Skip out on plastic-based highlighters and used these highlighter PENCILS instead from Stubby Pencil Studio
Markers are hard to come by plastic free, if at all. So, do what you can and if you have to use plastic-based markers, recycle them through Crayola here
Not all markers are bad, though, AusPen makes refillable dry erase markers so you can kiss wasteful, dried-out markers goodbye
And Neuland makes refillable regular markers!
Paper and similar products
Printworks 100% post-consumer recycled paper, FSC certified, and chlorine free (unfortunately, I couldn’t find their website so here it is on Amazon)
Recycled drawing paper from Discount School Supplies is natural and bleach-free making it fully recyclable
Decomposition makes composition notebooks and other styles of notebooks (folders and more!) that are not only made sustainably with recycled materials but also made to be fully compostable
Ecojot sells jumbo journals that are 100% post-consumer recycled and recovered materials
Northbooks is a more budget-friendly option made with FSC-certified paper and every order placed plants one tree through the Eden Projects
Ecology recycled filler paper to fill your binders (see eco binders below)
Environotes recycled 5 subject notebooks. I know this isn’t the MOST sustainable notebook in the world, but I do remember teachers requiring us to have certain sized notebooks and this is the first one I found that is at least recycled paper
If you’re a college student, this applies mostly to you. Opt for e-books for your classes instead. Not only are they SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper, they are also a lot less wasteful! You don’t need paper for the book and don’t need physical items like sticky notes or highlighters for notes and bookmarks.
But, you can also get textbooks secondhand on campus or through sites like Craigslist
Get your low waste planner for your next school year at Wisdom Supply Co
Looking for a new printer? Look no further than Epson EcoTank Printer which has ink tanks instead of hard-to-recycle ink cartridges. Have old cartridges you wanna recycle? Check out this video to learn more about where to recycle ink cartridges AND old tech.
Once again, I could only find this on Amazon, but I love this concept. This is the ReBinder, made with recycled chipboard and also gives back to local communities
Another Amazon find is this Naked Binder is crafted from one piece of board without creating excess waste. It is also designed to be very durable, making it last years and years made with 100% recycled and FSC-certified post-consumer waste
Onyx and Green makes recycled paper binder dividers
Erasers, glue, and more!
Tombow erasers are natural rubber that can erase pencil AND pen and are only wrapped in paper
I could only find these on Amazon, too, they are plant-based glue sticks from Onyx and Green and the tube is made from recycled materials
Tape, maybe not for students, but great for the office, check out this craft paper tape from Net Zero Co which is entirely plastic free
Onyx and Green also makes eco-friendly scissors made from corn-based plastic and recycled materials
But, when it doubt shopping for scissors, choose scissors made entirely of metal so they can be fully recycled when you are done with them. You can also try sharpening your scissor edges to make them last longer!
Once again, Onyx and Green coming in clutch to satisfy your stapling needs. This stapler is made from bamboo and is packaged in paper. If recycled paper, though, be sure to remove the staples first!
But you can also go staple-free with this paper clinch from Plus (sorry, only on Amazon again)
Onyx and Green once again, this time for a bamboo pencil sharpener which is a necessity when using lots of pencils
This calculator from MoMA may not be the best eco option, but it IS made with corn-based plastic and runs on solar energy so it is a step in the right direction!
This dry erase board from Three by Three isn’t made from plastic, it’s made from bamboo!
For book covers, I used to upcycle a brown paper bag into a low-waste book cover. I couldn’t tell you how to do it now, but I’m sure there are tutorials allllll over the internet.
But, if you want a colorful book cover (I mean, you could paint or color your paper one), you can opt for one of these Book Sox. They really aren’t sustainable, but if you continue to use the same one year after year after year, it can get the most use out of it. You can even pass it on to siblings or give it away on a Facebook No Buy Group.
Bags and other Storage
This Etsy shop makes pencil pouches out of recycled and reused materials. It says they are currently taking a break but a simple search on Etsy for “recycled pencil pouch” should bring you lots of results
I’m a huge Patagonia fan. They have a wide collection of vegan, organic cotton, and recycled materials packs here
I’m an even BIGGER fan of Cotopaxi. They make all of their gear out of upcycled materials throughout the outdoor industry. Each piece is handmade and no two pieces are alike.