Back-to-school time brings the rush for new lunch boxes, school supplies and clothing. Most of the time, we're so busy crossing items off our lists we don't have time to worry about whether the item is eco-friendly or not. Here's how you can do your part while you shop without spending extra money or time. And don't worry; these ideas are cool enough for even the coolest kids. McClatchy-Tribune Newspapers
• If your child will carry a lunch box this year, strive to pack lunches that are 100 percent waste-free. Start with a reusable lunch box or bag, keeping an eye open for one made from recycled material. Invest in a few reusable food containers.
• Keep in mind the types of food items you'll be packing as you choose between sizes. And don't forget you can reuse small plastic containers from foods that you've already purchased such as cheeses and butter. Fill up a reusable bottle with their favorite drink.
• And for cutlery, pack a cheap fork and spoon then toss in a reusable napkin or one made from recycled paper. Don't worry about reusable items being tossed in the trash because with this lunch system, your kids won't need to visit the garbage can. Everything gets packed and comes home.
• School supplies are a biggie. Before shopping, see if there are backpacks, binders or pencil pouches from last year that you can reuse. If you do need to go new, look for binders and clipboards made from recycled plastic or notebooks made of recycled paper.
• And who can forget the new clothes? We know kids agonize over the perfect outfits but you don't need to break the bank to get them dressed. Children and teen resale shops have brand name clothes in gently used condition. Sometimes you even get lucky and find brand new items with the tags still attached.
• Another idea, especially for girls, is to host a clothing swap. Have each girl bring gently used items they no longer wear and let them swap with their friends.
• For new clothing items, look for ones made from sustainable sources and treated with minimal amounts of potentially hazardous chemicals. Items made of organic cotton and denim are a good place to start. Try to avoid clothing labeled wrinkle resistant, stainproof or odor resistant. They are commonly treated with untested chemicals.
• There's no better time than right now to make sure your kids are practicing the 3 R's — reduce, reuse and recycle. Teach them how they too can help care for our planet by giving used items a second life.