Parents, rejoice! I’m clocking less than two weeks ‘til school is in and I can temporarily bench the role of Chief Boredom Preventer. It’s not that I don’t adore more time with the younglings but, after 2020: the year of the lockdown, many of us have exhausted what little flair we had for homeschooling and just want to play with people our own age.
By week five of seven, the kids have thrashed their Christmas toy supply and frayed our final threads of Zen. Kids need other kids, and stimulation, and play – all of which is difficult to orchestrate daily, particularly while working or keeping to a budget (is it just me or are school holidays blutty expensive?!). Cue squabbling siblings, craving routine, daily outings and the variety of their school social circle. Yes, I’m quite ready to be relegated to lunch-maker and soccer mum once more, can you tell?
What I do love about the final weeks of school holidays, though, is organising all o’ the back to school-y stuff. Call me a big old dork, but there’s something about the anticipation and possibility of a new school year. That excitement used to be tempered by a major downer – virtually drowning in plastic, thanks to the sea of stationery, book covers and food containers signifying term one’s approach.
But nowadays, schools are wising up to the plastic problem and no longer have a bondage fetish when it comes to how we cover books and stationery. There are many green alternatives to the boring band of plastic school staples, and these incarnations are far cooler and more useful than the originals. Allow me to introduce you to a few of my eco must-haves and plastic-free hacks for back to school …
The Cheeki Active Insulated Drink Bottle
My two favourite things about the Cheeki Active Insulated drink bottle. It’s vacuum sealed – keeping drinks cold for 36 hours – even in the blistering sun. And, it’s actually LEAKPROOF! This is not a test, people. How many bottles claim to be leakproof and then you find a puddle at the bottom of your kid’s backpack? Well, this baby is the real deal. Its clever adjustable spout has four flow settings and is impermeable in the off position.
So, I lied. I have more than two favourite features: There’s the dustproof cap (no more furry spout when the kids drop their bottles); the 18/8 stainless steel composition, which is rustproof and won’t retain odours or flavours. You can use the Cheeki for hot drinks, and it’ll keep them so for a full day. The bottle also has a rubber base, so it won’t get dented OR dent your furniture.
Coated in toxin-free paint, in topaz, matte black and dusty pink, there’s a colour to please every fusspot and the 600ml size is perfect for school – not so huge that the kids develop a hunchback from carrying it in their bags, but large enough to get them through the hottest and busiest of school days.
Cover School Books without Plastic
Contacting schoolbooks is one of the more barbarous tasks parenthood serves up. I’ve never done it, personally, but I recall watching my dear mum agonise over the endeavour for hours, each January. IMO, contacting should be criminalised, and there’s no need to subject yourself to it. Most exercise books feature a space to write your child’s name and subject on them. If you must cover, Recycled Kraft paper, used paper shopping bags and old giftwrap work just as well as contact and plastic covers, just be sure to use a biodegradable tape to secure them, like this one from Earth Greetings. If you want to get a little crafty, you can try collaging with old calendar and magazine clippings, or even sew a cloth covering on textbooks, using material from used clothes or sheets.
The Lyra Highlighter Pencil
Why are highlighters more plastic than highlighter The Lyra Highlighter Pencil says, ‘no siree!’ Made from PEFC wood (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification), it is just as bright as a conventional highlighter and will last much longer. Complete with ergonomic grooves for comfort and a thick, break-resistant core, the Lyra Highlighter Pencil is a no-brainer. Cross that hideous, multicoloured multipack off your stationery list, this instant.
Rethink the need to use sticker labels and iron-on labels on everything the kidlets take to school and kindy. Take shoe dots, for example. How often are they really going to take their shoes off at school? Scrap those bulk name label websites and look to Etsy for compostable sticker labels (if you must have them) and a good ol’ fashioned pen for labelling uniforms. If you need something fun and unique to adorn backpacks with to make them identifiable, look no further than our Poppy & Daisy DIY wooden bag tags. The kids will absolutely love their crafty project as well as getting them all excited about the upcoming school year.
Master the Art of Nude Food
Many schools now have zero waste or ‘nude’ food policies in place. This means that your child’s lunches and snacks will ideally be free of single-use wrappers or coverings, like cling wrap or zip-lock bags. Great news! There are reusable alternatives to all of the plastic go-tos, helping you to organise your schoolie’s lunches with more ease and less waste.
The bento will be their lunchtime bestie, separating lunch and snacks into perfect portions. Aside from being reusable and long-lasting, bentos are great because they encourage you to stuff your kid’s lunches with more fruit and salad, lest they look too empty and the teacher judges you. I prefer stainless steel varieties because they can really cop a beating from daily use and still look as new. You’ll only ever have to buy one, unless it somehow gets steamrolled.
In addition, stainless steel won’t grab on to odours and flavours, like plastic containers do. I have plastic Tupperware of my mother-in-law’s that is tinted red from all of the sauce she sends home with us (but who can say no to mamma Maria’s sauce? Not this cat). Some stainless-steel bento lunchboxes can run upwards of $100, but I adore Ever Eco’s affordable lunchbox range, which includes stacking and sectional bento boxes, in a range of sizes and configurations. They’re made from the highest-grade stainless steel, which means they’re kid-proof and dishwasher safe.
For excursion days, when I know my cherubs will have to carry their backpacks around, I go for lightweight food storage in the form of reusable silicone Stasher bags for snacks and the Keep Leaf Sandwich Baggie for their lunches. If your kid is going through a phase where they only want to eat food that comes in little packets, Sinchies Reusable Food Pouches will save you a whole lot of money, while helping to save the planet. Nude food: tick!Now your eco school essentials are sorted, light some candles, dial up the meditation and pray for enough patience to get through those last two weeks. You’ve got this!