An Eco-Friendly Start to the School Year

Written by Ilke
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SchultüteThere are a few basic rules to bear in mind when trying to buy eco-friendly school materials. The main ones are: go for sustainable material which will last a long time, choose items with a minimum of packaging, and look for recycled, recyclable and non-toxic products. We’ve checked out the Belgian market and found the following ideas to get your child off to a planet-friendly start.

  1. These might seem obvious, but a strong lunchbox box and good quality (easy-to-clean) drinking bottle (with replaceable components) make an excellent start and avoid so much daily waste!
  2. Don’t use aluminium foil to wrap food - use food paper wrap (sold in rolls in supermarkets) or small containers instead of individually-wrapped snacks.
  3. Try not to waste food – find out if your children like what you give them for lunch or snacks and if they don’t, try something else (preferably nutritious!).
  4. Tap water in Belgium is of good quality and has the lowest eco-footprint of all drinks (to make 1 litre of orange juice, for example, you need 1 000 litres of water!). See www.vivaqua.be (also has info in English) on the quality of Belgian tap water.
  5. Go for wooden pencils, sharpeners and rulers, preferably non-coloured and preferably wood that comes from sustainably managed forests (they have the FSC label). They can be decorated by your child if he/she likes.
  6. Use 100% recycled paper, preferably unbleached (i.e. without chlorine). The manufacturing process for recycled paper uses 90% less water and 50% less energy than for new paper.
  7. Water-based glue without solvents is available in supermarkets. Solvents contribute to ozone pollution during summer time. We even found biodegradable transparent tape in the shops.
  8. Buy ring binders or folders made of cardboard, preferably recycled. They can be decorated at home with drawings or a collage of colourful magazine clippings stuck on with solvent-free craft glue (“witte knutsellijm”/”colle laisir de bricolage blanc”);
  9. We recommend the stapler without staples (sticks up to four pages together): a very creative invention which should inspire young minds of all ages!
  10. Choose a non-coloured eraser made of natural rubber, without wrapping (or else with a paper cover).
  11. You can find refillable pens that use water-based ink, and felt tips with vegetable colour. Text can be highlighted with a colour pencil (to underscore) or a marker based on water or alcohol.

We found most of these things in Colruyt and Bioplanet (often with the brand name Ecobos). You don’t need to go to a Bioplanet shop – most things can be ordered online at www.bioplanet.be and be delivered to your nearest Colruyt. Some materials with the eco-label Der Blaue Engel can be found in AVA paper shops. Travel shops like A.S. Adventure have a good selection of metal drinking bottles, as do good toy shops.

These small steps can make a big difference!

The first version of this article was published in the September 2009 issue of the Sunbeams Newsletter.

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