Last updated on April 29th, 2024 at 05:20 pm

eco-friendly school supplies

Get Smart with These Eco-Friendly School Supplies

How is it that time already? It’s still hot outside and it feels like summer just began, but somehow back to school shopping is already upon us.

This year, instead of automatically heading to the store with the teacher’s supply checklist, take inventory of what you already have in your home. You might already have what you need.

If you’ve had school-aged kids for several years, you probably never have to buy another pencil again. I have a whole pencil box full of unsharpened pencils the kids were given; I don’t think we will ever used them all. Same goes for colored pencils, glue sticks, and scissors.

Notebooks, folders, and 3-ring binders are another thing I have a stash of. At the end of every school year, I go through all their stuff and save what is salvageable. I recycle the papers I don’t want to keep and store the rest. (I also do this with those I get from various other places, like work.) Most of the time, the composition books the kids were required to have at the beginning of the school year are only half written in or less, so I tear out the used pages and save the rest for the next year. It might have their sibling’s name on the cover but they can get creative to make it theirs.

For those items you don’t already have, try out these eco-friendly school supplies for a sustainable year of learning.

Essential eco-friendly school supplies

Sustainable Backpacks

A good, dependable backpack is probably the most important school item you need. I’m sure we’ve all had an annoying backpack with screwy zippers or rips. This is one thing worth spending some money for a quality, long-lasting item if you are able. Another option is looking at local thrift stores for a preloved backpack.

Eco-Friendly Backpack Brands

  • Cotopaxi is a Certified B Corp, Climate Neutral certified, a 1% for the planet member, and 94% of their products contain recycled, repurposed, or responsibly sourced materials in all of their products by 2025..
  • Fjällräven is a member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) and Fair Labor Association (FLA). Their company focuses on sustainable materials and practices for their products. They divide the materials they use into categories: excellent, like recycled wool, organic hemp and Tencel; good, such as recycled polyester, G-1000 Eco and traceable wool; OK, like polyamide, cotton, metal buttons; they don’t use PFCs, PVCs, and angora wool.
  • Herschel is launching a new EcoSystem line in Fall 2023, which 91% of styles will be made with recycled materials. They are also members of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. I’ve had a Herschel backpack for a couple of years and I love it. It’s cute, functional, very sturdy, and reasonably priced.
  • Patagonia. I’ve talked about this company a thousand times, but with their many eco-certifications and sustainability initiatives, I can’t help it. Happens they make great backpacks too. I own one that I’ve used for work for years and it’s still going strong.
  • Terra Thread is a Certified B Corp, Fair Trade certified, climate neutral company, and the best part: their backpacks are plastic-free, made with GOTS certified organic cotton.
  • If you need more options, explore more brands in these articles by Sustainable Jungle and Travel + Leisure.

Eco-friendly Paper Products

Paper might be one of the most important of all eco-friendly school supplies. Finding sustainable paper products largely entails locating paper made from recycled content. Nearly all paper products are recyclable. To learn more about paper recycling, click here.

100% recycled printer or Xerox paper is very easy to find, sold at stores like Staples, Target, Amazon, and Walmart.

For construction paper, go with the Office Depot brand paper, made from 100% recycled content. Recycled colored printer paper is harder to find; the best I can find are made with only 30% recycled materials. These include Hammermill colored paper, PrintWorks pastel paper, and Xerox Vitality Colors.



Three-ring binders

Eco-Friendly Organization

Onyx and Green makes a variety of eco-friendly folders, page dividers and page protectors.



Page protectors

  • Avery or Samsill page protectors made from 40% recycled materials.

Pencil Box

  • Onyx and Green have several options of pencil pouches made from various materials like jute, cork, and recycled PET.
  • The Firiri shop on Etsy sells handmade cotton pencil cases, and the proceeds go towards education of girls in rural areas of the Himalayas.
  • Herschel has several sizes and colors of pencil cases made from recycled water bottles.

Zero Waste Writing Utensils & Accessories



Most erasers are made of synthetic rubber, but if you can find some made from natural rubber, good job! I have struggled to find some online that I feel confident in.

So for another alternative, try out these Onyx + Green recycled rubber erasers.


Office Depot is the spot for 100% recycled markers. Their own brand has the most options overall.

Dry Erase


Pencil Sharpener

I feel like all classrooms have their own pencil sharpener, or at least they should, making this an item you could skip.

But if you do need one, Onyx and Green makes a pencil sharpener made from bamboo, as well as one from recycled plastic with holes for two sizes of pencils.


Earth Hero has a lot of great options, like this refillable pen made from grass and recycled plastics, as well as Onyx and Green pens made from recyclable plastic, bamboo, wheat straw, or coffee beans. On Amazon, you can buy Pilot pens that are made from recycled water bottles. If you are shopping for BIC pens, look for an NF Environment label, indicating that they are made with recycled materials or are refillable.

Other School Necessities


Onyx and Green makes plant-based glue sticks and clear glue in recycled packaging.


Onyx and Green has a ruler made from bamboo. Or go with one made of stainless steel, which will probably last forever but is also recyclable if necessary.


Final Thoughts on Eco-Friendly School Supplies

I kind of have a weird thing for school and office supplies, so this topic alone was fun for me. Add in the eco-friendly challenge and now I’m so excited that I wish I was the one going back to school. Ok, that’s not at all true, but I am going to enjoy picking up the few things we need this fall.

Best of luck on another school year!

For back to school clothes shopping, click here to learn about sustainable clothing.

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