Back-to-school periods usually mean stocking up on new school supplies for the coming year. However, they don’t always make school supplies to last. As a result, some supplies end up damaged and go into the trash early in the school year. Here, you'll find various zero-waste, eco-friendly school supplies to embrace a zero-waste school year.
Many manufacturers also mass-produce items like writing utensils and materials for school outdoor activities using cheap, unsustainable materials. These end up leaving an environmental impact from the production through disposal phases.
This raises the importance of eco-friendly school supplies for eco-minded parents with young kids and college students.
Kicking off a new term or school year usually makes people excited to shop for new school supplies.
This might raise questions if you’re a conscious shopper or looking to embrace an eco-friendly lifestyle. Maybe you’re frustrated with how often you have to buy new school supplies or due to the cheap plastics that many items come in.
To curb plastic waste, many brands are offering zero-waste supplies to support your zero-waste journey. This way, you can embrace non-toxic and plastic-free items as opposed to traditional synthetic materials. You have options from your colored pencils, kraft paper, and loose pens for art class to sustainable pencils and glue sticks.
Even if you’re looking to switch from plastic bottles and lunch boxes to stylish, practical, and reusable alternatives, your sustainable school supplies are in check. Many of these can also double as eco-friendly office supplies at home or work.
Quick links to our picks of the best eco-friendly school supplies:
Some of the most important and popular school supplies are pens and pencils. However, plastic pens dominate the market, primarily due to the affordability of making and purchasing them.
For pencils, it’s easy to instantly view them as zero-waste school supplies since they come from trees. However, many come from unsustainably managed forests. These raise the need to switch to sustainable stationery to enhance one’s zero-waste lifestyle.
Say goodbye to harmful and non-durable pens and pencils and hello to zero-waste pens and eco-friendly pencil options. Below are eco-friendly and zero-waste school supplies in the stationery category.
None of these quite right? Check out our full list of some of the best eco-friendly pens and pencils.
Plastic is a common material when examining various school supplies. Most significantly, many manufacturers and brands use it to make pens. It’s no news that this material contradicts any zero-waste school supplies category.
For anyone looking to adopt an eco-friendly and sustainable lifestyle, it’s important to pay attention to the small things. This includes the type of pens in your school supplies bin. This environmentally friendly, eco-friendly stationery set is all you need to replace those old pens.
The Clicker Pen Multipack comes in packs of 10 or 20 pens. The company makes zero-waste pens using recycled cardboard, plastic, or wheat ends. You can select options from blue, black, or red inks.
The pens come in paper tubes that are FSC Certified. Not only this, but the company shows its dedication to sustainable life by using non-toxic and soy-based inks. To ensure a closed-loop system, the brand partnered with TerraCycle to offer a plastic recycling service for the little plastic parts. Be sure to include it in the right recycle bin.
Natural grass is not something you'll usually associate with a pen. In this case, A Good Company earns bragging rights to call their pen “one of a kind.”
This company priorities eco-friendly and recycled materials as a way to create something distinct and durable. The pen comes from a blend of meadow grass and some recycled BPA-free plastic. Not only is it durable, but it’s also refillable. Refillable pens give a longer lifespan and help to reduce waste. Best of all, it fits right into the zero-waste school supplies box.
The pens come from reused materials to support the zero-waste school supplies category. Apart from the eco-friendly materials & recycled plastics, each pen features an ergonomic triangular grip. It pairs this with a premium nib that makes it easy to use.
A Good Company plants trees to mitigate carbon emissions. Also, the company’s pens are produced in a renewable energy powered facility. So, not only will you be purchasing zero-waste school supplies but also supporting a conscious brand.
If you’re older and looking for something more sophisticated as part of your zero-waste school supplies, look no further.
A fountain pen is always sure to make a statement. They are refillable, and many of them come in stainless steel material, like this product from Dryden Designs.
Although not all of them may be entirely zero-waste, they serve as good alternatives for people looking for something unique that will also last, thereby reducing waste. This set comes with 24 ink cartridges of 12 blacks and 12 blues. The pack also includes an ink refill converter.
The pen is not only sleek, modern, and durable but also versatile. Each pen you get is compatible with a standard cartridge and bottled ink. You can also shop around for soy ink refills that are better for the environment.
To make things easy for the user, the brand includes a piston converter within each order. The pump makes it easy for you to refill your pen with an ink bottle, which you purchase on its own.
Colored pencils are items not only for kids but something adults can enjoy as well. LyfStyle takes it further by ensuring its offering comes from recycled materials to reduce its environmental impact.
This pack of beautiful colored pencils comes from 100% recycled newspapers. As a result, they're completely wood-free and tree-free. They make a unique addition to anyone’s zero-waste school supplies collection.
Gone are the days when pencils only came from felled wood or trees. Since the manufacturers recycle papers for this product, it reduces the weight placed on trees for pulp. These recycled school supplies come in sets of 10, 20, 30, 50, and 100. Also, each pack contains ten varying colors attractive to kids and anyone who loves crafts.
Sprout is a popular name in the zero-waste and eco-friendly school supplies industry. Their well-known plantable pencils come in various editions for you to choose from. Featuring plant-based materials and versatile functioning, these pencils fit perfectly in any zero-waste school supplies box.
Sprout pencils come from non-toxic, eco-friendly, and biodegradable materials. The company also ensures that it uses sustainably sourced materials as part of its production process. All packaging from the brand is either PEFC or FSC certified. As a result, with each tree it harvests for products, it plants a new one to maintain balance.
How many times do you get to say that you can plant your pencil? Well, Sprout took the initiative to create something distinct in a saturated market.
You’ll find a small seed capsule at the tip of each pencil. Once you notice that your pencil is too short to continue using, turn it upside down and plant it. You can benefit from growing flowers, fragrant herbs, or fresh vegetables.
Crayons and markers are another category of essential school supplies for many young learners. Many kids and crafty adults enjoy the creativity that comes with using crayons.
However, many products are made from ingredients and materials that are toxic to the environment and health. You'll find safe and sustainable crayon and marker options for school use here.
Crayons are a kid’s best friend. For parents with young children, crayons are a staple in the home. Children also use a lot of crayons while in school as part of arts and craft projects.
Since many crayon products come with toxic ingredients, many concerned parents seek eco-friendly and safe options. In comes zero-waste crayons that are not only beneficial to the planet but to kids’ safety as well.
This set of crayons comes from pure beeswax, oils, and natural pigments. Furthermore, the brand packages the products in aluminum and cardboard box options. The crayons are free of harmful chemicals and fillers that many crayon makers use.
Everyone can benefit from natural, beautifully packaged, and sustainable crayons. From kids to artistic adults, anyone can use this product. It deliberately curbs the toxic chemical scents that many crayon products give. As a result, it’s safer and more beneficial to use.
Many crayon brands create their products in regular pencil-like shapes. However, this brand takes a unique and intentional approach. Instead of the regular design, it incorporates a rock-like shape. This is a deliberate effort to support the fine motor skills of children.
Also, the shape, which supports the tripod grip, encourages children to hold the crayons correctly. Each product is the right shape and size to fit a kid’s hand. They come in bright, easy-to-handle designs. These crayons also come in vegan soy wax.
From the use of soy wax to the intentional design and smooth surfaces, these crayons are every parent’s dream. The bright colors are sure to attract kids and encourage them to get creative and crafty. They also make great gifts for the artistic child. Taking it further, the brand mails the products in compostable bubble mailers.
Stick crayons are essential in any school supply box. These stick crayons from Kaleidoscope are no exception. They come in the standard crayon shape that’s ideal for school-aged children to take to school.
Within each pack, you’ll find nine stick crayons in rainbow colors. Apart from the original rainbow pack, you can opt for the pastel pack or a multipack version. When making your purchase, you can either select one with a blank package or include a name for personalization.
These crayons are vegan-friendly since they come from 100% plant-based waxes. In addition, the pigments the brand uses are free of animal products or byproducts. It may also please you to know that they contain no paraffin wax or palm oil. All these make them a great zero-waste option.
Almost every classroom has markers. Hardly will you walk into a modern classroom today and not find one or more. As much as they’re a staple, it’s important to pay attention to the materials manufacturers use.
Generally, it can be difficult to find markers that are 100% zero-waste due to the types of ingredients they contain. However, this hasn’t stopped companies from making better choices. This could include using recycled plastic and providing refillable options. This marker is made from recycled plastic and serves as a carbon-neutral product. Also, it’s refillable, which makes it a good alternative.
Rather than instantly tossing dried-up markers out, you can opt for this refillable option. As part of the efforts to curb waste, it includes at least 90% recycled plastic. It dries quickly and doesn’t contain Butyl Acetate.
This brand presents this one-of-a-kind creative crayon set made from recycled bits. Generally, the choices clearly target kids' safety, sustainability, and ease of use.
This is no ordinary crayon, however. Behind each crayon, you’ll find seeds enclosed in water-soluble capsules. Each crayon features a different type of seed. To find out what kind of seed comes with each crayon, simply look at the name on the crayon.
Not many crayon sets come with plantable seeds. However, this offering gives you that in addition to the fun of using crayons. With its earth-friendly choices like the recycled paper tube and safety ones like food coloring, this set is excellent for children.
Plastic bottles are amongst the biggest environmental hazards in our world today. From water bottles to those that hold various beverages, you’ll find them everywhere. To curb this challenge, why not switch to sustainable options?
If you’re on the hunt for a versatile, durable, and personalized natural flask, this is a good option. It serves multiple purposes, from serving school needs to hikes and even travel. It features a mix of metal and wood materials, specifically sustainably sourced bamboo. In this way, the bamboo surface can instantly give a feeling of connection to nature as you drink your water.
Apart from its sleek and modern look, it’s also functional. This flask keeps your drinks hot or cold as you navigate the day.
This product can serve multiple functions, including as a zero-waste gift to someone you care about. Its personalization option offers a unique style. Other attachments like its tea strainer infuser make it a quality option when shopping for bottles.
Jungle Culture creates a range of high-quality, eco-friendly items for conscious shoppers to explore. The brand’s reusable water bottles come from high-quality stainless steel that lasts a long time.
Each bottle is versatile, durable, and comes in rust-resistant material. It comes in two colors, either black or white. However, these designs are far from regular as they’re sleek and contemporary. As a result, you not only get an eco-friendly product but one that’s stylish.
Not only can you store your water in these flasks, but they’re suitable for all types of drinks or beverages. With the addition of a double-walled exterior, your hands stay protected from your hot or cold beverages. Additionally, the insulated vacuum interior ensures that your drinks remain hot or cold.
Sometimes a glass bottle is what some people need. Naturally, this wouldn’t be suitable for kids. However, adults in school can take this along with them daily. This simple glass water bottle comes in a pack of 6. This way, you can distribute it amongst your friends or family.
Unlike plastic options, this glass alternative won’t transfer chemicals into whatever you’re drinking. Not only can it hold water, but you can also store drinks like juices and smoothies. Each bottle comes with a neoprene sleeve.
Each bottle comes from 3mm thick, high-quality white glass. The addition of the sleeves makes it easy to carry and store your bottle in various places. The sleeves offer a stylish touch to the simple bottle design with six colors.
The Brita bottle is no ordinary water bottle. This premium filtering stainless steel bottle comes with a filter that fits in the bottle’s straw. This filter makes water taste better by reducing chlorine which causes odor and taste. The Brita bottle also keeps water cold for hours with its double-wall insulated design.
Everyone needs a durable water bottle when off to school. This design from Brita is a great eco-friendly option. From its premium design to the filter system and high-grade stainless steel, it serves as a great companion.
This 21oz bottle serves various purposes depending on your needs. Thanks to its vacuum insulated design, it keeps drinks warm or cool as you go on about your day. It’s not only ideal for school runs but also serves outdoor activities like hiking and camping. Its durable design makes it last a long time so that you can enjoy your bottle for longer.
The manufacturers use stainless steel to craft each bottle. It’s also plastic and BPA-free. If you’re feeling creative, you can take your order a step further by including the personalization service.
This bottle offers a sustainable and stylish option for the conscious user. Apart from its functional benefits, it offers various personalization options. For one, you can select from a range of colors to suit your taste. Additionally, you can include the design and engraving service to make your bottle stand out.
Related: If your school has water refill stations available, check out our rundown of the best collapsible water bottles. These are perfect for stashing empty in a bag while saving space and filling up later in the day when you need to.
What's school without papers and notebooks? Although paper comes from trees that could regrow, this doesn’t always happen, mainly when forests are not properly managed. As a result, various brands now sell zero-waste school supplies using materials like recycled paper.
Alternatively, some stay tree and wood-free by using other zero-waste alternatives. These are also free of plastic binders. In this section, you’ll find options for zero-waste papers and notebooks.
Rocketbook’s smart notebook is a great eco-friendly alternative to the regular variety. Its design ensures a reduction in paper waste by offering a reusable option. Not many notebooks come with this design type, making the product stand out. This product will mainly serve older students as kids can’t easily navigate it.
This notebook features 32 lined pages that you can use and reuse endlessly. You simply need to wipe the page clean with a damp cloth once you’re done. The best part is that you can transfer your handwritten notes to cloud services like Google Drive, iCloud, Slack, OneNote, and Dropbox. All this is accessible through the Rocketbook application.
This natural cork-based notebook has a sustainable material at the core of its design. Best of all, it’s a great alternative to leather, especially for vegan people. The material is also cruelty-free while featuring a premium design. This hardcover notebook from Lemome is functional and stylish, featuring high-quality, acid-free writing paper. The paper is also smoother and thicker than standard options in the market.
This item is great for various uses, from its special cork hardcover to quality thick papers. It most especially will make a great journal for daily use. Its flat design aids easy writing and note-taking when using it.
As the name suggests, this set of copy paper comes from a material other than wood pulp. Instead, it’s made from 100% sugarcane waste fiber. Each pack features 500 acid-free sheets that ensure a long-lasting appearance.
This pack of papers is great for the office and teachers. It minimizes the pressure on trees by presenting a creative alternative. The company is also committed to the environment. This offsets the carbon dioxide they release during production, distribution, and disposal.
Each notebook contains 80 pages of white-lined paper. To ensure that you can write easily in them, the manufacturers tightly sew the binding to enable the pages to stay flat. With 8 books in each set, you can dedicate each one to a specific subject. Apart from school purposes, you can use it for doodling, journaling, and other uses.
With the crafty look of the set, you can find new uses for each item. They also make great gifts for students and teachers.
If you’re more into bright colors as opposed to the brown paper look, you’ll love this set. These notebooks come in a watercolor splash design in A5 and A6 sizes. You can also pick from ruled and blank pages.
By using recycled paper within each notebook, the company commits to the environment. The use of recycled paper aids the reuse value in society and helps to prevent paper waste.
Related: If this selection doesn’t quite fit the bill, we have a bunch more in our recommendations of the best eco-friendly notebooks for school and general use. You can also check out our selection of eco-friendly diaries and journal prompts as additions to your school supplies and inspiration to get writing, respectively.
Backpacks are a school staple and are always on the list of school supplies. However, many of them come from synthetic parts that have a negative environmental impact. Here, you’ll find zero-waste and eco-friendly backpacks like kraft paper backpacks and an organic cotton option.
This backpack comes with FSC Certified waterproof material made of washable kraft paper. It offers a sophisticated and unique design along with a functional organization system. Some compartments include the laptop and tablet section, an integrated glasses case, and a hidden compartment. This kraft bag also includes a trolley strap.
This vegan backpack contains all the compartments you may need during the school year. Best of all, it comes from sustainable and zero-waste materials while featuring unique organization systems.
United by Blue crafted this bag from 100% recycled polyester. It's a great versatile bag for school use, given its sturdy construction and good size.
This backpack offers a versatile design appropriate for multiple uses. Whether that's for school, hiking, or just exploring, you get the best use out of it. The choice of materials makes it a sustainable alternative to regular backpacks.
Below are some accessories that are sure to support the school term.
A glue stick is a staple for any school student who takes arts and crafts classes. Besides, many students like having additional accessories like this to keep in their bags. Many glue stick products contain toxic and harsh ingredients. Unlike those options, this Onyx and Green glue stick is plant-based. It’s also washable and free from toxic materials and ingredients.
With two 22g glue sticks in the pack, you or your child will have your glue needs met. This product contains no animal byproducts and comes from recycled materials.
This soft eraser comes from natural materials. Apart from its eco-friendly nature, it also performs its function by erasing even color and graphite pencils. Made from a compostable and biodegradable material, it has a minimal environmental impact. Once you can’t use it anymore, you can compost it rather than throwing it away.
Erasers may be the last thing that comes to mind when considering zero-waste products. However, many of them come from synthetic materials that affect the environment. This option has minimal environmental effects through its compostable and biodegradable nature. Also, it features no paper sleeve, which many people might consider unnecessary.
Scissors help us cut papers and other craft materials. This pair from Onyx and Green includes a handle made from corn plastic and stainless steel blades. The blades have a round tip that gives them a beautiful finish. You can get the scissors in the colors green, black or a black-green style.
Not only does this pair of scissors come in an attractive design, but it also comes with minimal impact. The corn plastic handles are biodegradable. As a result, they won’t pollute the land if they end up on the ground.
Various school supplies come in many shapes, sizes, colors, and designs. Most importantly, they come in a range of materials. Although regular or traditional products often feature synthetic parts, you can make swaps. In this piece, you’ll find various options in varying styles and materials to suit your or your kids’ school needs.
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.