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. You'll find various zero-waste, eco-friendly school supplies to embrace a zero-waste school year.
Many manufacturers 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 the disposal phases.
This raises the importance of school supplies for eco-minded parents with young kids and college students.
Kicking off a new term or school year usually comes with a little excitement to shop for new school supplies.
Many brands offer zero-waste supplies to curb plastic waste. 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.
Your sustainable school supplies are in check, even if you’re looking to switch from plastic bottles and lunch boxes to stylish, practical, and reusable alternatives. Many of these can also double as eco-friendly office supplies at home or work. Read on for some of the best options to shop as the school year begins.
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.
It’s easy to instantly view wooden pencils as eco-friendly since they come from trees. However, many come from unsustainably managed forests.
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 school supply options in the stationery category, perfect for everyday use.
None of these quite right? Check out our full list of some of the best eco-friendly pens and pencils for more options perfect for going back to school sustainably.
Paying attention to the small things is important for anyone looking to adopt an eco-friendly and sustainable lifestyle. 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 plastic pens.
The Clicker Pen Multipack comes in packs of 10 or 20 pens. The company makes zero-waste pens using recycled PET plastic, cardboard, 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 prioritizes 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 eco-friendly school supplies box.
A Good Company makes these pens from reused materials, eliminating waste. Each pen features an ergonomic triangular grip and pairs this with a premium nib that makes it easy to use.
They also plant trees to mitigate carbon emissions, and 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.
They also make a fantastic line of journals and notebooks from stone paper made from recycled construction debris and recycled stone.
Look no further if you’re older and looking for something more sophisticated and a touch of class to your eco-friendly school supplies.
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 save money and 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 sleek, modern, durable, and 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.
The brand includes a piston converter within each order to make things easy for the user. The pump makes it easy for you to refill your pen with an ink bottle you purchase on its own.
Colored pencils are items that both kids and adults can enjoy. LyfStyle takes it further by ensuring its offering comes from recycled materials to reduce its environmental impact.
They make this pack of beautiful colored pencils from 100% recycled newspapers. As a result, they're completely virgin wood and tree-free.
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, a certified B-Corp, is popular 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 sustainable school supplies box.
Sprout makes its pencils from non-toxic, eco-friendly, and biodegradable materials. All packaging from the brand is either PEFC or FSC-certified. Furthermore, 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? 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. Give it some time, water, and love from the sun, and 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.
In this section, you'll find safe and sustainable crayon and marker options for school use.
Crayons are a kid’s best friend. Since many crayon products come with toxic ingredients, many concerned parents seek eco-friendly and safe options. In comes zero-waste crayons that benefit not only the planet but also kids' safety.
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.
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. Taking it further, the brand mails its art supplies in compostable bubble mailers.
Stick crayons are essential in any school supply box. These stick crayons from Kaleidoscope 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.
Almost every classroom has markers. As much as they’re a staple, paying attention to the materials manufacturers use is important.
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 is a carbon-neutral product. Also, it’s refillable, which makes it a good alternative. 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.
With its earth-friendly choices like the recycled paper tube and use of natural food coloring, this set is excellent for children.
Plastic bottles are amongst the biggest environmental hazards in our world today. You'll find them everywhere, from single-use water bottles to those holding various beverages. 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 great option. It serves multiple purposes, from school needs to hikes and 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.
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 are made from high-quality stainless steel construction materials that last 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.
With the addition of a double-walled exterior, your hands stay protected from your hot or cold beverages. The insulated vacuum interior also ensures that your drinks remain hot or cold.
More options: Reusable Water Bottles.
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. Unlike plastic options, this glass alternative won’t transfer chemicals into whatever you’re drinking.
Each bottle comes from 3mm thick, high-quality white glass, and the addition of a neoprene sleeve in 6 colors makes it easy to carry and store your bottle.
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. Its vacuum-insulated design keeps drinks warm or cool as you go on about your day. It’s ideal for school runs and 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.
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.
And for those nights away from home, an eco-friendly bamboo toothbrush makes a great addition to any school pack.
What's a 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 eco-friendly 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 in search of sustainable school supplies, as younger kids may find it difficult to navigate.
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 leather alternative, especially for vegans. 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.
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.
The company is also committed to the environment, offsetting the carbon dioxide they release during production, distribution, and disposal.
Each notebook contains 80 pages of white-lined paper. To ensure you can write easily in them, the manufacturers tightly sew the binding to keep the pages 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. They also make great gifts for students and teachers (especially on Teacher Appreciation Day)
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.
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.
And if you don't go for the digital type, check out our guide to notebook recycling for when they reach the end of their useful life.
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 made from sustainable fabric.
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.
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.
Below are some accessories that are sure to support the school term.
Many glue stick products contain toxic and harsh ingredients made from petroleum-based products. 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 throw it away. Also, it features no paper sleeve, which many people might consider unnecessary, even better for eco-kids.
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 made from sustainable fabrics and eco-friendly materials.
Although regular or traditional products often feature synthetic parts, you can make swaps. From recycled water bottles to art supplies free of plastic packaging. 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.