Eco-friendly school supplies – Green Ideas

Environment Friendly Living

Stocking up on books and pens? Veronica Schmidt shares ideas for planet-friendly parents.

Doesn’t it feel like you just bought those exercise books? Yet here they are filled with wonky handwriting and, er, ‘abstract’ drawings. And aren’t those pencils practically new? How did they all get snapped, lost or chewed up like dogs’ bones?

Yes, another school year has already whirred by and soon it will be time to refill the kids’ pencil cases and stock up on exercise books. But before you start shelling out at the shops, it’s worth thinking about the impact that school stationery has on the environment – and how the little choices you make can add up to a big difference.

Paper and exercise books

According to the Ministry for the Environment, New Zealanders use about 48,000 tonnes of paper a year, with school kids using their fair share of this total: more than 750,000 Kiwi kids sit in classrooms each day practicing their handwriting in exercise books, or taking notes on refill.

The environmental impact can be huge. Cutting down trees can contribute to the loss of forests, soil erosion and climate change, while turning those trees into paper can involve bleaches, acids and other chemicals that can end up in our water systems.

The good news is that shopping selectively for paper products can really help. Look for items that are made with a minimum of 30 per cent post-consumer recycled material and if it’s made with virgin fibres make sure they come from a sustainable forest by looking for reputable certification like the Forest Stewardship Council logo (FSC).

Some paper manufacturers are also greener in their processing than others, forgoing the nastiest chemicals in favour of more eco-friendly ones. The Environmental Choice New Zealand mark is another good one to look for – it appears only on products that meet strict manufacturing standards as well as sustainable forestry criteria.

Writing and drawing

As well as considering what your children are writing on, have a think about what they’re writing with. Most pens are made from plastic, while pencils are made from wood and the majority of crayons are made from paraffin wax, which is a by-product of petroleum.

There are green alternatives to all of these. Look for soy bean or bees’ wax crayons, and pens and pencils made from recycled material. Here are some of our favourite green school stationery supplies.

Natural Earth Paint Children’s kit



Available at

The words ‘school project’ can strike fear into the hardiest parent’s heart. Your magazines will be cut up, you’ll find glue stuck to everything and there will be paint splashed all over the show – there is always paint splashed all over the show!

At least if your kids use this Two Monkeys set you’ll know that the colour that inevitably ends up on them and everything else is natural. Made from coloured clay that’s been dried, crushed and sifted into pigment, these paints have no fillers or preservatives. Just mix with enough water to create the type of paint you want – from a tempera consistency to a watercolour.

My Mojo Stationery pack



Here’s an easy way to get a chunk of the school stationery shopping over and done with in one fell swoop. This pack includes four HB pencils and 10 coloured pencils made from 85 per cent recycled newspaper, a wooden pencil sharpener, and a notebook made from 65 per cent post-industrial recycled material.

Warwick exercise books



Available widely at stationery and grocery stores

They might be a familiar sight but Warwick exercise books are cutting edge when it comes to the environment. Made from recycled fibre, waste wood or sustainably managed materials, the books are free of carcinogenic, mutagenic, reprotoxic and ecotoxic dyes, pigments and coatings and have certification from Environmental Choice New Zealand to prove it. They’re also made right here in New Zealand.

Ez Cover book cover



Forget the nightmare of covering your children’s exercise books in sticky plastic that bubbles and wrinkles in all the wrong places and then prevents you recycling the book. These New Zealand-made slip-on covers are reusable so you buy them once and then when the school year ends just slip them off the old book, dump that in the paper recycling, and pop the cover on to next year’s books. They’re made with up to 50 per cent recycled content too.

Faber-Castell Colour Grip Pencils


$9.95 for 12

Available at Warehouse Stationery, Paper Plus, Whitcoulls, Office Max and Education Essentials

They are as bright and brilliant as anything you’ll find in a child’s pencil case but they are also eco-friendly. Faber-Castell has its own sustainable pine plantation, certified by the FSC, and is a UN Global Impact Group company. This means the company’s operations are aligned with UN-accepted principals in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. The wood in these pencils is untreated and each pencil is coated in water-based paint.

Lovenotes note pads


$100-$135 for 40-80 note pads

Get everyone in your child’s classroom to club together for a fun and eco-friendly, mass stationery purchase. Lovenotes is a recycled paper products company with a difference. It comes to the classroom (it also works with companies), collects the children’s waste paper, takes it away and turns it into notebooks. One box of one-sided, used paper will get you between 40 and 80 note pads, depending on what size you want the pads to be. The first batch costs $135 and every batch after is $100. Then the kids can use them for note-taking or give them away as presents.

Fiskar 8″ recycled scissors



Available at Warehouse Stationery

So they’re not brightly coloured or prettily patterned but these lightweight, all-purpose scissors are an eco-friendly choice. The handles are made from 100 per cent post-consumer recycled plastic and they come packaged in 100 per cent recycled cardboard.

These aren’t for the littlies – they’re too sharp – but if you’re looking to buy your teenager scissors then this could well be the only pair you’ll ever need to purchase: they come with a lifetime warranty.

My Mojo Recycled highlighters


$9.95 for a four pack

How did anyone study for exams before highlighters were invented? They are the stressed-out student’s stationery hero, picking out the important facts and relegating the rest to the background. These My Mojo pens might be as bright and gaudy as any other highlighter on the market but they are made from 60 per cent recycled wood and 10 per cent post-industrial recycled material.

Cheap eco tricks for parents

  • No child can keep a piece of paper flat and unstained in their school bag, even if it is their latest cherished drawing or homework project. Help them keep it in decent nick by rolling up the work of art and slipping it inside the cardboard tube from an old paper towel roll.
  • Handy with a sewing machine? Use the fabric from an old pair of jeans to make a denim pencil case. If you cut carefully, you can use one of the jeans’ existing seams as the bottom of the case and then stitch two new ones up either side. Repurpose the zip from the jeans and stitch it into the top.
  • Redecorated recently? Cover the kids’ exercise books with leftover, unused wallpaper. It’ll be strong enough to withstand a school year and a good way to get mileage out of something that would otherwise never be used.

This is is a syndicated post. Read the original at

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