Q: I'm knee-deep in school supply shopping. Any tips on where to get eco-friendly gear?
A: Whether you're in your last year of high school or plugging away at your PhD, you can bet that there are millions of students across the country just like you buying copious amounts of white-out, plastic binders and lily-white ancient-forest-filled notebooks right about now. And I'd also wager that few have considered the ecological ramifications of losing yet another pencil. More than 14 billion of the damn things are manufactured every year, not to mention all the highlighters, pens, yes, even crayons that students go through on an annual basis.
While we're on the topic of pencils, why not consider buying wood pencils certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (or FSC for short)? That way you can stick to feeling guilty about cheating on yesterday's test rather than about chopping down ancient trees. Dixon Ticonderoga makes HB pencils out of FSC-certified wood (available at Staples Business Depot on Yonge, and Office Depot on Yonge near Steeles, starting from $3.29 for a box of 24). Dixon also also does artist-quality coloured pencils for $12.59 for a 12-pack. Grassroots on Bloor and on Danforth sells unpainted pencils for $6.99/12. They also sell really cool pens made our of corn-based bioplastic instead of petroleum products. They're 100 per cent biodegradable and come with blue, black or red ink ($1.89 each).
Surely, you need a pencil case for your nifty new supplies. Skip the plastic and dyed fabric variety and reach for unbleached cotton instead ($3.99 at Grassroots). And pencil cases do come in hemp, that eco wonder fabric you all love so well (available at Toronto Hemp Company on Yonge, Grassroots or Roach-O-Rama on Baldwin, starting at $7.95). For all that note-taking you'll be doing, you could probably use a lined hemp notepad ($6.95 at THC) or lined hemp notebook filler ($24.95/250 sheets). Grassroots offers Earthbound brand 100 per cent post-consumer, acid- and chlorine-free lined paper ($3.99/100) and hardcover coiled notebooks (three subjects for $4.99). Prefer binders to notebooks? Get 100 per cent post-consumer plastic binders at, you guessed it, Grassroots.
Need computer paper to print out that essay? Grassroots has it ($7.50/100), again 100 per cent post-consumer. Mainstream shops like Grand & Toy carry computer paper by Cascade that's approved by the federal eco-logo program, but it only contains 30 per cent post-consumer paper. Same goes for Staples Business Depot's Weyerhaeuser paper, though it's certainly better to get those brands than others that might not use any post-consumer paper at all.
Need scissors for that sewing or art class? Deskworks makes recycled stainless steel scissors whose handles are made from 30 per cent post-consumer plastic ($4.99/pair at Office Depot). While you probably know to keep your plastic tape usage to a minimum, if you're ever in need stick to 3M Scotch's Designer tape dispenser. It's at least 50 per cent post-consumer plastic ($10.95 at Staples). For those of you who can't remember that test on Monday without sticky notes plastered everywhere, 3M also makes 100 per cent recycled Post-it Notes with 30 per cent post-consumer content.
Now, last but not least, you need something to carry all your gear to class in. U.S.-based Green Earth Office Supplies sells 100 per cent post-consumer recycled rubber school bags (as well as tons of other green school supplies) for $73 U.S. at www.webcom. com/geos/geos2.html. Or why not dress to impress with a hemp knapsack ($50 at Roach-O-Rama, or $120 at THC)? FYI, Mountain Equipment Co-op on King will repair any backpack, even if you bought it somewhere else! Remember that you can also go the used route and check out your neighbourhood army surplus store or second-hand shop. Value Village sells used bags and pencil cases cheap.
And if you've got rulers, erasers or pencils lying around gathering dust, drop them off at Ten Thousand Villages on Yonge. The store is shipping them off to needy kids in Iraq, Bosnia, Haiti and other countries around the globe. If you want to go the local route, just give your old goods to Goodwill.
Got a question?
Send your green consumer queries to email@example.com