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Shop smarter for school supplies

The bins at local retailers are brimming with back-to-school goodies: markers, papers and notebooks galore, all in eye-catching patterns and colors to lure shoppers, big and small.

But seriously, do you really need another 24-pack of crayons? And how many pairs of kid-safe scissors -- even if they are only a quarter – will your kids go through this year? The truth is, you probably need to buy less than you think you do.

"Everybody wants new stuff, but that’s not what makes kids better learners," said Sommer Poquette, a former teacher who has a master’s in early childhood. Now Poquette studies green trends for her website,

"I think in this economy parents are looking for ways to cut costs," she said. If you do need to buy, here are Poquette’s earth-friendly picks:


GreenSmart offers backpacks and messenger bags made from recycled plastic bottles. Poquette also likes Lands End’s eco-friendly line and Keen backpacks. "I think there is a misconception that sustainable products don’t hold up as well, and that’s just not true," she said.


Florida's sales tax holiday is Aug. 13-15. During this period, no sales tax will be collected on sales of books, clothing, footwear, and certain accessories selling for $50 or less, or on certain school supplies selling for $10 or less. 


O’Bon and Smencils make pencils made from recycled newspapers. Check out Paper Mate's Earthwrite recycled pencils or look for biodegradable or refillable pens.


Look for filler paper and notebooks made from sustainable sources, such as lines from Mead and Ecojot. Find TerraCycle binders and pencil pouches at Office Max, and look for green lines in major retailers such as Office Depot and Target.


Try Blue Dominoes nontoxic playdough, or make your own. Use your child’s artwork to make cards or giftwrap. Try water-based EcoGlue. Instead of alcohol-based hand sanitizer, try Cleanwell, which is plant-based.

Poquette says that the most earth-friendly choice of all is to use last year’s supplies or buy used. Decorate last year’s binder with contact paper or stickers, peel off the labels from old crayons to make new ones or buy a backpack from Goodwill or on eBay.

"If you buy something new, it has to be made, and it has to be shipped, and there is so much energy used," Poquette said. "If you buy used, you reduce that."