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15th Aug 2022

Ask the experts: How to do back to school the eco-friendly way

Melissa Carton

The start of school is only around the corner, but how can we make it eco friendly

The most eco-friendly product is the one that already exists. If we have to buy new, we should try and choose long-lasting products, made locally from natural or recycled materials.

How to apply these earth-loving approaches to back to school?

We speak to eco expert Sharon Keilthy to find out more.

The booklist – colouring

Colouring pencils or crayons are just as effective are markers and Twistables. They’re a little cheaper (and many families have them already). They’re plastic-free. They don’t get jammed, don’t crack when stepped on and don’t dry out if you leave the top off. You could get 8 years of primary school out of 1 pack of good colouring pencils!

I messaged the teacher to say this and that I’d be sending our daughter with pencils. And I asked why she thought most primary teachers request the plastic-encased options. She responded, “Colouring pencils are absolutely fine.”

The booklist – books

Secondhand isn’t always workable for school books but it’s worth a quick check:

  • and also the Book Haven – where you can buy a mixture of new and second-hand books instantly online, and sell used books back to them
  • The Book Market in Clonmel – submit your booklist and they’ll let you know what they have – they also supply new and second hand
  • – buy directly from other parents (and/or sell your used books). Many of the books offered are second-hand but unused
  • Schooly – buy/sell/freecycle books (and uniforms)

Offer and ask for pre-loved books in parent WhatsApp groups.

Schoolbags and lunch

Can your child reuse last year’s bag and lunchbox? If they need repair, check our repair hacks! FixIts and Sugru are both food-safe.

If you need new ones, we now stock bioplastic lunchboxes and bottles – made from plants but just as durable as (actually, molecularly identical to) regular petro-plastic ones – without the dark shadow of being made from petroleum.

Can you replace any disposables with reusables? Like:

  • Reusable water bottle
  • Reusable sandwich bag or wrap
  • A sturdy lunchbox that will last till 6th class
  • A strong, washable school bag/sports bag that will last till 6th class

Uniforms and sports gear – aim for pre-loved

Your community, WhatsApps groups, and school might guide you to a secondhand uniform, but if not, check:

  • – free classified ads for all school stuff except books
  • Schooly – buy / sell / freecycle uniforms (and books)
  • Listings for your school on

Other ‘new school year’ resolutions

  • Walk, scoot, cycle or car-share more this year