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Going Back to School Healthy and Green: The Gear You Need Now

Mackenzie Hamilton – China Vogue August 2007

Whether you’ve just started back to college or university for fall, or you know someone who is, the time has come to stock up on all the supplies every student will need to get through another academic year. But, before heading out and picking up just any old school and home products, take a second to fill your shopping list with organic, environmentally friendly, recycled or re-used items that will be better for both you and the environment. Check out some of these must-have green items for going back to school the healthy way:

1. A Non-BPA Thermos.

It’s not uncommon to walk across a college campus and see long, plastic thermoses everywhere you go. If you are looking for your own thermos, make sure to find one that is free of BPA, a hormone-disrupting chemical commonly found in many plastics. In fact, it’s much better for the environment in general to buy a rust-resistant metal thermos instead of plastic.

2. Coconut Oil.

Coconut oil is a natural wonder child. It can be used for cooking. You can use it all over your body as a moisturizer. You can use it on the ends of your hair to seal in a style. You can eat it alone or bake with it. Instead of wasting cash on expensive (and probably toxic) moisturizers and lotions or buying separate cooking oils and hair moisturizers, use a jar of coconut oil to take care of a myriad of needs.

3. Non-Toxic SPF Moisturizer.

The one thing you definitely don’t want to skimp on is a good SPF to cover your face every day. Typical drugstore brands use ingredients that are chemical sun-blockers and can often exacerbate skin issues and even sunburn. Look for products with mineral protectants for SPF, like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Make sure that the ingredients are certified organic, that there are no non-disclosed fragrances, a high percentage of the ingredients are natural, and there is an absence of harmful preservatives like parabens and sulfates.

Mackenzie Hamilton – China Vogue August 2007

4. Recycled Notebooks.

If you’re going to spend some money on paper products, you may as well invest an extra dollar or two in support of environmentally-friendly manufacturers. You will need loads of notebooks for college, and you can make a great green statement by standing up for recycled products with your purchase dollars.

5. Multiple-Use Pens.

Instead of buying cheap, one-use pens, invest a little extra cash into a few pens that can be used over and over. Plastic is one of the worst pollutants we face today, and many typical plastic pens are not recyclable. Opt for pens that are made with replaceable ink cartridges. That way, once they run out, you can simply replace the ink rather than throwing out an entire pen.

6. A Re-Purposed Book Bag.

There are going to be plenty of cool book bags available for sale during the start of the academic year. But, what’s fresher than making your own or re-vamping an old bag into something new? Instead of spending tons of cash on something mass-produced, head to a thrift store and get your creative juices flowing. Things like old briefcases, sporting equipment and beach bags can be used again as unique book bags. You can dye them or add studs to give them a totally unique flavor.

7. Glass Dishes And Cups.

If you’re going to be living in a dorm room, or if you’re living in an apartment or house near campus, you will need plenty of dishes. Instead of buying plastic cups and plates (or Styrofoam!), just go ahead and invest in a sturdy set of dining ware. You will save money in the long run by re-using them, and you will also be saving a huge amount of unnecessary waste from heading to the landfill.

Mariana Ashley is a lifestyle, health and education blogger and freelance writer for She offers advice for choosing the perfect online schools for prospective students and parents and welcomes comments via email at

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