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School smarts for green living
School supply savvy saves money and the planet

The average family with children will spend roughly $570 on school supplies this year, according to the National Retail Federation. School does require a bevy of supplies, but oftentimes parents and students look to disposable items when shopping for supplies. Did you know that six million disposable pens are thrown away in the U.S. each year?

Smart students may want to make eco-friendly changes this school year. Whether school is in full swing and individuals are supplementing their supplies, or it's about to start and they're setting out on back-to-school shopping marathons, there are some strategies to employ to be green.

* Reuse. Just because it's the new school year doesn't mean that everything has to be new. Chances are last year's backpack still has some life left in it. Assess what clothing is still in good condition and simply add a few new pieces to the wardrobe. It's unlikely kids will notice or care if their entire wardrobe isn't brand new.

* Shop green. Even clothing can be eco-friendly. Look for organic cotton or bamboo fibers in clothing. Try to buy items that are made in North America to reduce the environmental impact from shipping. Supplement the wardrobe with handmade items, such as knit hats or scarves.

* Purchase reusable pens and pencils. Writing implements made from recycled items can be refilled with ink or lead, helping to cut down on the millions of pens discarded each year.

* Embrace e-mail. Many teachers and schools have turned to e-mail correspondence and personal Web sites to relay information to students. This not only cuts down on the amount of paper used for notes and assignments, but also it enables a one-stop-shopping environment for study aides and homework, and getting in touch with the teacher.

* Buy bulk and share. If several classmates or neighbors need the same thing, consider pooling resources and heading to a warehouse store to buy supplies. Not only will it be less expensive, but also parents won't have to make so many trips to the store, saving time and money.

Students can be smart about making environmentally sound choices when stocking up for school this year.