by Elizabeth Fulham

Every year before school starts, there’s always a rush to get all of the supplies that I’ll need for the school year. However, this year I started thinking about the plastic-free pledge that I took in July and how it would impact what I would need for my daily life at school. Many of the products that you find in a typical supply store contain plastic or materials that you can’t recycle, which is why I came up with a short list of products that you can get instead.

Stubby Pencil Studio highlighters and pencils: I’ve been using traditional wood pencils instead of plastic mechanical pencils throughout my high school years, but to make sure that the wood is coming from a sustainable source, I use these number 2 pencils.

Instead of the usual ink highlighter, their highlighters are made without plastic, ink solvents, or volatile organic compounds, and they never dry out! Although they look like a colored pencil, they work just the same as ink highlighters, and you can be sure that they won’t show on another side of a page.

Both of these products are made by the Stubby Pencil Studio, a company dedicated to making school, office, and art supplies at an affordable price while still focusing on their “commitment to offering quality and earth friendly goods.”

Pela iPhone Case: This iPhone case is made in Canada from what has been coined “Flaxstic,” a biodegradable, flexible material. The flax fiber has shock absorbing qualities and gives the material a unique appearance that is different for each case. The case also has a raised edge to protect the screen and comes in minimal packaging made from 100% recycled paper. It comes in many different colorful options, and you can even customize it with a business logo or slogan. Pela cases are only biodegradable in industrial facilities.

Lunch bags: Instead of using a lunch bag made from un-recycled plastic materials, try this one from Reuse It. Made out of recycled water bottles with an FDA-approved insulated lining, these colorful lunch bags are a great way to bring your lunch to school or work.

Another option is this lunch bag made by TerraCycle, a company that collects and makes products out of trash that you usually can’t recycle. This particular lunch bag is made from tent fabric with padding to insulate your food, and is very durable. You can also send this lunch bag back to TerraCycle once it reaches the end of its life.

Honest Kids Pencil Case: This zippered pencil case is made from upcycled juice pouches collected by TerraCycle. Billions of juice pouches end up in landfills every year and account for a huge waste of resources, and using this pencil case ensures that fewer plastic materials will detrimentally impact the environment. It also comes with 3 slots so that you can easily clip it into a 3 ring binder, and it can be sent back to TerraCycle to continue being upcycled when it can no longer be used.

Tab Dividers: As an alternative to plastic dividers in a binder, use these 100% recycled 8-tab dividers for school or work. They are very durable and do a great job of keeping all of your materials and papers in the right section. Because they are made in Canada, shipping them requires significantly less carbon and energy than products made overseas. Also, using these will save 24 trees, 7,000 gallons of water, and 60 pounds of air pollution! You can simply recycle the dividers in any recycling program along with other paper products.

Kelly Caiazzo

Thanks to everyone who participated in Sustainable Wellesley’s reusable gift wrapping project. The Wellesley sewing community created over 500 reusable cloth wrapping solutions from donated fabric, offering one for free to Wellesley Marketplace guests! Since Wellesley no longer recycles gift wrap, it’s more important than ever to think reusable. (Not sure what to wrap? Check out our Gift Guide of reusable solutions that make wonderful gifts!)

If you received a free reusable wrapping cloth, thanks for visiting our booth and for your interest in sustainable solutions! We hope you will subscribe to our newsletter and join us in being part of the solution, whether it’s planting milkweed for monarchs, opting into the Power to Choose program, or being a “green” voice at a local town meeting. We have a lot of volunteer opportunities for anyone interested in getting more involved!

How to use your furoshiki wrapping cloth:

Reusable gift wrapping cloths, called furoshiki, have been used in Japan for centuries. Below is a free graphic from Japan’s Ministry of the Environment with different folding techniques. Click here for a full size pdf.

Below is a video demonstration of how to fold a basic gift wrap.

Here’s a quick video tutorial on how to wrap a bottle in furoshiki cloth:

We want to thank all the volunteers who sewed cloths, donated fabric, lent supplies, attended and organized sewing bees, and volunteered as wrappers at Wellesley Marketplace in order to make this giant free reusable gift wrapping booth possible.

It was a great way to flood the community with a reusable solution while also encouraging people to sign up for the Sustainable Wellesley newsletter and making people aware of our presence in the community.

Kelly Caiazzo

We’re in the habit of bringing our own water bottles everywhere, sometimes to the point of awkwardness. (Nice restaurants will serve you tap water in a glass, plopping your hydroflask on the table’s
cloth napkin kind of detracts from the ambiance.)

But what about day trips or long afternoons on the beach where one
water bottle per person isn’t really enough?

I used to bring multiple reusable water bottles for everyone in the
family, but that got heavy and awkward.

Now what I do is I skip packing ice packs in our cooler, and instead I
use an extra large mason jar filled with ice-water. It keeps our
snacks cold, and when we’re done eating, I can use the ice water to
refill everyone’s water bottles. Wrapping it in a light kitchen towel
helps prevent condensation from getting on snacks if that’s a concern!

If it’s too heavy to carry, sometimes I’ll leave it in the car,
knowing that we can refill everyone’s waters before we drive home.

You can use ice cubes or you can put water in the mason jar and freeze
it in a solid block. If you do the latter, make sure you don’t fill it
all the way because ice expands and you don’t want to shatter a mason
jar in your freezer. Also be aware that it might not melt in time for
you to have enough water to refill your water bottle!

There are also a lot of large insulated reusable water jugs on the
market made from food-safe stainless steel; these might be a good
purchase if they’ll help make it easier for you to avoid buying
plastic water by the case to bring on your outings. They are also good
for places that don’t want you to bring glass in, such as many
amusement parks and pool areas. Look for them anywhere that sells
camping supplies.

But for me, having a mason jar of ice water in the cooler has made
summer just a little easier!