GreenBTSI’m in denial. Next week is back to school for Toronto kids. That’s not much time to gear up, especially for parents with multiple mile-long lists. Guess what? This year, we’re making that list shorter.

As we start checking off supplies and loading up the backpacks, we’ll be trying to reuse last year’s stuff and swap in made-in-Canada items that support local and keep mother nature top of mind. Here are some our favourite budget- and eco-friendly ideas from around TOwn that will have you buying (and wasting) less.


Reusable mason jars from Re-Fluff

Drinks: The re-usable water bottle is a must and you probably have your trusty receptacle from last year. If it ain’t broke, keep on using it. For the juice box that just gets tossed, how about switching to the re-usable one? Juice in a Box is compact, durable and you can fill it with sweet stuff or just plain water. For more drinking on the go, we’ve fallen in love with the portable mason jar by Toronto’s Re-Fluff. Maybe you won’t throw them into the backpack everyday, but they are perfect for the whole family on the go: mama’s coffee, kids’ smoothies and even the little one’s sippy cup.

Lunches and Snacks: In our quest for the litterless lunch, we’ve counted on the city’s eco-friendly stores for the growing number of non-toxic containers, lunch boxes and bags. We head to Ecoexistence on St. Clair, Grassroots on the Danforth, Ecotique on Roncesvalles and Fenigo online, just to name a few. As for what goes inside the lunchbox and your kids, get inspired and cooking with some ideas from 100 Days of Real Food.

Clothes and packs: Growing kids means a growing wardrobe. It’s a given that parents will be cashing in on the back-to-school sales. But a growing number of parents are looking to balance budget and brands that have ethical and sustainable manufacturing practices. (Here are some ethical clothing options via Global News and some textile, footwear and apparel brands from Maclean’s.) As for backpacks, our best bet is to go with quality (rather than a cheaper version with a theme that will be out-of-date next year.) Our backpack has lasted three years… and going strong. If you want to take it to the next level, upcycle. TerraCycle upcycles and recycles traditional non-recycable waste (like drink pouches, chip bags and tooth brushes) and makes them into things like backpacks.

School supplies: It is so easy to get caught up in buying new. Make an effort to pull out last year’s stash or top it up with some supplies lying around. We’re inspired by companies who have made an effort to recycle and reuse. The Toronto-based company R3volved turns waste into school, home and office supplies.


Fort building at Evergreen Brick Works.

Stay outside: While we hope kids are getting enough fresh air throughout the day at school, we say stay outside. (And you don’t have to be part of the Equinox School program to do so.) There are many programs in the city that give kids an added dose of nature outside of class. (And some have free drop-in programming through the year): Evergreen Brick Works, High Park Children’s Eco Programs and Toronto Botanical Gardens.