Skip to Main Content View Text-Only

The City of Portland, Oregon

Planning and Sustainability

Innovation. Collaboration. Practical Solutions.

Phone: 503-823-7700

Curbside Hotline: 503-823-7202

1900 SW 4th Ave, Suite 7100, Portland, OR 97201

More Contact Info

Save money and resources and still get your back-to-school supplies

Once again, school approaches and with it comes opportunities to rethink how you and your family create your school routine. We all have a role to play in getting ready for the back-to-school ritual, from the day-to-day schedule and how we get to and from school, to what supplies are in our backpacks and lunch sacks.

Does everything have to be new? Can creativity and reuse have a place at this time of year? The stuff we need for school - clothes, shoes and classroom supplies - account for a large amount of money spent on items we may already have on hand. In fact, the average family with school-age kids is expected to spend a total of $635 this year. (Source: NPR)

These ideas also help reduce carbon emissions and promote thoughtful consumption.

Consider quality over quantity for school supplies, look for recycled content products with less packaging and think about repurposing what you already have over buying new items for the classroom.

Get the kids involved with back-to-school readiness by making a game of finding things they already have in the house to be used for the school year ahead. Perhaps the one who finds the most usable things can win a special prize or take everyone out for a shared experience at a local scoop shop!

Visit SCRAP to help create DIY one-of-a-kind items for school, like pencil bags from fabric, zippers and found objects, or to customize last year’s backpacks by adding sew-on patches or letters. There are also lots of ideas on Pinterest.

Host a clothing-swap with friends and neighbors to share kids’ clothes, and donate anything that’s left. 

Pack waste-free lunches by using reusable containers, utensils and cloth napkins, and help eliminate waste while also promoting healthy eating habits.

Rethink transportation options for getting to and from school. Carpools connect you to other parents while biking and walking promote exercise and quality time with your kids.

In whatever ways your family chooses to get back-to-school, incorporating thoughtful actions that are good for you and the community help provide lasting effects as the seasons change and the new school year becomes routine again.