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Thinking green for back to school easier on environment and wallet

It's hard to believe our summer days are already at an end. I have to admit though, that I'm actually OK with that. I've always been one of those weird people who loves "back to school" time. My husband laughs at me because every fall, when there is just that right feeling in the air, I inevitably say: "I feel like I need to go buy some new notebooks and pencils."It's all too easy to get caught up in our "buy everything new" culture. This year, try to make the impact of your shopping list a little easier on both your wallet and the environment.

Check for supplies from last year that can be reused

I love the clean, crispness of a spanking new notebook, but in my own experience, I rarely finished a school year and a notebook at the same time. I almost always had a significant chunk of paper left in each one.

To avoid wasting usable paper, tear out old, used pages and either recycle them or determine what's important or necessary to keep and store in a three-ring binder. You could use organizing tabs to separate each subject and use one binder (or however many you end up needing) for each school year.

This is a great way to help keep your old school stuff organized and green. Or, if last year's notebook is looking ratty, tear out the good, unused pages and put them into a binder to use this year. You could then color-code, label and decorate the front of the binder for each subject (or use those awesome organizing divider pages to put multiple subjects in one binder).

• Pencils and pens -- rather than purchasing new ones, give last year's pencils and pens a little scrub n' buff and use them until they need to be replaced.

• Three-ring binders -- can definitely be reused. If you get the kind that allows you to slip a sheet of paper in the front cover, this can be swapped out each year. Or place a label on the spine that can be peeled off and replaced each year.

• Backpacks -- Consider washing, scrubbing or accessorizing last year's backpack to freshen it up and make it last another year, or two or three.

If you do need to buy a new one, invest in something that's well-made and will last at least a couple of years. Stay away from the cheaply made backpacks and other school accessories promoting this year's trendy cartoon, TV or movie celebrity. Chances are that next year's trends will be different, and you'll be that much more likely to purchase new again. Get something you'll be OK using several years in a row and find other ways to make your school accessories speak to your style and personality.

Buy supplies with recycled content

For those things that you do have to purchase new this year, look for the ones that are made with recycled content. Look for at least 30 percent post-consumer content. More stores are carrying recycled-content products, so do your part to ensure they stock their shelves with even more next year by taking advantage of what's there now.

If your favorite supply store doesn't carry recycled materials, feel free to request them. I can't stress enough the importance and effectiveness of speaking up for greener products of all kinds.