Like any ordinary teen, when a new trend pops up on my Instagram or TikTok feed, I immediately want to try it out. During freshman year, I became increasingly aware of greenwashing, which is often linked to ‘sustainable’ trends popping up all over social media platforms. Considering my yearning to be ‘trendy,’ along with my deep concern for the state of our environment, it was no surprise I decided to give a few sustainable school supplies a go.
Looking at one study from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, in just two days of collection from a sampling of six schools, over 7,500 pounds of school supplies and materials were sent to landfills as waste. Each school was already in compliance with Minnesota’s state requirements and had organic recycling programs implemented within their school waste disposal systems.
This study is extensive, and I won’t get into the specifics, but even the baseline results are telling: the vast majority of the waste collected, 78 percent, could have been composted or recycled. Paper made up 23.5 percent of materials recycled, which was only two-fifths of a percent less than the leading waste product, food.
Companies like Jansport and Decomposition are indirectly solving the problem by creating the necessary products for students from waste, rather than plainly trying to get rid of it.
I tried Jansport’s Recycled Superbreak backpack, made from 100 percent recycled material. Normally, recycled fabrics are riddled with microplastics that, when put through the wash, can harm the environment.
The Recycled Superbreak is still made of these fabrics. However, at least from my experience, people don’t wash their backpacks very often. Because the problem arises when the backpacks are washed, the Recycled Superbreak is a great way to use recycled fabrics without increasing the issue of microplastics within aqueous environments. Additionally, the process of making the recycled backpack is 100 percent solar-powered.
I got this backpack on sale, at a little under $40, but the regular retail price is $50. The Recycled Superbreak comes in five colors (mine being a very bright yellow) and, with the lifetime warranty, the price is reasonable.
The only cons that come with this environmentally friendly and trendy backpack are size and comfort. The Superbreak is fairly small, with one large pocket and one smaller pocket for writing utensils and smaller items like calculators.
Jansport Recycled Superbreak Ratings:
I also tried several products from Decomposition, including their loose-leaf paper, composition books and spiral notebooks. All of these products were created from 100 percent post-consumer waste, which, as their website says, “has saved the equivalent of nearly 40,000 trees, over sixteen million gallons of wastewater and thousands of tons of CO2 and solid waste.”
The composition books and spirals work just as well as normal notebooks and are beautifully decorated — I would have picked these notebooks out as the prettiest notebooks in the store even if they were not recycled.
The loose-leaf paper works well too, but I did find three issues with the products. First, the packages of paper came in single-use plastic wrap, which was not recyclable. I’ve never seen loose-leaf packaged in another way, though, so it is still better for the environment than the leading brands. Second, the lack of reinforcements on the paper means it tears very easily — a small price to pay for environmentally-friendly paper if you ask me. The biggest issue, however, is definitely the price. A hundred sheets of loose leaf is priced at $4.99, with the notebooks selling for as much as $8. Needless to say, this is much more expensive than most brands.
Decomposition Notebooks (both spiral and composition):
If you ever see a sustainable trend popping up on your feed that you’re curious about, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or DM me on Instagram @x.gracejohnson! I’d love to look into it and maybe even try it out!