Zero Waste School Supplies

Since I was a kid I loved back to school shopping. I loved having new pens, paper, and a backpack. I just loved being prepared for the new academic year. Now I’m entering into the last year of my undergraduate degree and although I still love the back to school season, I know how to shop a little more environmentally friendly. Here’s a list of some of my favorite zero waste school supplies.

Before beginning shopping for your back to school supplies, take inventory of what you have left over in your home. Do you have any pens, pencils, or notebooks left from a previous semester? If so, use up those before you go out and buy more! If not, turn to local stores, like your favorite bookstore or stationary shop, before turning to big box stores and online retailers. Usually smaller stores offer the option to buy single pens and pencils rather than many wrapped in plastic.



Obviously, as a student, you’re going to need paper––and lots of it! Being completely zero waste as a student is usually impossible because of paper. Many professors are opposed to digital note taking at my university, so writing on paper is the only option for us. Although paper can’t be categorized completely into zero waste school supplies, there are steps that can be taken to reduce your waste––like buying recycled paper and recycling your notebooks after you’ve used them.

My favorite notebooks are Muji’s Recycled A5 notebooks. A5’s are smaller than normal notebooks, which is why they’re great for making heavy college backpacks smaller.

Guided also has recycled notebooks. Their notebooks range in size from 3x5 to 8x10, so you can pick the size that’s best for you. As an added bonus, you can get their notebooks in two colors––brown and black. Guided products are shipped in waste free shipping, so buy online if you need to!

A final option is Staples Wire bound notebooks. This one is a five subject notebook, which is perfect for your entire semester. It is wire bound, so it isn’t as environmentally friendly as the other options.

Writing Utensils

When looking for zero waste school supplies we would all ideally use fountain pens. However, fountain pens aren’t exactly the most conducive to quick note taking in classes. Here are some zero waste writing utensils.

Instead of tossing out a pen that has been used up, keep the casing and buy a refill. Muji and Pilot (and most other pen brands) offer refills for their most popular pens.

If you prefer to write with pencils, there are bunch of options on the market. Ticonderoga offers a ten pack of recycled pencils. Even if you don’t buy speciality recycled pencils, most normal pencils can be composted––just remove the eraser.

I know that I love highlighting my notes and textbooks, but I hate using the ones with the plastic casing. Stubby Pencil Studio makes highlighters that are made of wood, and they don’t dry out like traditional highlighters do.

Zero waste school supplies backpack


Backpacks are one of the necessities of being a college student. A good backpack will stand up to wear and tear, and last you for years. I personally use a Re-Kanken. It’s durable, waterproof, and made from eleven recycled plastic bottles. I’ve had mine for a few years now, and I don’t think that I’ll need a replacement for many, many more years.

Matt & Nat backpacks are another great option. They’re made of vegan leather, and the brand attempts to be as sustainable as possible.

Patagonia makes eco-friendly backpacks for back to school, too. Check out their 20 liter Ironwood Backpack! It comes in a bunch of cute colors and patterns.

Bonus: Love taking your lunch to campus? Buy a stainless steel bento box to bring with you! It’ll last for years and years, and make sure that you eat healthy, nutritious food while at school.


I’m so busy at college, and I always feel the need to plan out my day hour by hour. It helps with back to school anxiety, and insures that I get all of my assignments and projects turned in on time. Instead of keeping a physical paper planner, I use a few apps to help me keep things organized. With these apps I’m totally zero waste in terms of planning out my schedule.

I use the iStudiez Pro ($2.99) app to keep my classes organized. I can add each of my classes, and their assignments to the app. It’ll even remind me when an assignment is due soon. Plus, it syncs with the Calendar app on my iPhone as well as all of my other devices for seamless integration which is nice. There is a free version, so I recommend that you try it before you buy it.

Zero waste school supplies planner

Another app that I use is Asana. It’s great for making lists of things that you have to get done. Asana sends you an email when you have an upcoming task due, so it helps you stay on track.

Plus, I use the Blackboard app to keep my syllabi and other important information handy!

Do you have any zero waste back to school products or tips?

Zero waste school supplies Pinterest