Tiff's Tips #3 - The sustainable backpack

Sep 10, 2021

Tiff's Tips for Eco-living #3: It's time to leave the house! How to pack your backpack for back-to-school or office.

Profile photo NRRI’s Sustainability Program Coordinator Tiffany Sprague
Tiffany SpragueSustainability Program Coordinator.

I’m typing this from my office at NRRI -- the first time I’ve worked away from home since Wednesday, March 18, 2020. And let me tell you, I was nervous getting ready this morning. Not because of what you’d expect given the state of things (read: pandemic and putting on real pants), but because I had no clue what I would need to survive a day back in the office. 

How to feed and water a Tiff for the day, and do it sustainably? 

With my favorite holiday season upon us -- back-to-school shopping (ah, the smell of freshly opened school supplies!) -- many families are stuffing backpacks and sending kiddos off with disposable PPE and single-use plastic-wrapped snacks. 

But, it doesn’t always have to be this way. Let’s take a look at Tiff’s real life backpack contents for some sustainable inspiration!

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

If you have access to, and are able to wear, cloth face masks, our landfills thank you. 

Single-use cleaning wipes are so 2020. I buy alcohol by the gallon from the local distillery, pour it into a spray bottle, mix in a few drops of essential oils (a warm cinnamon-orange is my favorite), pack a cleaning cloth, and I’m ready to go. I can use it as a hand sanitizer and to clean surfaces. 

The Hankies

Don’t let a good cry in the grocery store parking lot -- they stopped carrying my favorite mac & cheese?! -- cause you to throw your eco-friendly values aside. Enter the old school hanky. They come in all colors, shapes, sizes and materials. I have fancy ones made with organic cotton from Europe, and the ones I bought my first day in grad school from Walmart. Both are holding strong after a decade. 

There is no “bad” hankie -- it depends on your personal preferences. Fabric, texture and thickness are all considerations (and for some, material sourcing, production process, company values, and end-of-life options). Simply can’t part with your tiny travel tissue pack? Check out LastTissue

The Lunchbox

Just like packing for an eco-friendly road trip, our lunch box doesn’t need to be a site for single-use-plastic sore eyes. Rules of thumb:

  • Use, and reuse, the containers you already have; no need to buy anything new and  fancy.
  • Buy in bulk when possible and portion out snacks in reusable containers.
  • The zip-top plastic bag is not your enemy -- wash, dry and reuse.
  • Don’t forget real silverware and a cloth napkin!

The Backpack Staples

I don’t go anywhere without a notebook, water bottle, reusable bag and first aid kit. I look for notebooks without spiral binding, so I can easily recycle them when finished. 

Reusable bags are not just for the grocery store - you can use them at any store! They also come in handy to store wet clothing or dirty shoes. I love ChicoBags for their ability to compress into a small pocket. We are extremely fortunate to have drinkable water flowing from our faucets, and hydration is critical for radiant skin, so a reusable water bottle is glued to my side at all times. 

And don’t forget the first aid kit for...well...safety!

Until next month...

Radiantly yours,