Embracing the environment while returning to school is a worthy goal, but difficult to attain.
Local proponents of “going green” admit there’s a shortage in ecologically conscious scholastic supplies, such as notebooks, pencils and backpacks. Plus, the items that are available are difficult to find and expensive.
“I was really disappointed; there was very little selection,” said Praneeta Rao, co-owner of an enviro-friendly furniture/ clothing store in Scottsdale. “Right now, kids are going out and shopping, and there’s really nothing — and that’s sad.”
At the organic clothier Twig and Twill Boutique, coowner Ivy Ciolli complained about the difficulty in finding suitable bags that can be used to carry books.
“I just met with a company, but they manufacture out of China and they use chemicals,” Ciolli said from her store at the Borgata. “We’re in the search for it, and eventually we’ll have it.”
Rao and husband Santosh run Natural Territory, which recently opened near the Scottsdale Airpark.
There, they have displays of beds and linens, baby clothes, dinette sets, flooring — and a small table of school supplies. The cardboard binders, legal pads of recycled papers and soy crayons on view came only after an exhaustive search of the Internet and other retailers.
“People are aware they can make a difference, but big companies need to do their part a little bit more,” Praneeta Rao said. “There are companies that are manufacturing these products, but they’re not being seen.”
And what’s being seen is costly. On the Raos’ display is a legal pad made from recycled paper. Cost: $3.35. On the Web site for Office Max, a six-pack of such pads with bleached white paper can be purchased for $5.49.
Also expensive are “solar backpacks,” bags with built-in photovoltaic panels and an outlet to charge cell phones, personal digital assistants and MP3 players using solar energy. Their cost runs from $191 to $249.
Rao acknowledges these bags are pricey, but she wants to play up the concept behind them.
“This is good for kids to start thinking about solar energy in Arizona,” Rao said. “I think that’s what’s important — more than the backpack itself.”
As Rao described the products, a teenage girl examined the merchandise. Sarajoy Booth, a recent graduate of Scottsdale’s Horizon High School, is preparing for college in North Carolina, and she believes going green is an excellent idea.
But, interjected her mother, it is unfortunate that going green is so expensive.
“You can’t even go to most places and find recycled paper,” Joy Booth said. “And it takes time, because you have to find it.”
When holding up a plain-looking cardboard binder, again Rao talked up the green lifestyle. But she knows the task of selling environmentally-sound products isn’t helped by ugly products.
“If people start seeing more cool things, that’s important,” Rao said. “You want to appeal to the mainstream.
“You want to tell people, ‘Green aside, it’s beautiful first.’”
Going green to school
1. Buy only what you need.
2. Shop online or buy via phone, rather than burning gasoline driving from store to store.
3. Backpacks, lunch boxes, folders and notebooks should be made of recycled and non-PVC materials.
4. Pencils should be made from wood grown in forests responsibly managed; look for the Forest Stewardship Council label.
5. Paper should be processed chlorine-free (PCF) and have a high percentage of post-consumer recycled (PCR) or post-consumer waste (PCW) content.
6. When packing lunch, cut down on waste by finding alternatives to paper sacks and plastic bags. If you use paper, make sure it is brown, unbleached and recycled.