Our Favorite Sustainable School Supplies with Impact!

Each product you buy from Marie Mae provides one hour of business education for women in emerging markets through the Marie Mae Business School. Mae Designs ALSO gives you the option to customize your notebook on eco-friendly paper, even turning it into an adult coloring book. 

Each product you buy from Marie Mae provides one hour of business education for women in emerging markets through the Marie Mae Business School. Mae Designs ALSO gives you the option to customize your notebook on eco-friendly paper, even turning it into an adult coloring book. 

A staple free stapler? Whaaaat! A pen that lasts seven years? There are so many cool new school supplies to discover! Whether you have a full-time job and need office supplies or you are shopping for back-to-school supplies, here are our favorite sustainable, healthy, ethical (SHE) office supplies to stock your office and fill your backpack.

What else are you going to color in your adult coloring book with than these fun colored pencils? Not only are most colored pencils a sustainable option due to their lack of plastic, these pencils by Sprout can be planted when they’re too small to color with, and turn into 1 of 8 different plants. We’re dreaming of how many afternoons can be spent coloring (alone or with your kids) and then taking care of your new garden! All the plants can also be planted indoors for you city folk.

It’s possible to get a free pen just about everywhere you go, which is good because pens seem to disappear just as much as socks do. The most sustainable pen option is a fountain pen. They’re not completely made of plastic, and can be used for decades so long as you continue to change the ink… which can usually be bought in glass containers. We’ve never tried fountain pens, but check out this post from Zero Waste Home and this post from Poppy Goes Wild about them. If you’ve ever used a fountain pen please let us know what you think and point us towards some of your favorite brands! If you can’t give up your normal pen then try the 7 Years Pen. The name is pretty self-explanatory, and they’re not as bulky as one might think!

Highlighters are convenient up until they start bleeding through paper and you remember the entire product is made of plastic. These jumbo pencil highlighters are made in Austria out of reclaimed wood (plastic free!) and the ink won’t dry out or leak onto the next page!

No. 2 pencils are an absolute staple in any pencil bag. So important that it’s literally called a pencil bag. Or pouch. We are fawning over these pencils made in the USA from recycled materials by Dot. Each set purchased provides a half-day of school to a kid in Mexico or East Africa. How cool is it that you get to send a kid to school by sending your kid off to school with new pencils?!

These colored pencils can be planted at the end of their life and grow 1 of 8 different plants! Talk about sustainable. 

These colored pencils can be planted at the end of their life and grow 1 of 8 different plants! Talk about sustainable. 

Speaking of pencil bags… Our top choice for kids is a resealable option from Blue Avocado. Free of the nasty chemicals, it’s see-through and easy to clean! Two very important things in a school pencil bag! If you’re less concerned about those two things and looking for a bit more stylish option, then you can check out this organic cotton pouch, a bamboo bag, or read our blog post with several more choices highlighted.

Copy paper is pretty easy to find packaged in larger paper versus plastic, which is great. If you’re looking to up your sustainable paper game, check out EcoPaper! They have lots of cool paper products made without trees. Are you as fascinated as we are?! Check their pure white, sugar cane copy paper out! Don’t worry- it’s safe for your printer!

Binders are notoriously made out of vinyl with a plastic covering, which means that even though they break easily they won’t break down in a landfill. Naked Binders offers a sustainable solution. Their binders are recyclable and made out of recycled materials. They come in several sizes and while you can get them customized, they’re also super fun to decorate yourself! You can get binder tabs for it here.

This binder on Amazon comes with tab dividers made out of recycled materials too.

These markers from The Ultimate Green Store contain up to 60% less plastic with non-toxic ink. The Ultimate Green Store has lots of other great school supplies, including these erasers. You can also purchase markers from Crayola.

“Crayola may make virtually every color under the sun, but its current favorite is green.”

Read all about Crayola's green initiative and how their products are getting to be more sustainable!

What if you could staple your papers without a staple? As confused as we were? Check out this eco-friendly cube that staples papers without using actual staples. It acts like a hole puncher, but then uses the paper to bind them all together. Who comes up with this stuff? Simply brilliant!

Planning may not be your thing, but a personalized planner from May Designs would certainly help you. Size, pages, and covers are all designed on eco-friendly paper to match your tastes! You can even choose to create a health & fitness diary, budget planner, or pregnancy notebook. You can also turn it into an adult coloring book.

Everyone, students and non-students alike, need a notebook to keep track of things. There are so many SHE notebooks out there but we gathered a few of our favorites here!

  • Bright Books are using something we all love, journals, to help provide light in Africa! Bright Books has partnered with Nokero to distribute durable, portable, solar lights to people in need. After charging in the sunlight for a few hours, the lights can provide several hours of bright light without a power grid.  Each journal measure 5.5 x 8.5 inches with hard covers and 128 lined pages sewn together in a signature-style binding- which means it will lay flat and pages won’t fall out. 

  • We also loooooove our Denik notebooks and how their recycled paper pages lay-flat too. We’re a big fan of the softcover notebooks versus the spiral ones for sustainability purposes as well.

  • If you’re into hard-cover notebooks, these USA-made notebooks from United By Blue are a good option. For every product sold they remove one pound of trash from the ocean!

  • Target and Amazon both sell Decomposition notebooks, which are a twist on the classic composition notebooks! They’re instead made out of recycled materials and printed with soy ink. There is also a ruler printed on the inside of the cover, so no need to go and buy a plastic one!

  • If you’re just looking for some mini notebooks to keep in your purse, consider making one yourself! A Beautiful Mess has two tutorials (here and here) on how to make your own journal! They’re so easy and can be made with materials you already have in your house.

  • Marie Mae has so many notebook options- spiral, composition, planners… just about anything one can dream of! You can buy their products knowing that not only are they employing people ethically in the USA, but each product provides one hour of business school training to women.

Back to school means back to the books! Did you see our instagram post with some of our current reads? Better World Books is an online, high-quality, used bookstore ranging from textbooks to comic books! Part of their profits go to help fund literacy grants to help kids learn how to read. Each time you make a purchase, you have the option to pay a small fee called “Carbon Balanced Shipping.” This is because when you have something shipped to you, the trucks, planes, mailman, etc. use gas to get your package to you. Carbon offsets don’t stop pollution from happening, but can help balance it out a little! Win, win, TRIPLE WIN!

We already highlighted some our favorite brands in this post!

Perfect for bookmarks, little notes, reminders, just about anything. You can purchase “Greener Notes” made out of 100% recycled materials. These fun notes from Remedy Road help keep you organized and give back! However, Google Keep is a great digital replacement! It links to your Google account, so you can use it on both your smartphone and computer, and is totally zero-waste!



As you go through school supplies from last year, there are a couple things you can do with them.

Recycle them. You can ask a local school to participate in Crayola’s ColorCycle program. You collect old or unused markers, ship it off (Crayola pays for shippping!), and the plastic is recycled and remade into an alternative energy fuel source..

Turn them into artwork. Terracycle has an extremely program to ColorCycle in the UK. If you live in the US, you can purchase a pouch to mail almost any writing utensils to Terracycle but it is sort of pricey. However, still definitely an option worth exploring! Pens can also be sent to The Pen Guy, who turns used pens into works of art!

Reuse them. Check out this tutorial from Lil Blue Boo! She turned broken pieces of crayons into “colorpillars.” Seriously, how cute and clever?!

As you are shopping, or simply gathering school supplies up from around your house, here are a few easy swaps you can make!


  • Scissors with a plastic handle with metal shears
  • Spiral notebooks with composition notebooks
  • Staples with paper clips, which are resuable over and over.
  • New school supplies with old ones around the house
  • Pens with pencils
  • Shopping on Amazon with Smile Amazon, where you can give back to a cause.
  • Plastic rulers with metal or wooden rulers
  • Scotch tape with painter’s tape
  • Handheld pencil sharpeners with metal pencil sharpeners
  • Individual products with bulk products

If you’re buying all of these products as home office supplies, we suggest checking out The Coworking Shop. They feature lots of wooden, eco-friendly products perfect for a simplistic and beautiful working space. Their standing desk unit is currently on sale!

As always, buy products that last. Search one or two levels deeper for that notebook printed on recycled paper, that company that gives back to education, or simply a well-made product you can use again and again. We just want to give you the tools (or school supplies) you need on your SHE journey! We believe that this is your (school) year. And you need a t-shirt that says it. Buying one also helps inner-city kids go to school… making it their year too!

If you find other sustainable, healthy, ethical school supplies you love, let us know in the comments below! 

SHElivingSHE TeamComment