August 9, 2013  11:15 AM

Creative community resources offer sustainable choices for back to school season

Family!In the midst of summer's hot, sunny days, it's hard to believe the season will ever come to an end. However, as residents of the Portland metro region know well, cloudy skies are around the corner, heralded by the back-to-school ads already upon us.

For families with a student returning to school in the next month, there are many strategies to cut costs and waste in the back-to-school frenzy. Fortunately, our region offers several ways to stretch out your back-to-school dollars.

Andrea Watson, spokeswoman for the Reynolds School District, said parents and teachers alike are already looking for school supply lists to make the most of back-to-school sales that are springing up.

Lists for elementary and middle school students are available on the Reynolds district's website and include things like crayons, glue sticks, erasers, binders, notebook paper, calculators and protractors. None of the supplies are mandatory, said Watson, because not everyone can afford to buy everything on the list.

View the Reynolds district's back-to-school lists

Watson said many parents and teachers take advantage of back-to-school offers and try to make supplies last the whole year.

For those who don't want to shop for new supplies at the local office supply store, there are a few ways to save money and make less waste in back-to-school shopping.

"We have a lot of the basic supplies," said Dryden Driggers, volunteer coordinator at SCRAP, a creative reuse community center.

Starting next week, Driggers said, SCRAP will feature a back-to-school display, highlighting supplies for students and teachers alike.

Founded in 1998 by a group of teachers wanting to make use of leftover classroom materials, SCRAP is now a resource center offering things like crayons, markers, index cards and binder dividers priced by the handful or stack.

For more targeted projects throughout the year, SCRAP offers foamcore, poster board and acrylic paints, which can be expensive elsewhere.

"Parents come here first to see what they can get before heading up to bigger box stores," Driggers said.

SCRAP offers low prices because all of their materials are donated. ­Driggers said offices going paperless are big contributors to SCRAP's inventory, often bringing by items like file folders, legal pads and leftover promotional pens.

Summer is a heavy donation season from residential homes as well, due to people taking advantage of the weather to clean out their basements, garages and craft rooms.

SCRAP accepts donations of clean and reusable art, craft and office supplies Tuesday through Sunday at their northeast location. Families and individuals can bring by everything from old markers and crayons to bottle caps to yarn.

Donations should be organized in a box or bag and will be sorted by SCRAP staff upon arrival. Those interested in donating can learn more about what SCRAP accepts on its website.

Learn more about school supplies SCRAP offers

Learn more about donating

Clothing and more

Along with a new school year and a summer's worth of growing, new clothes always seem to be a fall necessity. By choosing to buy secondhand, parents and kids can make a sustainable choice while saving money.

A recent top-ten music hit brought national attention to secondhand shopping's benefits, including savings and unique, offbeat attire.

Secondhand shopping has thus become a treasure hunt to find original fashions and one-of-a-kind items that not everyone will be sporting when school rolls around.

Summer is the season of yard sales, and while the hot weather lasts, so will they. Browsing through quirky front-lawn collections is a great way to enjoy the remainder of summer while preparing for the coming fall.

For a more consistent source of secondhand items, the region has several Goodwill store and outlet locations, where a large variety of clothing, books, games and other back-to-school items can be found at reduced prices.

"We have three million donors. We're up seven percent from this time last year," said a Goodwill spokeswoman in a recent back-to-school video on the organization's local website, emphasizing just how much the stores have to offer back-to-school shoppers.

From home

PackingOf course, there are always methods to save money and reduce waste by making use of items in the home.

Bringing a lunch to school can cut costs, and by using permanent containers, or re-using plastic containers that used to hold food items, parents can make their student's lunches zero waste.

A quick inventory of drawers and closets can unearth existing caches of school supplies than could fill some slots on the shopping list.

And, if families live in an area served by transit, TriMet offers discounted fares for youths and students, helping save time and money in commute.

Molly Simas can be reached at molly.simas@oregonmetro.gov or 503-797-1842. Follow Metro on Twitter @oregonmetro.

Read more about reducing back-to-school waste

Find more 'green' back-to-school tips

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