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School supplies
July 18, 2013 - 6:48 am

I’m staring down my first year as a homeschooling mom, and last night I went shopping for school supplies.  Ack, the plastic!  I’d forgotten how many non-plastic items are only available in a plastic wrapper.  Blech.  I’m hoping you folks can help me think outside the box a little bit.  This school year is all about making good habits, so I want to introduce my little ones to the supplies we’ll be buying over and over.

Does anyone have any experience with the plastic-free binders on the market?  They all look like they’ll fall apart if you look at them wrong, so if you’ve found one that was durable, what brand?

The most common way homeschoolers keep a portfolio is in a binder with a hundred plastic coversheets inside.  Anybody know of an alternative to plastic coversheets?  Is there a PLA version on the market?  Maybe we should be binding our own books or something.  Scrapbooking supplies?  I’m at a total loss here.

Poster paints or finger paints in glass jars?  Watercolors in a non-plastic tray?  Anybody?

I’ve been browsing school supplies online, and everything just looks like so much greenwashing.  I’d appreciate any help you can offer!

Beth Terry
409 Posts
July 22, 2013 - 1:29 pm

I love the plastic-free binders from Guided Products ( formerly known as Rebinder.) In the interest of full disclosure, before I say more, I have to inform you that all of the links I am about to post are affiliate links, which means that sales through this site receive a small portion of the proceeds. I only endorse products that I really believe in.

The nice thing about Guided Products binders is that if the cardboard wears out, you can replace it without having to toss out the metal ring hardware because it’s attached with regular screws: Yes, they are plain, but kids can decorate them however they want. Guided Products also carries the dividers ( and if you must use plastic, they have plastic covers made from PLA (corn plastic) instead of fossil-based plastic. I’m not a huge fan of PLA, but I do think it’s usually better than conventional plastic. (

Here’s the blog review I posted a few years ago when they were still called Rebinder (I went and updated the name throughout the post just a few minutes ago.) /2009/07/beths-big-back-to-school-binder-debate/

Another great school supply idea thing to try is homemade paste instead of glue. Here’s my recipe. It works great: /2012/10/want-plastic-free-glue-make-homemade-wheat-paste/

And as for scrapbooks, my favorite scrapbook (although it is pricey and better for a few keepsakes than for lots of pages of homeschooling work) is this one from Nepalese Paper: These are just gorgeous and have hand-carved turtles on them. I got one a few years ago at the Green Festival and have not had time to actually use it yet. But you have inspired me to put together my scrapbook and then blog about it.

July 29, 2013 - 7:49 pm

I used to collect the work (art and school) that I wanted to keep in report covers that are held together with metal.   I hole punch each page and bind it up.  For odd shaped pieces you can make a whole-punched pocket to slip them in.  This year I tucked the stuff we wanted to keep in a manila folder and tried to staple it along the binding.  Not a big success.  3 ring binders could work too.  I find that we produce a lot of paper in a year and I don’t want to keep everything for each kid.  So we have a box that fillls up over the year and just pick out a representative sample when it fills up and recycle the rest.  (Checking for items that have to be landfilled due to mixed materials.)


For art supplies, I look for less plastic or more recyclable plastic containers.  Discount school supply has liquid water colors in recyclable bottles.  I don’t buy markers, only colored pencils.  I look for natural collage materials instead of those foam shapes.  Wire and wood or glass beads are fun.  We make our own modeling dough.  My kids still use a plastic based glue, but I bought a big jug to refill the little jars, so at least it’s less packaging trash. I don’t buy glue sticks. We’ve also experimented with homemade paste and melted beeswax for some projects.  I saw a powdered paint in stores on our vacation.  “Earth Paints” they were called.  We may try those at some point.

August 7, 2013 - 6:26 pm

 Thanks, I was hoping for PLA page protectors, but I hadn’t been able to find them anywhere!  I have no problem making kids decorate their own binders and folders — nobody needs another product with a cartoon character on the front anyway.


I did stumble across this recipe for watercolor paints that we’ll have to try this year:…..or-paint 


Unfortunately, we’re wheat-free around here, so we won’t be making our own paste.  I’ll probably buy a big jug of Elmer’s at the craft store and refill the squeeze bottles we already have.  Less plastic waste, anyway. 


Thanks for the help!

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