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Upcycled and Recycled Back To School Essentials

Updated on October 26, 2013

Forget the shopping frenzy! How about a fun summer of preparation?

In my family, back to school shopping consisted of a rushed trip to the store the night before the first day of school and watching my busy mother carve out a place on my pencils where I could write my name. Something was nearly always forgotten and missing that first week of school, which left one feeling, well, not quite ready.

My daughter, being home schooled, did not have to go through those types of growing pains, instead she was in school year round, and if we needed something we first tried to make it with what we had handy.

This got me thinking, instead of rushed and frenzied last minuted shopping trip, how about spending some time together with your kids making some of the things they'll need for school, out of something you may already have?

Not only will this allow you to spend some quality time this summer, it will teach some solid lessons about upcycling and recycling and your child will have a great feeling inside whenever they use what you've made together! Win, win!

(Photo by me)

Life long learning

It's back to school in September for most people under the age of 20, but learning doesn't stop and start with the beginning and end of summer vacation!

Learning how to recycle and upcycle what you need is such a valuable lesson which effects not only how you view money, but how you view the world.

For things that can't be recycled - go earth friendly!

So many DIY and crafting sites now focus on upcycling and recycling!

Here are a few sites I found with some great DIY school supplies - (Note these are for intermediate crafters - so mom and dad help required).

What's 'unique'?

As I was writing this post I started thinking about all of styles and fads, and what's 'in' what's 'out' of fashion, and how some kids can feel left out if they don't have the most current in thing. Clothes, computers or hairstyles, it all matters when you don't have it.

It's especially difficult these days when children are bombarded with fashion advertisements at such an early age.


I think recycling and upcycling ways of thinking provide lots of 'teachable moments' for us to show our kids how important it is that they celebrate their 'uniqueness'! They are all 'one of a kind', and that's a good thing!

Even as adults it's a good reminder, you only need to 'fit in' to your own skin.

What's unique? YOU!

This notebook/laptop holder is great for everyone!

Laptops, notebooks, iPads etc are all being utilized in schools these days, so it's important to begin good ergonomic habits from the start!

Keeping your back straight, your laptop cool and at the correct height for your eye level is a good place to begin!

Click on the photo for detailed instructions on how to make this great holder.

(Photo courtesy

The obligatory pencil case, with a twist!

Even in this electronic age, you still need pencils and pens for some things! So here is a cool twist on the old pencil case that I came up with.

My husband is a musician and wears some pretty fancy stage clothes. Once they are worn through and patched as much as possible, it's time for them to be turned into quilts, rugs and anything else I can think of; but there are always those little bits left over that don't have a home, the cuffs on these shirts were some of the homeless, and just too fancy to go to the rag bag!

With the exception of putting in the zipper, this would be a great first sewing project!

(Photo by me)

Pencil case - the 'how to' part

This case can be made by hand or machine. It's simplicity comes in the fact that by using shirt cuffs, they often already have a front and a back and they are the perfect size!

1) Remove cuffs from shirt

2) Sew right sides together

3) Insert small zip or if you don't have one handy, use a button and loop or even snaps!

And viola - that's it! So simple. (I actually use this one for earrings!)

(Photo by me)

I love these Upcycle projects - And bonus, they can be for all ages!

Plus some great tips for re-using, and I love DIY projects for kids, by kids!

Will you be going green this school year?

See results

I'd love to hear from you!

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    • JennAshton profile image

      Jenn Ashton 4 years ago from Canada

      @ecogranny: Added a new one;-)

    • JennAshton profile image

      Jenn Ashton 4 years ago from Canada

      @ecogranny: Ah thanks you and too bad, I will try to find something similar to add;-)

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 4 years ago from San Francisco

      So glad to find this page. Thank you for providing this resource. I clicked through on the Ecko thumb drive, and sadly, it is no longer available.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Excellent ideas. Thanks for sharing!

    • ArtWebb profile image

      ArtWebb 4 years ago

      Lovely lens. I am born in a time I got laughed at when I made school presentations and essays on conservation, pollution and avant-garde recycling.

      Things have changed quite a bit since then. Thumbs up for all who support going green !

    • JennAshton profile image

      Jenn Ashton 4 years ago from Canada

      @Elsie Hagley: Thanks for the kind words everyone! And yes! haha I remember covering books! And saving pencil crayons year after year, one new outfit for the start of school and home sewn gym bags! Ah the memories! haha

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 4 years ago from New Zealand

      Very nice, I like the idea of bringing reuse and recycle in with the back to school theme.

      Reuse was every year, when I went to school in the 1940's, same school bag used for about 5 years, exercise books if they had pages still not used, we would recover the exercise book and tuck the use pages in the front of the cover and stick down with cello-tape. Ex-books where usually covered with left over ends of wall-paper, which in some case made them quite strong with thick paper.

      Thought you maybe interested about days gone-by.

      Thanks for sharing all yours I enjoyed the pencil case ideas.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 4 years ago from Arkansas USA

      Great approach to the school supply situation! Love the pencil case.

    • DownToEarthLiving profile image

      Evelyn 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      The pencil case made from the sleeve of a shirt is genius! And that cuff was too beautiful to waste. Thanks for visiting my lens . . . it gave me a link to yours! Great lens.

    • suepogson profile image

      suepogson 4 years ago

      I love the sleeve-pencil case - so simple and so effective. I agree that it's difficult but important to find the balance between children feeling a part of 'the gang' by having the 'in' stuff and teaching them about individuality (and recycling). No easy answers. I enjoyed this lens - good practical ideas and creativity. Thanks