Defy messenger bags  are made from repurposed truck tarps or recycled billboards.

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Finding green back-to-school products at mainstream stores can be a challenge. Until fair-trade, organic and recycled products become widespread (think supply vs. demand), eco-minded folks will have to do much of their shopping online.

One local store, Healthy Green Goods (www.healthygreengoods.com) at 702 Main St., does carry reusable lunch bags and beverage bottles.

Web retailer EarthLover (www.earthlovershopping.com) carries several hemp backpacks and messenger bags. The English Retreads Bentley messenger made from reclaimed truck inner tubes in Boulder, Colo. looks truly upscale.

If one-of-a-kind style fits the bill, look to locally owned Defy Bags (www.defybags.com). Defy the norm and start trending with a messenger bag made from repurposed truck tarps or recycled billboards.

Students who want to keep up with eco-trends can ride their bicycles to school. Administrators at Evanston Township High School (ETHS) have been aware that the school’s bike rack area needs a redesign and that project was added to the capital improvement program for this year.

For those planning to upgrade their ride, Evanston has two independent bike retailers: The Pony Shop (www.ponyshop.com) at 1224 Chicago Ave. and Turin Bicycle (www.turinbicycle.com) at 1027 Davis St.

If a new bike is not in the family budget, check out the used bikes at The Recyclery (www.therecyclery.org) at 7628 N. Paulina, in nearby Rogers Park (Chicago). The group hosts weekly used-bicycle sales at its shop on Saturdays from 10 a.m.-12 p.m.

The Target department store at 2209 Howard St. sells bikes and related accessories as well as an assortment of school supplies.

When it comes to school supplies, retailer Office Depot now has a product line called Greener Office www.officedepot.com/a/browse/greeneroffice). Please note, products ordered online through Greener Office are for delivery only and may not be picked up at the local store. The Office Depot at 2722 Green Bay Road does carry some recycled-content school supplies, such as biodegradable pens and recycled paper (in reams).

While competitor Office Max (www.officemax.com) does not appear to have a separate line featuring green products, the online catalog carries recycled-content paper, pens, sticky notes and other items. The local Office Max is at 2255 Howard St. and many of the same products are
carried in the retail store.

For a more comprehensive assortment of back-to-school supplies, the Chicago Green Office Supply Company (www.chicagogreenoffice.com) is a good option. With products ranging from origami paper and wirebound notebooks to monthly planners and mini staplers, the items on your shopping list are likely to be available. Another point in its favor, the Chicago Green Office Company tries to ship all products with environmentally conscious freight providers to ensure that its carbon footprint diminishes continually.

The trickiest part of back to school
can be finding healthy and interesting options for school lunches. Reach for a supply of reusable lidded containers (think margarine tubs or empty nut tins) and fill them with kid-friendly snacks such as pretzels, baked chips, carrot chips or sticks, mini rice cakes and sunflower seeds. For healthy, yet tasty desserts, pack containers with strawberries, grapes, slices of mango, apple, orange, peach or plum or dried fruit such as cherries, cranberries or blueberries.

For a twist on the standard sandwich, use pitas, mini bagels, or small tortillas instead of bread. Fill with tuna or chicken salad if the lunch pack has a cooling agent. Meat-free options include PB&J, cream cheese and jelly, or a mashed bean spread. Involve the kids in the process as they are more likely to eat foods they choose (Mom- or Dad-approved).

Contact Eco Gal at ecogal247@yahoo.com or info@evanstonroundtable.com.