For many students, the unwelcome return to school is often sweetened with a shopping trip for school supplies and new clothes. Not anymore.

As college, high school and grade school students begin returning to classes, the Environmental Protection Agency is urging students to use recycled material, even garbage, for their supplies and to shop at thrift stores for “retro fashions.”

And don’t even think about taking more than one napkin or salt packet in the lunch line.

“Buy smart! Purchase and use a wide assortment of supplies made from recycled products, such as pencils made from old blue jeans; binders made from old shipping boxes,” urged the agency in a back-to-school posting on its website dedicated to “Waste — What you can do.” The agency tweeted a link out on Monday.

When it comes to protecting books, the EPA recommended against new Batman covers. “Cover your textbooks with cut-up grocery or shopping bags helps reduce waste and keeps your books in good condition.”

In a message Target and Walmart won’t like, the agency added, “Buy used goods from resale shops. This is an inexpensive way to get assorted merchandise, and retro fashions are always coming back into style.”

And for those buying lunch, pay attention. The EPA doesn’t want students taking more ketchup packs or napkins than needed. “If you buy lunch, take and use only what you need: one napkin, one ketchup packet, one salt packet, one pepper packet, one set of flatware. Remember to recycle your cans and bottles, and separate your waste if your school has separation bins!”

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at