Earth Friendly Back-to-School Shopping - The teenager edition

Like many parents with school-age kids, the team at Tolmee has the “Back-to-School” routine down pat. With 9-year-old twins, Christos is still sweating the to-do list and the constant errands. I, on the other hand, parent a well organized, self-assured and wholly opinionated 14-year-old who doesn’t need me to call the shots. Yay! I’m off the hook this year.

Why the shopping post then? I doubted my soon to be freshman would need my advice. So I turned the tables and asked her for advice instead. “Lily, what’s important to you this year and how are you planning for Back-to-School?” She had the typical concerns around keeping a schedule and being efficient in the morning. But I wasn’t expecting her other priorities - sustainability, economic opportunity, and eco-friendly products. (Wow! My kid has nuanced ideas for a planet-friendly Back-to-School season? *smugly pat myself on the back!*) Lily, you are so ready for High School. You got this! Off you go!

Waiting for the school bus with 3Quarters James packback


An avid H&M fan, Lily grabbed “The H&M guide to fashion recycling” at checkout last week and asked, “Mom, this is what H&M what's Tolmee's sustainability mission?” Fair enough question...Tolmee enables Greek artists to grow their small businesses by introducing their work to North America. We focus on artists who design cool and sustainable products from upcycled (used porch awnings) and renewable & recycled materials (woodsand, leather, and paper).

Upcycled materials: Waste not, want not

3QUATERS Design constantly amazes us with their cool, innovative styles; in fact, Lily carries their James backpack (pictured above). They source upcycled porch awnings and if you’ve ever been to Greece, you know that the sun is fierce. Their bags are water-resistant, rugged, convenient, and completely one-of-a-kind. Lily says “Mom, sustainable doesn’t have to be ugly or boring. I like having a bag that looks different from everyone else's.” 


Her school district is a stickler for keeping the school provided laptops safe, and the James backpack's integrated laptop pocket is ideal. Roomy and rugged, the school bus floor isn't a match for the sturdy upcycled awning material.

James 3quarter bag at Tolmee

Messenger Bags

Speaking of different, looking for a backpack alternative? 3QUARTERS' Zelda Messenger bag is the solution. Though much smaller than the James backpack, it crosses over comfortably and zipper pockets ensure items stay secure. Roomy enough for a Chromebook, lunch bag and slip-on sneakers, this bag is great for snowy days when winter boots are in order. Lily loves it especially during winter when her locker overflows with coats, hats, and gloves.

3quarters zelda messenger bag at Tolmee

Lunch Bags

Paper lunch bags ruled in my house when I was a kid, but Lily prefers reusable lunch boxes. Her must-haves: water-resistant, easy spill clean up, ice pack, and reusable packaging for her food. Her nice to have list: vegan materials, attractive, and compact size. Finding a lunch bag that ticks all the boxes is a tall order. Yet, 3QUARTERS’ Cookie Lunch bag meets Lily’s needs nicely! It’s a unique looking lunch bag, in a sea of conformity.

But what about reusable food packaging? What to do? Plastic Tupperware is re-usable for sure, but its non-renewable materials and bulkiness are no-go for Lily. Enter Vermont based Bee's Wrap food wrap. They design, make and sell beautiful reusable beeswax wraps right here in Vermont and ship all over. Order different sizes on-line for the family's Cookie Lunch bags, and then tuck it all away nicely into the James backpack. Hip, upcycled, reusable and tasty school lunch? Done, done, done and done! 

3quarters cookie lunch bag at Tolmee

Renewable & recyclable materials: Starve the landfills

Leather and Wood

Christina Skouloudi Design Studio is not afraid of innovation. Browse her site, and you’ll see how sleek designs intersect with respect for materials. Christina and her team transform renewable and recyclable materials into unique everyday home decor and jewelry. In Lily’s words “So much jewelry falls apart or tarnishes and is just tossed. I’d rather have one nice thing I can keep for a long time, or I'll make my own jewelry. My favorite is the Fylla Leather band which I wear on my wrist or ankle." Skouloudi's wooden bracelets are also a favorite that Lily wears for a carefree summer look.  

Fylla leather handmade bracelet from Christina Skouloudi Design Studio

Sand and metal

Thease Jewelry knows that you dream of it, they know you luxuriate your little feet in it, they know where you can find a lot of it...SAND! This is Greece after all, so it was only a matter of time before Greek artists found ways to make sand wearable and beautiful. The team at Thease have spent countless hours creating sand jewelry. Their deep material science knowledge coupled with their aesthetic helped them get these pieces right. Wear unique conversation starters, like The Coast of Attica earringsThe Future Treasures necklace or The Coast of Attica Bracelet and be a more interesting person ;)! In fact, we just received more cool jewelry from Thease. Sign up for our newsletter to know when it goes live on-line.

The Coast of Attica Bracelet by Thease Jewelry


Lily knows a little something about entrepreneurs and small business. After all, I’m the co-founder of two companies. Over the years, she’s watched the Sisyphean effort of growing a small business. Nevertheless, she plans to start her own business someday. Luckily, Christos and I can always rely on Lily to help with ideas and product shots. Thanks, Lily! 

Small business

When in Greece designs and handmakes everything in Greece, but they "keep it in the family" Mediterranean style by sourcing leather from Italy and cotton from Greece. The Leather Travel Journal comes in eco-friendly packaging that includes a cotton pouch and cardboard box. The refillable notepad inserts are made from recycled paper. Lily loves it for bullet journaling and also for writing down thoughts she prefers to keep off social media. After all, in the media age “If you reveal your secrets to the wind, you should not blame the wind for revealing them to the trees” - Khalil Gibran, Lebanese Poet. We couldn't agree more...Well said, Khalil. 

When in Greece handmade leather travel journal at Tolmee


Women-owned small business

T-Greeks was founded by Jacqueline & Rafaela. This Mother-Daughter duo are fearless! Originally from Brazil, they emigrated to Greece and have immersed themselves in Greek culture. Their graphics are undeniably Greek, yet fresh and unexpected. Exactly what you’d expect from people who have fallen in love with their adopted home. Lily is obsessed with the Fishes (psari) pouch, storing all her pens and pencils in it. During the summer, it was her favorite cellphone, wallet holder and sleep away kit. “Purses just aren’t my style, Mom,” she said. 

Fishes psari pouch t greek at Tolmee

What's next?

As summer winds down, Lily is putting the final touches on her freshly reorganized desk and closet space. She has read this post and offered to help me write another one. Together we'll cover Lily's best tips for time management, on-line safety and pitching in around the house. So stay tuned.

In the meantime, as your young adult gears up for Back-to-Schooll, we hope you've found our post helpful. We'd love your comments below, or email us at 

Be earth-friendly, be small business aware, be ready for school!

Be Tolmee.


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