When choosing greener back-to-school supplies it’s easiest if you follow these steps:
- Make a list of all the school supplies that your child is required to have. For example; backpack, crayons, glue, pens, pencils, notebooks, paints, markers and tissues.
- Take a look at your list. Which school supplies are healthy for the environment?
- Which school supplies are not healthy for the environment?
- Decide which school supplies can be exchanged for healthier, greener supplies.
As an example, if basic crayons are on the list you should know that some regular old crayons are made with petroleum – that’s a non-renewable resource. There are other greener options, such as beeswax or organic soy-based crayons.
Tips to keep in mind:
PAPER: Almost every paper product your child needs; including notebooks, tissue for sneezes, printer paper and more can be found in 100% recycled content versions.
PAINT: Most conventional paints for children contain toxic chemicals. Look for water-based paints without solvents and make sure they’re colored with natural, non-metal pigments.
GLUE: Look for basic glue sticks or gentle white or clear glue in a bottle. Water-based glues are a much safer bet than super-strong adhesives such as epoxies or glue used for wood or models or rubber cement, which tend to contain toxic solvents.
HAND SANITIZERS: These products are popping up on school supply lists. Skip it. They’re totally unnecessary. The school cannot force your child to use hand sanitizers, especially when the WHO supports basic water-soap hand washing.
PENCILS & PENS: Avoid glossy coated and/or scented pencils. Look for basic wooden pencils made from sustainable wood or recycled newsprint. For pens, aim for recycled and if possible refillable. If looking for colored markers or colored pencils, use the same criteria and don’t get permanent markers, which are much more toxic than water-based non-permanent.
PENCIL CASES: Avoid pencil cases made with plastic or vinyl. Instead look for pencil cases made of organic unbleached cotton, wood or hemp.
BACKPACKS: Check out Eco-Friendly Backpacks. In general look for natural fiber backpacks or backpacks made with organic cotton. Avoid excessive plastic and look for labels that say “no PVC” or “no #3” (the PVC symbol).
DESKS: Formaldehyde-treated desks such as those made with particleboard and plywood contain formaldehyde and should NOT be on your shopping list. Look instead for quality used desks – although you may need to re-paint a used one, or if going new, look for solid wood (sustainably sourced when possible) desks with a non-toxic finish or metal desks.
LAPTOPS: Aim for energy efficient, as small as you can go without hampering usage quality, and PBDE-free computers – most electronics companies are phasing out PBDEs in their computers.
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