Back to School Pencils

The fun-filled days of summer are almost over and kids and parents everywhere are thinking about the school days ahead. Make sure your lesson plans are ready before the first bell rings to help ensure your kids head back to school with awesome, safe and eco-friendly supplies. 

As a parent focused on healthy kids and a healthy environment, do your research before you buy school supplies. Go for the ones made from recycled materials, those that are reusable and definitely NOT those that are made with PVC (a toxic plastic) or triclosan – an ingredient in products marketed as “antibacterial” or “antimicrobial.” For more on triclosan, its use and risks, read this recent Rodale article by Leah Zerbe.

From bags to lunch packs to paper and pencils, there are earth-friendly alternatives to the standard stuff available. If you can’t find ‘em on shelves at the stores near you, there are several websites that offer a host of kid-coveted choices. Along with prepping your kids for responsible back-to-school lessons, make sure to keep your office supplies as green as possible, too.

Notebooks

Buy notebooks made from recycled paper. Fortunately, many stores now carry a variety of recycled notebook paper. Check out the Greenroom line available at Target that includes notebooks, folders, stationery and binders. Many of the large retail stores carry recycled products. A cool product from Staples: Post-it Greener and Recycled Notes made from 100% recycled materials and plant-based adhesive.

Lunch Boxes and Bags

Sure those plastic baggies and paper bags are convenient, but think about how many end up in the landfills. Put a dent in that pile by using reusable lunch bags, utensils and containers that are made without a list of nasty chemicals that may adversely impact the health of children and the environment (like BPA, phthalates and lead). Watch Reuseit’s 5 Steps to a Waste-free Lunch video and check out its nifty lunch-packing products. Laptop Lunches offers lunch boxes and containers for school, work and play that are free of BPA, lead, phthalates and PVC, they’re reusable, recycled and recyclable and come in lots of fun options. What a great way to carry the healthy lunches you make! 

Pencils, Pens and Crayons

Quick, jot it down! The Ultimate Green Store carries crayons, pens, pencils and highlighters that are fun to use and, well, green! For example, O’BON’s Newsprint Eco-friendly Recycled Newspaper Pencils come in a pack of 10, are made from 100% recycled newspaper, are non-toxic and splinter-free! Something creative to create with, Soy Crayon Rocks Eco-friendly Wax Crayons are shaped like little pebbles in 16 different colors and come in a red bag – perfect for crafts at school or at home!

Backpacks and School Bags

Everyone needs a way to carry their books and lunches to and from school. Also from the Ultimate Green Store is a variety of bag options for little kids and even adults. Bags range from recycled PET backpacks (PET stands for PolyEthylene Terephtalate, a material many plastic bottles in the US are made from) to PVC-free bags made from natural cotton canvas and baring a cute resemblance to domestic and exotic breed creatures.

The classroom isn’t the only place for learning. Use back-to-school shopping as a fun opportunity to explain to your kids the choices you’re making. It will be a lesson they will appreciate for a lifetime.

More resources for eco-friendly back-to-school products and more

The Center for Health, Environment & Justice 

Ethical Ocean

Healthy Child Healthy World

image: Kain Kalju