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15 Ways to Go Green on Back-to-School Supplies

Gearing up for school (literally and figuratively) can be stressful and expensive. By being smart, a.k.a. "green," you can take away a lot of the running around stress and certainly save plenty of your hard earned dollars and your health, too, now and throughout the year.
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little boy and books outdoors....
little boy and books outdoors....

As a parent, I have found that somehow "starting something" seems to also mean "spending a lot of money." I remember how shocked I was with the cost of my son's first helmet for skating -- not to mention the skates, the skis and the karate classes. I am amazed that I ever balked at a monthly gym membership fee! I also now understand why my mother complained about buying me a new geometry set every year.

Gearing up for school (literally and figuratively) can be stressful and expensive. By being smart, a.k.a. "green," you can take away a lot of the running around stress and certainly save plenty of your hard earned dollars and your health, too, now and throughout the year.

1. Pens and Pencils

Attention all pen chewers! (And anyone who holds their pens or pencils in their bare hands). Steer clear of pens in plastic casings and uncertified pencils as many contain harmful substances. Instead, choose pens with wood or biodegradable casings, and certified non-toxic pencils, both made from responsible and/or recycled materials in kind factories.

2. Unbleached Paper

It takes some serious chemicals to turn natural wood pulp into an ultra-white paper, even chemicals known to cause cancer. Staples has a great 100 per cent recycled paper produced without chlorine or chlorine compounds that's FSC certified and acid-free.

3. Safe Crayons

The major brands of crayons are made from pigment and paraffin wax, which is a byproduct of petroleum, and many have even been found to contain asbestos! Clementine's Colouring "rocks" are made from U.S.-grown soy beans and coloured with natural mineral pigments. They were originally designed by an occupational therapist to help kids develop fine motor skills and prepare fingers and hands for writing.

4. Backpacks

An environmentally-hazardous plastic, PVC (polyvinyl chloride a.k.a. vinyl), can be found in shoes, boots, supplies and even in backpacks. If you are in need of new backpacks, ensure they are PVC-free and manufactured responsibly -- there are easily accessible options on the market. Google is your best friend for this, or ask your retailer. If they don't know what you are talking about, suggest they look into it too! Two great options include MEC and Beatrix.

5. PVC-free Binders, Erasers and More

The Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ) wants you to keep the poison plastic off your back to school shopping list too, and they've created this PVC-free school guide to help. It's full of PVC-free brands and where you can go to find them.

6. Organic Threads

Make sure you're sending your kids to school in an outfit that's truly clean. Did you know it takes almost one-third of a pound of chemicals (synthetic fertilizers) to grow enough cotton for just one t-shirt? Many of which we have yet to discover the long term effects, so let's use the knowledge we do have to buy and choose the best for their health and future.

7. Reusable Water Bottle

Buying bottled water is incredibly wasteful, expensive, and simply terrible for us all. Instead, fill and refill a reusable non-toxic, BPA free and phthalate-free stainless steel or glass water bottle with any of your favourite healthy hydrators. Klean Kanteen for stainless and Lifefactory for glass are two great picks.

8. Organic Lunch Bag

We get so wrapped up in what we're going to put into our kids' lunch bags that it's easy to overlook the bag itself. Tests have found disturbing amounts of lead in the linings of vinyl lunchboxes (that's right next to your food)! There are beautiful options too -- like Keep Leaf's Insulated Lunch Bag made from 100 per cent organic cotton canvas, and Fluf's hemp and organic cotton options. They are both durable, adorable, and easy to clean.

9. Reusable Food Baggies

Single-use zipper baggies are a giant waste of money, and are detrimental to aquatic life (where they inevitably end up). Thank goodness there's something safer, reusable, and better looking! Neat-os are made in the U.S., certified food-safe, bpa-free, phthalate-free, pvc-free, lead-free, and can be personalized with your own designs. Problem solved!

10. Stainless Steel Insulated Food Jar

Make sure your lunch containers aren't leaching nasties into your healthy homemade lunches. Get a stainless steel insulated food jar (no plastic!). They are safe, lightweight and durable.

11. Ice Pack

Because kids will put almost anything in their mouths, don't confuse them by putting something poisonous in their lunch bag! Choose a non-toxic ice pack for your kids' meals on the go, and it can even be used on boo-boos.

12. Utensil Set

Say "oh no" to toxic, single-use plastic utensils and invest in a safe reusable set made from sustainable materials. Send your kids off with bamboo utensils from To-Go Ware in their carry case made from recycled plastic bottles which keeps them together and clean. They're heat and stain resistant too. Ready to dig in when you are!

13. Hand Sanitizer

Many anti-bacterial soaps not only remove the bad bacteria, but also the good bacteria that helps defend our body from the truly harmful ones. So for those times when soap and water aren't readily available, make sure to use something that is safe AND effective. Rather than spray something that leaves you feeling like you just doused yourself in harsh chemicals, opt for something that will rid germs safely.

14. Cookies

There are few things more exciting than opening your lunch box and finding cookies! But only when those sweet treats are made with real, whole ingredients our bodies recognize and happily accept (NOT white, processed flour and sugar, butter and factory farmed eggs!). Sweets from the Earth cookies are not only made with gmo-free, 100 per cent plant based ingredients, but they are nut-free, which is essential when sending treats to school. It's what's NOT in them that will impress you even more (artificial flavors and processed junk) -- and your kids will love every bite!

15. Safe Sounds

Listening to music stimulates our kiddies growing brains, and it should definitely be encouraged. But with all the sounds from the bus and screaming kids, it's easy to turn up the volume enough to actually cause permanent hearing loss. House of Marley makes noise isolating earbuds from recycled and sustainable materials that are perfect for listening to your jams safely on the bus.

As you go in and out for your back-to-school prep, remember the most important rule: use what you have already. Less will be in your cart and dollars won't fly out of your wallet. Buying less keeps you at the head of the class. And, although the stores may not be happy, the world thanks you too.

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