2010 PVC Free School Supplies

I can’t believe we’re in ‘Back to School’ season already.  In the Pacific NW, summer started, like yesterday.  It was a loooooong rainy winter and I’m not sure spring even showed up this year. 

The Center for Health, Environment and Justice has just released their Back to School Guide for PVC Free School Supplies.  Remember, PVC is the “poison plastic” and one you should avoid as much as possible because of the nasty chemicals it leaches.

This comprehensive 17 page guide lists everything from art supplies to backpacks to binders to dry erase markers and paperclips (colored paper clips are coated with PVC).  Everything you could possibly need for school is on this list.  Print it out and take it with you to the store.  If you want the condensed version, print out the wallet size version.

A great place to start your shopping is Stubby Pencil Studio.  The owner and mama, Kate, finds non-toxic school supplies for all ages.

My kids aren’t yet of the age where I need to purchase “school supplies” but many of the the items on the list we still use in our home office or for home craft projects so I’ll be referencing it frequently.  You’ll be surprised at how many things you use on a regular basis that have PVC.  The good news is that there ARE alternatives!

What PVC free school supplies will you be buying this year?


Waste Free Lunches

Tonight, as I was packing my daughter’s lunch, I realized that without even thinking about it, I was packing a waste free lunch.  Just by keeping a couple things on hand at all times, it has become second nature.  Most of these things you probably already have, it’s just getting into the habit of using them every day. If you are missing a few things, I’ve provided some of my favorite options.

LUNCHBOX – When I was in school, we used paper bags for our lunch everyday.  I cringe when I think of how many of them we just threw away.  Now, I pack my kid’s lunch in a reusable lunchbox.  There are tons of options like the PlanetBox Stainless Steel lunchbox, old school metal lunchboxes, plastic bento style lunchboxes,  or theKids Konserve insulated lunch sacks made from recycled bottles.  Just make sure that whatever you buy is PVC Free – oftentimes you’ll find that fabric lunchboxes have a PVC lining – check the tags.

REUSABLE BAGS – This is one of the places where you can really cut down on waste, particularly if you are using plastic baggies for sandwiches and snacks.  Lunchskins makes reusable bags both in sandwich and snack sizes.  They are made with a cotton fabric that is coated with a food-safe polyurethane liner.  I currently have 2 but am planning to get several more because I’m always using them!  I can use them for more than just food and I love that I can throw them in the dishwasher.

REUSABLE CONTAINERS – Another way to replace your plastic baggies is to use a reusable container.   It can be as easy as using a plastic container, stainless steel Lunchbots or Kinderville silicone storage jars

UTENSILS – For older children, you can grab a  fork and/or spoon from your silverware drawer.  If you’re concerned they might not make it home, stop by Goodwill and pick up some 10 cent utensils for lunches.  No worries if it accidentally is left at school (dirty. in the locker. never to be seen again.).  For younger children, buy kid-size plastic or metal utensils that are the right size for their mouths.  We use metal utensils from Pottery Barn Kids and have been really happen with them.

CLOTH NAPKIN – Paper napkins may be cheap but they are also wasteful.  We’ve been using cloth napkins for a year and they aren’t any more work – I just throw them in any load of laundry that is being done. 

DRINK BOTTLE -It seems like everyone has jumped on the stainless steel drink bottle bandwagon, but if you haven’t – now is a good time.  You can find them EVERYWHERE – we happen to use KleanKanteen for our kids but you can pick them up anywhere from Starbucks, to the grocery store, to toy stores.

Once you start packing your own waste free lunches, you might inquire about a school wide program. It has been estimated that on average a school-age child using a disposable lunch generates 67 pounds of waste per school year.   That is over 800 pounds of waste over 12 years of school – JUST FOR 1 CHILD!  That equates to 18,760 pounds of lunch waste for one average-size elementary school – PER YEAR!  Over 225,000 pounds of lunch waste over 12 years of school.  For a great resource to help you start a waste free lunch program at school, visit WasteFreeLunches.org.


Eco-Friendly Potty Training

Debate after debate exists about using disposable vs. cloth diapers but I think all parties would agree that the most eco-friendly (and cost effective)  option is to get kids out of diapers as soon as you can.  Fortunately we’re done potty training our first child but we’ll be back there again in a couple years.  I’m surprised there aren’t more eco-friendly potties out yet but I have noticed that one or two plastic potties that are recyclable – a step in the right direction.  Here are the most eco-friendly potty training finds on the web:


Growing Up Green Bamboo Potty Seat – Made with pesticide-free, 100% sustainable bamboo.


becoPotty – Instead of yet anotherpiece of plastic children’s gear, the becoPotty is made with bamboo and rice husks left over from farming.  When you are done potty training, you can bury it in your garden, plant some seeds and let the natural product biodegrade.



Poteez Disposable Potty– Great for parents on the go, this disposable potty is made with 100% compostable, biodegradable cardboard.


Clean and Green Public Potty Protectors– Disposable toilet seat covers made of 100% biodegradable cotton.  Over sized so little hands don’t touch dirty toilets.


Organic Cotton Training Pants and Underwear – Hanna Andersson has both training and classic “unders” in 100% organic cotton for boys and girls.


Vinyl-Free Bath Books

It’s getting easier to find safe, non-toxic bath toys but vinyl-free bath books are few and far between.  I found many books that were labeled ‘non-toxic’ but the packaging didn’t tell me what they were made of.   I scoured the web and here are the few that made the short list.  If you have any to add, please let us know!



Haba Bath Books Mermaid, pirate or frog



Poppy Cat 


Sandra Boynton – several of the popular Sandra Boynton books come in a bath book


 iKids Soft Shapes Foam Books – there are many books in this series


 Everybody Takes a Bath – cloth coloring book for the tub

 Bath Time Buddy Books by Kate Toms – each book is a hand puppet made of wash cloths


Reusable Nursing Pads

While nursing my daughter, over 3 years ago, I burned through disposable nursing pads.  I felt like I was constantly running to the store for another box and at $7-9 per box, I was burning through money, too.

Since then I’ve become more eco conscious and realized that reusable nursing pads would not only be more eco-friendly but more cost conscious, as well.  There are several types of reusable nursing pads – find one that works for you!


Reusable Cloth Nursing Pads – You can find cloth nursing pads made out of cotton, organic cotton, bambooand several other fabrics.  They come in plain jane white or fun and funky colors.  You can even make  your own.  I’m using cotton ones that absorb well and are easy to throw in any load of laundry.  One of things I hated about disposable pads was that they would stick to my damp nipple – making it painful to peel off, particularly in the first couple weeks of nursing.  The cotton pads absorb moisture well so I haven’t experienced this problem. 

Lilypadz– When you’re nursing, you can’t always wear swim suits, sports bras or workout shirts without showing a little bit more than you want to (you know what I’m talking about).   You can also sometimes see cloth nursing pads as they can add a lot of bulk to your bra.  Lilypadz have totally changed all that. They are made of silicone and have a “stickiness” to them so you stick them to your breast creating a tight fit protecting you from leaking.  They are super thin and you can’t see them under your clothing, allowing you to wear tightly fitted clothing, go swimming or go braless. My only recommendation is not to use them the first couple weeks and/or months while your milk supply is stabilizing because if  you are leaking a lot, they won’t keep it in. Every nursing mom needs these and they would make a great gift.

Milkies– I cringe when I leak because breastmilk is like liquid gold. Milkies was created exactly to fix this issue – they save your milk when you letdown.  You put it in your bra on the side you are not nursing on and it collects the milk when you letdown.  I haven’t used them yet but from what I read it can be several ounces.  I can’t even believe that I’m losing ounces every time I nurse.   That means if I’m nursing 6-8 times a day, I could be losing 2 or 3 bottles worth of milk, per day.  These would be particularly helpful during the first several weeks and months of nursing when your milk supply isn’t stabilized.  I wish I had these 3 months ago!  If you’ve used Milkies I’d love to hear about your experience!