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.


My Healthy School

This post is for the Green Moms Carnival on Green Schools, which will run on August 10th at OrganicMania.

School may seem like it just got out but it won’t be long before you are planning for the 1st day of school again.  This year, consider working with your child’s school to implement some healthy and eco-friendly programs.  If you are an educator, approach the administration about their interest in a greener school.

My Healthy School is an online resource designed for educators to help teach their students about a healthy lifestyle.  Seven sections provide action plans for creating greener and more socially responsible schools and children.

School Food outlines what healthy food is including organic, locally grown and allergy policies.  Action plans include nutrition goals and sample menus.

School Supplies has green cleaning guidelines, recommendations for building, classroom and art supplies and an ‘approved supply list’ to pass onto parents.

School Grounds has lots of info to pass onto administrators and facility management with recommendations from recycling programs and energy use to pest management and playground maintenance.

School Gardens has several action plans to get a garden started from choosing a site to planting the garden.  They include curriculum integration and a great list of resources, many from other school districts implementing the program.

Eco Education provides teaching tools including books, DVDs, websites and products to teach about alternative energy sources, carbon footprint, waste reduction, nature and more.  There are activity pages, lesson plans, classroom project and field trip ideas to download as well.

Wellness incorporates fitness, sports and classroom wellness into a ‘healthy school’ with suggestions for locker room rules, hydration, first aid, nutrition, oral hygiene and PE class.

Social Responsibility advises educators on the importance of social responsibility education sharing success stories from other schools and application for the classroom.

There are also two special sections for Parents and Administrators.  The Parents section has great ideas for packing a healthy lunch, home projects, PTA and room parents.  The Administrator section has nutrition policy, assembly programs and fundraising advice.

Parent, Educator or Administrator, there is a lot of information to create your child’s healthy school at My Healthy School!


Safe Play Sand

playsandlabelOne man’s definition of “safe” is another man’s definition of “toxic”. 

I recently saw an ad for ‘Safe Play Sand’ and decided to check into what makes sand ‘safe’.   I wouldn’t have considered that sand could be unsafe ( unless our neighborhood dog was playing litter box in our sandbox ). 

I checked out what kind of sandbox sand the local home improvement store was selling and found “Play Sand” – “a specially graded washed sand that has been dried and screened, for children’s sand boxes”.  Unfortunately, with a little research I found that this so called ‘play sand’ has a substance called crystalline silica that is classified as a substance known to the State of California to be a carcinogen.  The MSDS sheet for the sand also listed the following potential side effects due to inhalation:

a. Silicosis – Respirable crystalline silica (quartz) can cause silicosis, a fibrosis (scarring) of the lungs. Silicosis may be progressive; it may lead to disability and death.
b. Lung Cancer- Crystalline silica (quartz) inhaled from occupational sources is classified as carcinogenic to humans.
c. Tuberculosis – Silicosis increases the risk of tuberculosis.
d. Autoimmune and Chronic Kidney Diseases – Some studies show excess numbers of cases of scleroderma, connective tissue disorders, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic kidney diseases and end-stage kidney disease in workers exposed to respirable crystalline silica.
e. Non-Malignant Respiratory Diseases (other than silicosis) – Some studies show an increased incidence in chronic bronchitis and emphysema in workers exposed to respirable crystalline silica.

I don’t know about you but I don’t consider those kind of side effects conducive to sand that is safe to play in!  I understand that these types of effects are due to chronic exposure but at what level is that measured?  Is chronic exposure for an adult the same as daily exposure to a child playing with their dump trucks in their sand box?

The Safe Sand Company was founded to provide an alternative to unsafe children’s playsand.  Safe Sand is a fine white playsand, but unlike crushed quartz, it is a feldspathic sand. The finely gradated and clean play sand is ideal for use in children’s sand boxes. The beautiful white sand is the perfect texture for creating sand castles and sand sculptures. At $60 per bag ( 50 lbs, includes shipping costs ), it’s more expensive than the cheap toxic sand you can pick up locally but if you are only replacing your sand every 2 years ( as recommended ), I think it’s a wise investment in the lungs of your family 🙂  You might also consider asking your child’s school to look into Safe Sand.


A New Use for Capri Sun

7b0d_1I’m a bit of a fanatic about recycling – I just love the idea of avoiding the landfill and getting further use out of something – particularly for products that people use all the time AND throw away all the time.

If your kids drink Capri Sun – I’m talking to you!  Capri Sun has partnered with TerraCycle to upcycle Capri Sun pouches into new products like totes, bags, pencil cases and now dresses!  The one-of-a-kind dress ( made entirely with Capri Sun pouches! ) was created by designer, Justina Blakeney of Compai, a company renowned for rehabiliting “used and abused” clothing and it’s being auctioned off to benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

Not only does Capri Sun want your used drink pouches back – they’ll pay you to get them!  Sign up at TerraCycle to start a “Capri Sun Pouch Brigade” at your school to collect Capri Sun pouches ( Honest Kids and Kool Aid pouches also qualify ) and get 2 cents for each pouch – TerraCycle will even cover the shipping costs.  

Donate a couple garbage cans to your school lunchroom, use the bags provided by TerraCycle, label them clearly and let the parents and students know!  Capri Sun has even provided some educational materials and curriculum to coincide with the program. Sounds like an easy way to earn money for your school – and these days, our schools could use some extra $$ !

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