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.


School Cleaning Supplies Release Chemicals Linked to Asthma and Cancer

The Environmental Working Group just released a study on cleaning supplies used in schools and the news is not good.  Tests of 21 cleaners from 13 large California school districts found that when used (as directed),  the products released six chemicals known to cause asthma and 11 contaminants that are known, probable, or possible cancer-causing substances in humans.

Not only are use of these products harmful to the janitors cleaning the school, these chemicals hang out in our schools and exposure over many years may be harmful to our babies’ health.

Not only are some of these products used in schools – we use them in our homes everyday.  Comet, Simple Green, Febreeze ring a bell?  Yep, they are all included:

•Comet Disinfectant Powder Cleanser, which emitted 143 contaminants when used as directed, including formaldehyde, benzene, chloroform and four other chemicals identified by the state of California as causing cancer or reproductive harm.

•Simple Green, a general purpose cleaner that released 92 chemicals into the air, including two linked to cancer (2-butoxyethanol and acetaldehyde) and one linked to cancer and asthma (formaldehyde).

•Febreze Air Effects, an air freshener that gave off 88 airborne contaminants including acetaldehyde, a chemical linked to cancer.

The good news is all of these products have greener alternatives that work!  I use Bon Ami in place of Comet and EcoBreeze works in place of Febreze.  There are tons of eco-friendly all purpose cleaners on the market often, good old fashioned ingredients like baking powder and vinegar can work as well. 

First step – get these yucky cleaners out of your house and replace them with green cleaners.  You can start quickly by replacing everything with Seventh Generation products – I’m a huge fan.  Once you get comfortable with those, you can work in other products that you find or make some of your own.  I make our glass cleaner and use a variety of household ingredients for certain cleaning projects like cleaning grout or the oven.

Second step – find out what your children’s schools are using to clean.  The EWG even has a handy guide to talking to your school, a customizable letter to send to the administration to start the conversation,  and a fact sheet to educate about green cleaning.

I’ve briefly approached my daughter’s preschool in the past but didn’t get much of a response.  I’m going to try, try again!


Back to School Guide to PVC Free School Supplies

PVCFreeBannerThe Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ) has put together a great Back-to-School Guide to PVC-Free School Supplies to help you make healthy shopping choices that are safer for your kids, your community and the environment. Many children’s school supplies, such as lunchboxes, backpacks and binders, are often made out of PVC—a toxic plastic that is dangerous to our health and the environment. This guide lists the most common back-to-school supplies made out of toxic PVC and suggests safer PVC-free products in over 20 product categories like art supplies, backpacks, lunchboxes and three ring binders.

You can download the complete 13 page guide or a handy wallet size version.


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!