Healthy & Green Back to School Tips

It’s that time of year again – children across America are going back to school!  While many of us make the extra effort to ensure our children are healthy and living a green life at home; what are our schools doing?  Check out Eco Chic Parties and the #HealthyBack2School Twitter Party on 8/26/10 to learn more tips about going back to school with EcoMom.com and Dr. Alan Greene.   

Here are some areas where you can make a difference:

School supplies:
If you’ve looked at a school supply list lately they are littered with unhealthy and sometimes toxic requests.  The standard school supply list includes crayons, scissors, glue, paper, folders, binders, notebooks, paper, paper towels, hand sanitizers, cleaning wipes, and other items that are less than green.  Don’t feel like you have to be tied down to those lists – talk with your students teacher about the alternatives and be responsible with what you send in with your child. 

Here is my son’s school supply list for second grade:
Glue Sticks
Crayons
Scissors
24 pencils
2pks eraser caps
Markers
School box
2 boxes of tissues
1 roll paper towels
1 bottle of hand sanitizer
1 contianer of cleaning wipes
Notebooks, folders, copy paper, post it notes
1 box gallon sized zipper bags

Responsible alternatives and options:
Crayons – 1) Send in used crayons, we have a TON why not reuse them until they can’t be used again.  2) If you are buying new look for soy crayons which are healthier for your child and the environment.
Pencils – 1) We get pencils in all our birthday goodie bags during the year.  We found all 24 without having to buy anything new.  2) If you are buying new look for recycled or forest friendly manufacturers.
Tissues – 1) Buy recycled content. 2) If your teacher is really progressive suggest reusable ‘hankies’ and volunteer to wash them each week.
Paper Towels – 1) Buy recycled content.  2) Again, if you have a progressive teacher suggest reusable towels and volunteer to wash them.
Hand sanitizers/Cleaning wipes - Avoid products with Triclosan which are in popular antibacterial sanitizers.  WHY?  Triclosan is actually a pesticide and studies show that we should use them with caution.  Green and Clean Mom wrote a good article on some of the other options.
All paper products – Buy recycled content whenever possible. 
Gallon sized zipper bags – I’m at a loss on this one because I don’t know what they use them for – but I’m going to ask tomorrow.

A warning about PVC products: 
What is PVC?  Polyvinyl chloride – one of the many toxic plastics we should limit our children’s exposure to.  A tip for determining if a plastic contains PVC – look at the bottom for the recycling triangle.  If it has a number 3 inside the triangle there is a good chance that it is made from PVC and should be avoided.  Did you know that PVC is commonly found in lunchboxes, backpacks, rain gear, 3 ring binders, some kids shoes, and art smocks?  Want to find our more about PVC and how to choose products that are PVC-free?  Visit Healthy Child, Healthy World and the Center for Health, Environment & Justice for a downloadable guide to PVC.

School lunches:
It’s estimated that the average school age child generates 67 pounds of garbage each year from school lunch alone!  Help reduce this number by packing their lunch in reusable containers and lunch boxes.  Check out the Green My Lunchbox Campaign for a list of companies who sell products to help reduce your child’s waste.  Don’t forget the reusable bottles too.  And if your child really prefers the juice pouch try to implement a TerraCycle Brigade to upcycle the pouches.  TerraCycle even has a Brigade for Lunchables this year too. 

Other areas of concern:
Indoor air quality at the school.
Playground equipment and maintenance.
Pest control.
Cleaning supplies used in the school.
Art materials.
Outdoor air quality – implement no-idling policies for buses and parents.  

It’s no wonder that some parents choose to homeschool their kids!  While all this information may look quite daunting you have to be an advocate for you child.  One excellent way to make a difference is to volunteer with your schools PTA/PTO and/or Green Committee.  I approached the PTA last year about some eco-ideas and was appointed to head up the new green committee.  This year I’ve been promoted to Vice President of the PTA and I’m learning that we really can make a difference.  It may take a while to implement the changes but with enough parental involvement and a cooperative administration YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!   No one else is going to be the voice of your child – you have to speak up and let your concerns be heard. 

What steps have you taken to green your child’s school?  Have you had any success you would like to share?  Leave us a comment below.





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3 Responses to Healthy & Green Back to School Tips

  1. Green Genius makes some biodegradable plastic gallon size freezer and storage zipper bags..maybe they could use those instead?

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