Tips for eco-friendly back-to-school shopping
Haven’t done your back-to-school shopping? You’re not alone, according to a recent Times article, "These Days, It’s Back to School, Then Shopping." In the mad dash to gather school supplies—just before school starts or perhaps after the fact—keep in mind that not all backpacks, notebooks, and pens are created equal. Some are decidedly safer for our kids, as well as the environment.
Here’s a safe school supply plan of action:
1. The eco-friendliest option is last year’s stuff. If you have a lunchbox that’s still in good shape and a kid willing to reuse it, go for it.
2. When it comes to buying new gear, look for PVC-free items. Polyvinyl chloride, aka vinyl, is bad for us and for the earth from start to finish (manufacturing to disposal), which is why Greenpeace calls it the poison plastic. It has been linked to hormone disruption and cancer. To avoid, you can usually smell if something is vinyl (it’s that new shower curtain scent), or look for the number 3 inside the universal recycling symbol. Safer materials for packing lunch include stainless steel and cloth. Avoid backpacks, notebooks, and binders with shiny flexible plastic on them; these are usually PVC and might even contain lead.
3. Art supplies are another area where unsafe chemicals tend to lurk. Thankfully, the Center for Health, Environment and Justice just released its yearly Back-to-School Guide for Safer Schools Supplies to help parents navigate these often-tricky waters. Check it out! —Alexandra Zissu