Sustainable School Supplies

This is a pretty helpful list of alternative products for school by Melissa Breyer, Senior Editor, Care2 Healthy and Green Living

Rainbow pony princess pencils or plain wooden ones? A shiny plastic big-eyed kitten notebook or a brown recycled one? For kids, green school supplies aren’t always such an easy sell. My challenge this year is to outfit my child’s school supply list with eco-friendly choices, and to do so with items that have some serious second-grader pleasing power. Here’s what I’m thinking:

PENCILS: Pencils may not be the most tremendous eco-offenders in the school supplies aisle, but they have their share of demons. They are often made from wood gathered from non-regulated forests, and they often use unnecessary lacquer or paint.

TreeSmart pencils are rolled out of recycled newspaper with colorful newsprint visible and have layers of paper that peek through the tip when the pencil is sharpened.

Forest Choice pencils are made of unfinished FSC-certified incense cedar wood. They are sanded extremely smoothly, with no varnish or lacquer at all. Kid bonus: well they might not be strawberry scented, but their intense cedar smell is wonderful.

Recycled blue jean pencils include, you guessed it, recycled blue jeans. These have a high “wow-cool!” value.

BACKPACKS: Many kids’ backpacks are made of PVC (polyvinyl chloride, aka vinyl, aka the poison plastic), boo hiss. Instead of packing toxic plastic on your kid’s back, aim for backpacks made of natural fiber instead. If for some reason your child requires a backpack made of synthetic material, opt for polyester or nylon over PVC. My second-grader and I are liking some of these hemp backpacks.

STAPLER: Why buy, use, and toss staples if you don’t have to? This staple-free stapler is so stinking clever that, forget about my daughter, I need it! And I’ll be grateful to not be pulling staples out of papers before recycling anymore.

PAPER CLIPS: Paper clips are great as is because they are so inherently recyclable, but we’re going one step beyond and starting with paper clips made from recycled steel.

RULER: So the basic choices for rulers include wood or plastic. One comes from trees, one from petroleum–both sad in their own way. However, option number three, the recycled money ruler comes from spent money, so to speak. My second-grader loooooves this.

NOTEBOOK PAPER AND INDEX CARDS: This is kind of a no-brainer, yet when we are stocking up on supplies, I can never seem to find paper with a good recycled content–it’s important, see why with these facts about writing paper.

The EPA recommends buying paper with a minimum of 30 percent postconsumer fiber. This notebook paper and these index cards boast a nice content of 100 percent recycled with 40 percent postconsumer fiber.

NOTEBOOKS: I have one word about notebooks: Argh. All of those cute kittens and puppies (or superheroes if you have boys) looking out through a haze of toxic PVC. I truly thought this battle would be the hardest of the challenge, until I found these awesome cardboard notebooks. They are really just so smart. They are made from special, extra strong, corrugated cardboard. They don’t rip at the spine, they last longer than PVC, and the covers are attached to the rings by screws not rivets so that you can simply replace the cover without having to throw away the rings. And the kids can decorate them to their heart’s content–we’re thinking cute kitten collage.

LUNCHBOXES: The dreaded PVC strikes again, this time in toxic lunchboxes. Sigh. We’re liking some metal options, like this excellent Shiva lunchbox or a resourceful recycled options like these Basura Bags made from recycled juice packs by a women’s co-op in the Philippines.

Have you found any great green school supplies you’d like to share? Leave a comment in the comment field–we’d love to hear about them!