5 Ways To Green Your Back-to-School

Here are a few things that we can do to send them back to school in a greener and healthier way!


1. Tote Bags and Backpacks – Many conventional backpacks are made with materials that can have harmful effects on our children, including learning disabilities, . Some of these materials include vinyl, lead, phthalates (banned in our kids toys but NOT in their schoolbags AND found to disrupt the endocrine system) as well as PVC which is made with chemicals known to off-gas. Yuck.

The good news is that there are so many adorable and affordable safer options for us! When looking for a backpack, choose materials made of organic fabric, or check out handmade options made from recycled materials!

2. Lunch Boxes – so often we are in a hurry to go get our stuff on the classroom list, that we end up at the big-box chains. The problem is that so much of what is on the market might look fun, but also might contain harmful chemicals such as lead, aluminum, vinyl, BPA and PVC.

Who wants their child eating foods out of that? We try so hard to give our kids the best with healthy food options and avoiding things like high fructose corn syrup and artificial colors/flavors – but then we have the bags, thermos and containers to worry about too? YES!

Packing our kids lunches is healthier, can save money and helps reduce waste. Wastefreelunches.org has a great PDF available for download as well as other cool stuff to help guide parents in packing a waste-free lunch this school year!

A Typical Lunch

  • sandwiches sealed in plastic bags
  • fruits and vegetables in plastic bags
  • prepackaged chips, cookies, fruit bars, granola bars, cheeses, and fruit leathers
  • prepackaged yogurts, applesauce, and puddings
  • crackers, pretzels, chips, and other snack foods sealed in plastic bags
  • disposable juice boxes, juice pouches, soda cans, water bottles, and milk cartons
  • plastic forks and spoons
  • paper napkins
  • reusable lunchboxes and disposable paper and plastic bags
A Waste-Free Lunch

  • sandwiches and other main dishes, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, and treats in a reusable lunch container
  • cloth napkins
  • stainless-steel forks and spoons
  • reusable drink containers
  • reusable lunchboxes

*With this type of lunch, lunch food items can be bought in larger quantities. The packaging can be left at home for reuse or recycling. Waste-free lunches are not only a wise environmental choice, but they are less expensive as well.


3. Cosmetics – Do you really know what’s in your products? I know with so many ingredients on labels that the task of weeding out the unhealthy stuff may seem daunting. One great way to double check your products is by using the online tool from Environmental Working Group (EWG) Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. The EWG has evaluated thousands of product labels so we can see what exactly we are buying and how healthy (or not) it is! My recommendation is to put your faith in organic! 100% organic ensures that their are no pesticides being used and/or other chemicals that may harm you. Many commercial cosmetics contain petroleum, lead (yes, lead in our lipstick girls!) and other known carcinogens. This year, pack your kids up with organic lip balms, natural deodorants, makeup, shampoo, soaps and skin care you can trust!

4. Food – Go whole! The lesser the better when reading food labels, which means that the good old fashion foods from the ground are the BEST! Pack homemade lunches (in your non-toxic containers of course!), soups in a stainless thermos, water water water in a reusable water bottle (or organic milk). There are so many fun ways to pack a healthy meal! Kids love colors of all kinds, fun shaped whole wheat sandwiches, dips like hummus and yogurt – get creative! Avoiding the overly-processed, nutritionally deprived sugary and artificially flavored and colored snacks can not only cause health issues and set a pattern for unhealthy lifestyle choices, but all the packaging required goes straight to the landfills. Stick with fruits, veggies and whole grains as much as possible.

5. Supplies – Look for 100% recycled products! There are many eco fun choices out there now like Smencils, made form recycled newspapers in a yummy scratch-n-stiff variety!

Recycled paper, pens and even more zero-waste office supplies can be found at rebinder.com.

Don’t forget one very simple and affordable tip this school year….

6. reuse!

If a teacher is asking for 30 number 2 pencils, dig through last year’s supplies and your junk drawer and send them right back in. Back pack have a stain on it or a little tear? No problem! A few stitches or a fun iron on patch will cover blemishes up with ease. Check out garage sales…we found our backpacks both which look brand new) for 2.00 a piece t his year!