Green Up Your Back-to-School Shopping

Could your child’s class save a tree even before school starts? Yes, according to the EPA, which says that for every 42 notebooks purchased that are made of 100 percent recycled paper instead of virgin paper, one less tree is cut down.

Here are some more tips for how to outfit your kids for school while avoiding items that might be harmful to their health or the environment.

When it comes to packing school lunches, we’ve come a long way from disposable brown paper bags. Consider sturdy reusable containers that are free of the chemicals BPA (bisphenol A) and PVC (polyvinyl chloride, or vinyl). (For more on these chemicals, see below.) Try Pyrex glass bowls with BPA-free lids, wide-mouthed thermoses, bento boxes, BPA-free water bottles, and canvas lunch bags. Read “School Lunches 101” for more detailed suggestions.

School Supplies
In addition to choosing recycled paper, try looking for items in bulk to reduce packaging waste. See if you have old notebooks, binders, and pens that can still be used, rather than automatically reaching for new. If you are buying binders or backpacks, consider those without PVC (backpacks with shiny plastic designs often contain this chemical, according to the Center for Health, Environment & Justice). Stick to plain metal paperclips rather than the colorful ones, which are usually coated with PVC. To check for PVC content in other items, look for the three-arrow recycling symbol; if it has the number 3 and/or the initials PVC, the item is made with PVC.

Commuting Options
Perhaps a bike helmet should also be on your shopping list, if your child can ride to school by bicycle, rather than riding in a bus or car. Safe Routes to School encourages healthy ways to get to class, like walking or biking, which connect children to the outdoors and make physical activity a regular part of their days. Read the post “Safe Routes, Cool Routes to School” to learn more.

More on PVC and BPA

Illustration by Marina Zlochin/Fotolia.

Great Kids, Great Outdoors is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Heather Stephenson.

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