Remember when back-to-school shopping was simply a matter of letting kids choose a lunch box with his or her favorite character? So much information has come out over the past few years about lunch boxes and other school supplies containing lead, phthalates, Bisphenol A and other chemicals that are believed to be carcinogens and/or hormone disrupters that shopping is no longer a process of checking things off the list—it’s about checking things on the label. It’s also about being waste-conscious.
As a mother of three school-age children, I focus on how lunch boxes are made and in packing lunches in a manner that produces less waste. The Obentec Laptop Lunch System, a school lunch kit inspired by the Japanese bento box, is one of my favorites. It features a hinged outer container, four inner food containers, a dip container and a set of stainless steel utensils. The boxes come in an assortment of fun colors and designs for your children to choose from, and kids love the compartments because they fit together like a puzzle. The containers are reusable, recyclable and dishwasher safe, free of any materials that are suspected carcinogens or hormone disrupters, and make it easy for families to use less disposable packaging. An added bonus: The lunch boxes even come with a guide for making healthy lunches that kids love, including creative tips for dealing with picky eaters (and I definitely have one of those!).
When shopping for food and beverage containers, it’s extremely important to watch out for products made with clear, shatter-resistant #7 plastic. Previous-generation, Nalgene-type water bottles and baby bottles were the first to get a bad rap for containing Bisphenol A, but now it’s being found in everything from food packaging to the inner lining of metal food and drink cans. BPA can mimic estrogen and acts as a hormone disrupter. Its effects are often most pronounced when humans are in stages of rapid development, such as in the womb or during childhood—which is all the more reason to check the product for its plastic number. More parents are turning to stainless steel water bottles for their kids, such as the ones made by Klean Kanteen, which are made from 100 percent recyclable high-quality food-grade stainless steel. They are lightweight, durable, non-leaching and come in lots of kid-friendly colors. They even have polypropylene tops with sippy adapters for your little ones.
More green products are hitting the market all the time, and finding eco-friendly back-to-school supplies is now easier than ever. When looking for pencils, pens, paper and binders, think outside the box—or rather the tree. “Tree-free” mango, banana, coffee and lemon paper (made from recycled agricultural waste) is used to make notebooks, stationery and even reams of paper. You can also find pencils made from recycled newspaper; biodegradable crayons made from soybeans; paper and binders made from recycled post-consumer content; and pencil cases, backpacks and binders made from recycled drink pouches (kids flip over recycled Capri Sun and Kool-Aid Jammers lunch boxes, backpacks and pencil case holders).
Eco-conscious parents create environmentally conscious kids by teaching their children about how the products they purchase are made. (Did you know that for each 2-and-a-half-foot stack of newspapers that gets recycled, a 20-foot pine tree can be saved?) Little facts go a long way to empower your children and make them feel like they are doing something to make a difference—and it all starts with a simple shopping list!
Laura Meyer is the CEO and founder of The Ultimate Green Store (www.TheUltimateGreenStore.com), a one-stop online green shopping destination. She is also a published author and home improvement and green lifestyles expert. At The Ultimate Green Store, you can find hundreds of eco-friendly, organic and green products for your home, office and everyone in your family, including organic bedding and towels, green furniture and cleaning products, organic sunscreen, a huge baby department, kids’ school supplies and much more. The Ultimate Green Store also offers a green wedding and baby shower gift registry.