Red and gold are the colors most commonly associated with fall, but it's easy to make back-to-school season a green one for your kids. From school supplies to lunches to special gifts, you can find cool alternatives that reduce waste and lessen toxic exposures:
- 3.4 million tons of paper are purchased during back-to-school season. If every student used 100 percent recycled paper--available now at Staples and most other major retailers--we could save millions of trees.
- More than 14 billion pencils are produced every year--enough to circle the globe 62 times. Consider buying refillable pencils that can be used for years, or EarthWrite recycled pencils.
- Making lunches for school every day creates an average of 67 pounds of garbage per child--or more than 18,000 pounds per school--each year. Reduce waste (and save money) by avoiding disposable packaging and single-serving items. Instead, buy foods in bulk and portion them out in reusable bags and containers.
- Go organic for lunch. It's not only healthier for your child, it's better for the planet.
- Plastic containers can leach toxins into kids' drinks, so look for a reusable metal bottle like the hip ones from Sigg or Klean Kanteen. If you do pick plastic, opt for safer plastics #1, 2, 4, and 5.
- Buy a backpack that's PVC-free, which means not made out of vinyl, or better yet, one made from recycled materials (check out Earthpak, REI, or Rewarestore.com). Another thing to look for is a lifetime guarantee, so if your kids' pack needs fixing, you can send it back for repair instead of buying a new one.
- For the gadget-loving older student, a solar-powered cell-phone charger comes in different fun colors and makes a great back-to-school gift. Solar-powered chargers also work for iPods, game players, and digital cameras. (Your college-bound kid not so into gizmos? We've got plenty of other great gift ideas.
- It's never too early to teach kids that re-using is important and fun. Have them figure out the amount of money that can be saved by re-using last year's supplies, and use some of that cash to take them out for ice cream or another treat.