Back to School Buying Guide: For Eco-Savvy Parents and Their Kids
Your kids may not realize it, but the supply of environmentally sound, non-toxic school supplies is growing and branching into unusual areas. Cornstarch pens and rubber backpacks? It’s all part of the recent rise of sustainable businesses making eco-friendly alternatives to everything from paper clips and Post-it notes to laptop computers. Now that you’ve gotten your supply list for next year and have a little time to make conscientious back-to-school shopping decisions before the August rush hits, you can make sure your child’s education isn’t contributing to deforestation, dioxins in our waterways, and other environmental and health hazards.
Here is a sampling of environmentally and socially responsible alternatives to commonly bought products, plus a list of some of the places where they can be found. Like many higher-quality products, some are more expensive than their conventional counterparts, but shifting our buying patterns to support greener businesses can eventually make these products more affordable for everyone.
Computers and Computer Supplies
As useful as they are, computers are inordinately wasteful for their price tags. Twelve million PCs are landfilled annually in the United States, putting tons of lead, cadmium, chromium, and mercury into the environment. The best option is to get the most life out of your current machine, upgrading components when necessary. For those buying new, a few preferable choices exist.
- NEC’s Powermate Eco computer is EnergyStar compliant, has a casing made from recycled plastic, and has a lead-free motherboard
- Panasonic’s Toughbook laptops use lead-free solder and have reduced brominated fire retardants
- Apple’s G4 notebook is EnergyStar compliant and contains no PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) or PCTs (polychlorinated terphenyls), bioaccumulative toxins that may cause cancer and hormone disruption
Disks & Diskettes
- GreenDisk recycled 3 1/2” diskettes and CD-RWs in recycled jewel cases (Office Depot; CD-RWs require special ordering)
- Office Depot Remanufactured Ink Cartridges
Dioxins produced during the production and incineration of PVC (polyvinyl chloride, also known as vinyl) are among the most poisonous substances in the environment. Dioxins adhere to fatty tissue and contaminate breast milk, passing carcinogens and immune suppressors on to infants. Choose PVC-free bags and backpacks like the hemp models produced by Hemp Sisters, Inc. or recycled rubber bags by Green Earth Office Supply.
Most paper is bleached with chlorine to give it that pristine white sheen, but the process also creates dioxins and other organochlorines. Add to that the destruction of our forests to make pulp for paper mills and you can see the message in this medium all too clearly. Choose recycled, chlorine-free papers instead and encourage your children to print double-sided and reuse single-sided sheets -- you’ll save money too.
- *New Leaf Everest writing paper and Badger Envirographic paper both have 100 percent post-consumer content and no chlorine bleaching (New Leaf, Treecycle, and GreenLine Paper companies)
- Dolphin Blue tree-free paper, made from denim, hemp, kenaf, and old money (Dolphin Blue Paper)
Reprinted with the permission of the Center for a New American Dream. © New American Dream.
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