Guide to non-toxic & eco-friendly school supplies including crayons, markers, glue, lunch gear, backpacks, binders, hand sanitizers and more.
Boxes of #2 pencils. A lifetime supply of hand sanitizer. A new backpack filled with crayons, markers, glue, notebooks…..The dreaded school supply list. Do you have yours yet?
Why Should We Worry About School Supplies?
First of all, I want to be clear that most school supplies are reasonably safe for our kids to use. We do have regulations in place such as The Labeling of Hazardous Art Materials Act that mandates all art supplies with hazardous chronic effects have a warning label, and the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act that tightened regulations on children’s art materials.
However, these regulations can not ensure complete protection. School supplies that contain some very toxic chemicals have been slipping through the cracks. A recent study by U.S. Pirg that included lab testing of products, found toxic chemicals in quite a few common school supplies:
- asbestos (a known carcinogen) in crayons
- phthalates (linked to hormone and developmental problems) in 3-ring binders
- benzene (a probable carcinogen) in dry-erase markers
- lead (a neurotoxin) in children’s water bottles
Plus we have to consider the environmental impact of school supplies – we go through so much paper, plastic and disposable products! Clearly we should be paying closer attention and making sure we are purchasing sustainable school supplies each year.
Resources for Non-Toxic & Eco-Friendly School Supplies
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The good news is that eco-friendly and non-toxic school supplies can be found in many stores these days! However, if I were to recommend one type of store to avoid, it would be dollar stores or other bargain basement type stores.
Why avoid dollar stores?? In the study referenced above, many of the products containing harmful chemicals came from these types of stores. I think the pressure to create extremely cheap products leads to dangerous material choices – like the lead and asbestos that’s been found in some school supplies. It’s maddening!
Here are some online stores that I trust for good quality eco-friendly school supplies:
EarthHero – My go-to store for non-toxic and sustainable products.
Mightynest – A good resource for zero waste lunch supplies
Favorite Non-Toxic & Eco-Friendly School Supplies
Let’s take a fresh look at that school supply list and find ways to make it safer for our kids and better for the planet. You’ll find non-toxic and zero waste school supplies for everyone – ranging from little kids to high school kids and even gear for your college student too.
Avoid PVC plastic at all costs. Opt for sustainable backpacks made from natural materials like cotton or hemp if possible but durable nylon and polyester (especially if made from recycled water bottles) are very good options. Invest in a high-quality, non-toxic backpack vs. one that will fall apart after one year of use.
Sidekick Backpack made from recycled polyester and nylon
Fluf Organic Cotton Laptop Backpack
Look for durable, PVC-free lunch bags and zero waste lunch boxes that will last more than one season.
Zero Waste Lunch Gear
Stock up on reusable lunch containers and snack bags as a replacement for plastic baggies and plastic wrap. Invest in a stainless steel water bottle. Try to minimize waste in your lunch as much as possible!
Notebooks, Paper & Binders
Buy paper products, notebooks and binders make with recycled paper (from post-consumer waste) or paper from sustainable sources. Look for 3-ring binders without a plastic cover (or clearly labeled PVC-free).
Sugarcane Paper 3-Subject Notebook (made from leftover sugar cane pulp)
Sustainable Pencils & Pens
Choose eco-friendly pencils made from recycled materials or wood from sustainably managed forests, and pens made from recycled plastic are better for the environment.
Recycled Plastic Gel Pen (made from corn-based plastic with soy ink)
Natural Grass Pen (ballpoint pens made from natural meadow grass and BPA-free plastics)
Non-Toxic Markers, Crayons & Chalk
Definitely avoid cheap crayons which may be laced with asbestos (as mentioned above). Beeswax and soy crayons are nice alternatives. Water based markers are best, but if you must buy permanent markers, make sure they are free from xylene, toluene, and other VOCs.
Miscellaneous School Supplies
Most school glue is pretty safe but a plant-based version is better for the planet. Look for recycled versions of common school supplies like paper clips, erasers, scissors and pencil cases. If you must buy hand sanitizer, get a non-toxic brand.
What are your favorite eco-friendly school supply sources? Please share in the comments!