Yikes! It’s already that time of year – back to school time.
As a kid, I can’t say I was always excited about summer ending but I always looked forward to going back-to-school shopping. Oh, the shopping was glorious! TrapperKeepers, pencil cases, 0.7mm and then 0.5mm lead pencils, possibly a new backpack, packs of loose leaf paper…aisles and aisles of newness. I loved it all.
I always get a bit nostalgic this time of year as everything turns over a new leaf, and when I came across this video by the Washington Post last week on avoiding toxic chemicals in school supplies, I felt prompted to take the next step – research and find alternatives so you could act on the great recommendations they make in the video. Maybe you don’t enjoy shopping as much as I do or maybe you’ve never thought of school supplies as dangerous. Well, I am so happy to share Washington Post’s recommendations and these nontoxic school supplies making your back to school shopping a little easier and your kid’s days a bit less toxic.
1. Use stainless steel instead of plastic containers for food
One of the first things I did when I got a new job was buy a lidded Pyrex bowl to put my lunch in because I did not want to microwave plastic. (Note: I no longer use the microwave but still love my trusty Pyrex dish.) My Pyrex had a plastic lid so plastic is sometimes unavoidable as they help to keep food fresh and make containers leakproof. But you know what? We do the best we can! Glass containers are not a great idea for kids but stainless steel is a perfect alternative. True to its name, it won’t stain or store odors and is easy to clean. Here are some options I love!
LunchBots Bento Cinco Stainless Steel Food Container
One of our team members, Marie, just picked up a Lunchbots Bento container to hold her lunches. It is very sturdy, not flimsy at all, and fits a fair amount of food. The stainless steel top fits fairly tightly on the container but is not leakproof so I wouldn’t toss it in my bag with important papers. The dividers are built into the container so your flavors won’t mix but at the same time, you are stuck with the formation of the dividers. In addition to the one with five sections pictured, you can also get them with three , two or no dividers . And here is one that is a smaller size suitable for smaller portions. Some reviewers on Amazon even said that they were able to replace Lunchables by using a Lunchbots container to pack lunch instead. How cool (and less pricey) is that?
Innobaby Keepin’ Fresh Stainless Divided Bento
This stainless steel bento is double wall insulated which will help keep food warm or cold. The biggest challenge is the removable divider which means sauces and liquids will go from one section to another. This does have a plastic top which allows your kiddie to see their beautifully packed lunch. If you’re not a fan of green, you can get it in blue, pink, and orange.
THERMOS FOOGO Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel 10-Ounce Food Jar
I use a Thermos to keep my soups warm in the winter. I was pleasantly surprised the first time I was able to enjoy a warm lunch from home. Just be sure to pour hot water in the Thermos to preheat it first. If you want to send your son or daughter off to school with a warm lunch, this is a perfect option. A suction can form from the hot food so be sure your little one knows to ask a teacher for help if they can’t open it.
2. Use real silverware
It is never too early to teach a child to use a real spoon and fork. Real food deserves real utensils! Your babe will enjoy the eating experience more, and you don’t have to worry about more plastic touching their food. Win-win. Take a look-see at some items I’d be happy to have in my own lunch bag.
SugarBooger Silverware Set
I just bought this spoon and fork set for my daughter in the My Garden design with fruits and veggies. She loves the magnetic case and practicing with the spoon and fork. Her teacher just told me that she prefers using her metal utensils to the plastic ones at school. These are stainless steel but have really cute designs on the plastic, BPA-free handles. There are almost two dozen designs to choose from so you’re sure to find one to fit your son or daughter’s personality. Good luck choosing!
To-Go Ware RePEat Bamboo Kids Utensil Flatware Set
I am obsessed with the adult version of these bamboo utensils. Imagine how excited I was to see child size ones! Bamboo is a sustainable plant, the fastest growing one on Earth, and does not require fertilizer, pesticides, or herbicides to grow. If you are uneasy with your little one using metal utensils without your supervision, these bamboo ones are a great alternative. This set comes with a spoon, fork and knife stored in very vibrant colored cases made of recycled plastic bottles. You’ve got a choice of melon, berry (pictured), kiwi, and orange.
3. Buy high quality, truly nontoxic crayons
Did you know that a recent report by the Environmental Working Group showed some crayon brands had traces of asbestos? I’m already paranoid about finger painted hands ending up in little mouths; I do not want to add toxic crayons to the mix. Petroleum-derived and containing paraffin, crayons aren’t all that great already. Natural based crayons are usually made of beeswax and plant based waxes including soy and palm wax. If you are so inclined, you can make your own with this awesome recipe from Mommypotamus. While I always love the idea of DYI-ing, most projects just never get completed (*cough*homemade soap*cough*). There are times when I think it’s worth it time and quality wise to pay for something already made and this is one of those times. I was pleasantly surprised to find a couple of products that fit the bill.
Wee Can Too Organic Veggie Crayons
These crayons’ blocky shape are perfect for little hands. They are made from soy wax, mineral pigments and fruit and veggie powders and smell like blueberry, pomegranate, basil, tangerine, and lemon. It might be hard to keep the kiddies from trying these out! There are some mixed reviews on the pressure needed to produce a vibrant color but I think younger babes won’t mind as long as some color shows up. That may also mean your walls won’t need as deep a scrubbing either
Crayon Rocks 16 Colors in a Muslin Bag
There are so many things I love about this product. The rock shape helps kids with their fine motor skills. Honestly, I don’t remember ever completely finishing a whole stick of crayons. I just continuously got new boxes as I broke them or they got dull – neither of which would happen due to the shape. And there are 16 colors in the bag. Your child can color almost anything with crayons in red, green, blue, egg yolk yellow, black, brown, orange, purple, pink, grass green, sky blue, sunshine yellow, gray, tan, and peach. Lastly, these soy crayons are made in rural Kentucky. I love that they are a USA made product.
4. Avoid plastics and PVCs in backpacks and lunchboxes
I had never considered backpacks to be filled with plastics and PVCs until I watched this video, and then I realized my backpack from college has actually been shedding plastic for the past year. After 13 years of dutiful service, the internal plastic lining is breaking apart. When plastic breaks into small pieces, it can become airborne and breathed in or fall into food and be ingested. You don’t want plastic touching your food much less be breathing it in or eating it! PVC is a soft plastic that has been linked to cancer, birth defects and hormone and immune disruption. Binders, lunchboxes, and raincoats are other things kids use that commonly contain PVCs.
Here are some awesome backpack options I found free of PVC. Backpacks are tricky because children see it as an extension of themselves and an opportunity to express their personality. Designs are important and were definitely considered in my search.
Correction: In the original version of this article, I included Skip Hop backpacks on this list but after speaking to their customer service, I learned that their backpacks actually include PVCs . I have removed them from this list but hope that they will consider removing PVCs in their future products so they can be included in future articles. Fortunately, there are other cute backpacks that don’t have PVCs for you to choose from.
Lassig Sturdy Durable Children’s Backpack
I had not heard of Lassig until I started looking for PVC free backpacks but I had to include them because they are awesome! They are a German company that create a variety of well designed bags for moms, teens, and children. They pride themselves on being a casual but responsible company that is environmentally friendly and does not use PVC, azo dyes, phthalates, nickel or cadmium in any of their products. Their backpack designs definitely stand out from others and in addition to the elephant design in the picture, they have backpacks with a owl, turtle, giraffe, bird, and rhino. You can also take a look at their fun travel cases for kids and diaper bags for moms here.
The Honest Company Backpacks
The Honest Company has some really cute and well designed items, and these limited edition backpacks are no exception. They are a good size for grade schoolers who are starting bring more homework home. The bag is 100% polyester (that’s water resistant) and does not use PVC, latex, brominated flame retardants, polyurethane foams, glues, chlorine processing, phthalates, PBA, BPS & AZO dyes. And to make you feel even better, if you buy one, one backpack filled with essential products will be hand delivered to a child preparing to enter kindergarten.LEARN MORE
JanSport Big Student Colorblocked Backpack
Growing up, I aspired to have a Jansport backpack. I thought, “Everyone seemed to have one so they must be good!” Well, it turns out that they are pretty good. Jansport backpacks are PVC and lead free. And there are so many styles to choose from. You’ll be able to find the right size and design whether you have a second grader a too-cool-for-school teenager.
LUNCH BOXES are often made of plastic. I remember mine from elementary school was hot pink but had a motocyclist on it. Pretty badass. Because lunchboxes hold food and drinks, it is so important that they are free plastics and PVCs. Here are some beautiful non-plastic lunch boxes (though maybe not as cool as my pink one).
Ore Sugarbooger Zippee Backpack and Lunch Box Set
If you get the SugarBooger spoon and fork set, this will make a perfect match. The product pictured is a win-win – a back pack and lunch tote in one! Their bags and lunch box sets are equally cute and good for you. They are free of lead, BPA, phthalates, and PVC. If you are all set with a backpack, you can get the lunch totes alone. Here are two standalone lunchboxes – one with a pink Parisian feel and another with a jungle theme.
Beatrix New York Lunch Box
I absolutely love this dinosaur design. This lunch box is made of heavy-duty nylon and food-safe EVA film. It’s free of PVC, phthalates, and lead. And a bonus for you, it’s machine washable! This company also has lunch boxes in other quirky designs: robot, lion eating a burger, owl with an attitude, fat monkey, and cannibalistic ice cream cones.
Their backpacks are adorable too!
SoYoung Fox Insulated Lunch Box
I’ve spied these lunchboxes around town. The linen material is very distinguishable and looks classy but casual. It has a longer strap so you can carry it on your should while juggling other things. It is insulated also which is not always the case with lunchboxes so their meal can stay warm or cool. Look cool in this PVC, phthalate, and BPA free lunch box. Be sure to check out their other designs.
5. choose fragrance-free hand sanitizers
Hand sanitizers are an item covered in The Great Purse Purge (join now to learn more about hand sanitizers and other items). At the core of it, you want to stick with essential oil based hand sanitizers for their natural scent and antiviral/anti-fungal/antibacterial properties instead of using ones with artificial fragrances and chemicals. With kids, some parents prefer non-alcoholic choices due to possible ingestion. Here are ones would make great additions to your little one’s backpack.
EO Products Hand Sanitizer Spray and Gel
EO Products hand sanitizers have a base of organic alcohol and also include organic essential oils and vegetable glycerin which acts as a natural moisturizer. The spray includes echinacea, offering natural anti-inflammatory properties. The gel includes organic jojoba oil and an additional moisturizing agent. These products come in a nice variety of scents: peppermint, sweet orange and lemon.
Everyone Hand Sanitizer Spray and Gel
Everyone Hand Sanitizer Spray is actually made by EO Products and is also alcohol based. It is non-GMO and is 99.99% effective against most common germs. Other ingredients include plant-based glycerin and jojoba oil to keep hands moisturized and soft as well as pure essential oils. In addition to a spray, it comes in gel form and can be found in two yummy scents coconut plus lemon and peppermint plus citrus.
So there you have it. Some awesome, very cute options. I kind of wish I was doing some back to school shopping Get shopping and get your kiddos starting their new school year on the right foot!
Do you have anything else on your shopping list that you need help de-toxifying? Comment below and I’ll do my best to help or maybe some of the other awesome ladies here can chime in too.
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