Green Living Tips for Back to School
Healthy ideas for back to school, back to work, and back to routine
Back-to-school is a busy time for everyone. Even of you don’t have children in school the transition from summer to fall routine usually involves shopping and getting organized. To make the transition healthier for you and the environment here are a few things to consider:
Wash before you wear any new clothesNew clothes are treated with several chemicals to keep them looking crisp and to keep them from being damaged during shipping. Many of the fabrics used to make clothing are treated with dyes and preservatives and washed with harsh detergents. As your new clothes rub on your skin these chemicals get absorbed into your body and if they’re work-out clothes even more of the chemical residue is transferred.
A number of big clothing brands have phased out (or have committed to phasing out) the most toxic chemicals. According to Greenpeace, ten per cent of the global retail fashion industry has committed to eliminating toxic chemicals. But that leaves ninety percent with no plan to make their clothes safer for their customers or the environment. Brands like Diesel, and even GAP (Old Navy, Banana Republic, Athleta), get a failing grade when it comes to the chemicals used by their suppliers and lack of commitment to a detox. Nike gets a poor rating because of their lack of transparency, although the company has committed to removing some of the worst chemicals. Adidas, H&M, Levi’s, and Puma get the best all-around rating.
- To be safe, wash any new clothing at least once before wearing, ideally with ecofriendly detergent. Triple washing is even better, especially for children’s clothing.
Look for Waste-less lunch ideas
In the U.S., more than 20 million disposable sandwich bags are thrown in the garbage every day. And that’s not all that is going in the trash -- It is estimated that a year’s worth of one child’s disposable lunches creates 67 pounds of waste. Considering that waste consists of disposable lunch bags, plastic yogurt cups and empty juice boxes, those 67 pounds amounts to a mountain of waste.
- Stock up on reusable containers for lunch items and general food storage.
- Try to get in the habit of buying fewer individually packaged foods (like yogurt) and instead use reusable storage containers to pack individual servings.
Look for eco-friendly school and office supplies
After Environmental Working Group reported that some name brand crayons contained asbestos I realised that label reading isn’t just for food products.
For general school supplies, Crayola products get a good eco rating, are non-toxic and are made in North America so subject to more stringent health and environmental standards than products manufactured in Asia.
- Beware of Dollar Store crayons, markers and paints. Made off-shore, there are concerns with chemicals used to make these products, especially the chemicals used to formulate the colours.
- Avoid any products that glow in the dark. The Toy Industry Association warns that the chemicals used to make things glow are known to be toxic.
- Stay away from scented products since artificial fragrances contain hormone disruptors.
- Look for paper products made from post-consumer recycled content. From computer paper to loose leaf and scribblers, it’s getting easier to find materials with this kind of recycled symbol. Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) paper products are your next best choice.