Product: Green Supplies - Office, School, Art, Toys
- Green Products: What Should I Get?
- Criteria: How Do I Know It's Green?
- Costs: Can I Afford It?
- Green Products: How Do I Find Them?
- Beyond Buying: Other Environmentally Friendly Options
Green Products: What Should I Get?
The Green School Supplies Directory provides information about greener school supplies, including brands, manufacturers, and places to buy recycled content portfolio pocket folders, pens, newspaper pencils, and more.
Green Products: How Do I Find Them?
Download the Green School Supplies Directory here:
Criteria: How Do I Know It's Green?
There are currently no certifiers on the market for toys, school, or office supplies. So look for:
- Less-toxic – especially no phthalates or bisphenol A
- Recyclable or have recycled content
Also, look for items that are not made with hazardous materials such as PVC, and which contain recycled materials.
Avoid PVC Plastic - If a product contains or is packaged in PVC, it will have the number “3” inside or the letter “V” underneath the universal recycling symbol. In addition, soft flexible plastic products made with PVC often have a distinct odor. The good news is that many companies have made a commitment to phasing out the use of PVC in their products. For a list of companies that have agreed to phase out PVC in their products, see Center for Health, Environment and Justice.
Purchase Recycled Content Products - The state of California has a policy that requires state agencies to purchase products containing recycled content in the following 11 categories: Paper Products; Printing and Writing Papers; Mulch, Compost, Co-compost; Glass Products; Lubricating Oils; Plastic Products; Paint; Antifreeze; Tires; Tire-Derived Products; and Metal Products. These websites provide information on the state requirements. While the policy does not require schools to purchase these products, it can serve as a useful guide for schools that wish to do so. For more information:
The California Integrated Waste Management Board ( CIWMB) is also an
excellent resource to help buy recycled school supplies. The easiest
and most widely available recycled products that schools use are
recycled copy paper, hand towels, toilet seat covers, and toilet
tissue (See the Green Paper section of our Guide). You can also purchase school supplies and other goods made with
post-consumer recycled materials like lunch trays, lunch bags, pens,
pencils, rulers, clipboards, ink jet and toner cartridges, stadium
cups, etc. You can find these and other recycled items by searching the
CIWMB’s Recycled-Content Product Database. This directory has been set
up to assist individuals, small business owners, state agencies, and
corporate buyers in the commitment to buy recycled. The RCP Directory
lists thousands of products containing recycled materials as well as
information about the manufacturers, distributors and re-processors of
these products. Many of them are competitively priced and of course,
help the environment!!
Costs: Can I Afford It?
Buying recycled-content supplies cooperatively can save time and money. By “piggybacking” on other contracts, school districts can get more favorable pricing and eliminate specification and contract negotiation time. These bulk purchasing programs are available through government and nonprofit organizations. Programs available through the government include the California Multiple Award Schedule (CMAS). The state of California has a procurement contract for “office supplies” with Office Depot, which now carries many recycled products.
Programs through nonprofit resources include the Recycled Products Purchasing Cooperative and the U.S. Communities Government Purchasing Alliance. See our Green Buying Tools to the right for information on bulk purchasing and contracts.
Our "Greenbacks for Green Schools" lists other resources for saving money to green your school.
Beyond Buying: Other Environmentally Friendly Options
Consider reusing your existing supplies, rather than buy new! When pulling together your back-to-school supplies, you may be able to reuse your backpack, binders, dividers, and folders. Spiral notebooks can have used pages removed and the remainder is ready to go. Check out these other ideas for re-purposing your supplies so you can save greenbacks as well as resources.
Reuse old crayons - Make new crayons out of old ones by melting them in muffin tins. Check out many new uses from old crayons at this site!
Donate and buy used toys - You can donate used toys from your classroom to Goodwill, Salvation Army, or other local establishments. You can buy used toys as well - but don't buy used stuffed animals, and never bring in broken, chipped, or unsafe toys.
Checking toys for lead - Many stories have highlighted toys tainted with lead. Rather than throw them all away, check the recall lists and test your toys. The Centers for Disease Control has outlined steps for checking the safety of your toys and your child, and has links to toy recall lists. There are at-home test kits, like LeadCheck and Lead Inspector, but some say these are not very accurate. There are also services that do more in-depth testing of toys and rooms in your home or school, such as Inspect A Toy, Inc.
Why Buy Green? - Green Supplies - Office, School, Art, Toys
School and office supplies, toys, and art supplies can contain hazardous chemicals and be made from non-renewable resources. Art supplies like paints, cements, thinners, clays, glazes and dyes contain such toxic substances as hexane, methylene chloride, lead, formaldehyde and cadmium. Less-toxic art supplies are essential for a healthy school environment -- for example, strong smelling dry-erase markers or permanent markers may be an irritant for children with asthma.
Many toys, and office and school supplies, are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a common plastic material that poses major hazards in its manufacture, product life, and disposal. It contributes to persistent toxic pollutants and endocrine-disrupting chemicals, which interfere with hormonal functioning and development.
Your school can make a difference by purchasing products that are made from recycled materials and that do not contain hazardous materials, particularly PVC. By buying toys and products with recycled content, you help reduce the environmental impact of a product over its entire life cycle – fewer virgin materials go into producing it, and less material is disposed of in a landfill when its source is recycled.
Other chemicals with suspected links to cancer and developmental problems are present in some toys found in schools. These toxic chemicals, used to harden or soften plastics, can leach out if a child sucks on the toys. Millions of other toys have been recalled because of high lead content. Politicians are finally paying attention and taking action on this important consumer products issue.
In July 2008, Congress reached an agreement to ban phthalates in toys and other children's products while the California Legislature recently passed a bill to limit Bisphenol A--the prime chemical in making the polycarbonate plastic popular in durable, clear Nalgene water bottles.
Where Can I Get More Information
- TheGreenOffice.com - Sells supplies with recycled content, fewer hazardous chemicals, PVC-free, and reusability (like refillable pens). New "PVC-free Catalog," having removed nearly 2,000 products containing PVC or vinyl from their catalog. Enter the coupon code TGOWELCOME at checkout, and receive 10% off your first purchase.
- Green Apple Supply - Sells eco-friendly supplies for home, school and work, including papers, school and office supplies, foodware, and green cleaners.
- Center for Health, Environment and Justice's (CHEJ) Back-to-School Guide to PVC-Free School Supplies (pdf)- Guide of the most common back-to-school supplies made out of PVC plastic and safer PVC-free alternatives.
- Center for New American Dream
- New Dream's Conscious Consumer Marketplace has great school supply guides, as well as tips for not buying - the best way to save!
- Enviroblog - EWG's tips on green school supplies.
- EcoArtWorks - Less-toxic art supplies
- The Play Store - wood, natural, organic toys
- Ikea - Furniture, cabinets, baskets are PVC-free, have low formaldehyde levels, phasing out PBDE flame retardants, and from non-old-growth wood sources.
Green Buying Tools
"Environmentally Preferable Purchasing" or "Green Purchasing" means integrating environmental and health factors into all procurement policies and decisions. Green purchasing can also save money, protect students and staff, and reduce liability—something schools everywhere should care about.
The following tools will help you get started: