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Product: Green Supplies - Office, School, Art, Toys

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:

  • Green School Supplies Directory

  • 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
    • Remanufactured
    • Reusable

    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.

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    Why Buy Green?

    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.
    • 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:

    Apply for listing in the Guide »
    Disclaimer: Listing in this Directory should not be construed as a recommendation or endorsement by Green Schools Initiative or any of its supporters or partners. GSI is providing this information as a public service to promote the use of greener practices and products. Listings in this Directory are based on information obtained from the product manufacturer, supplier, or service provider in question, and may not be complete. GSI reviews the information obtained from these sources to determine if its meets our health and environmental criteria, but does not independently verify the information. GSI provides no warranty or guarantee of product performance, safety, price, or availability.