It's back-to-school season, and that means fresh notebooks, sharp colored pencils and crisp, clean backpacks. Getting green school supplies is easy because there are so many options out there.
Backpacks: Getting an eco-friendly backpack can be as simple as getting one that's built to last a whole year, one that you won't need to replace come November. Conventional backpacks, especially the plastic ones for little kids, can contain potentially harmful chemicals and dyes. EcoGear's EcoZoo backpacks are made from recycled and renewable materials, don't contain PVC and are colored with nontoxic dyes. EcoGear even has a line of backpacks for older kids (in case your eighth-grader doesn't want to carry around a backpack shaped like a panda). Go to ecogear-products.com.
Crayons: Traditional crayons are made from petroleum, so why not try soy crayons this year for school? Soy crayons were developed by two Purdue students in 1993 as an entry into a soybean utilization contest. Unlike regular crayons, soy crayons are completely biodegradable. Two brands to try? Crayon Rocks (crayonrocks.net), which are virtually indestructible and fun for kids to use because of their unique shape (which is said to improve a child's handwriting grip, too), and Prang (prang.com), which sells eight crayons for only a dollar.
Lunch boxes: PlanetBox's lunch boxes (planetbox.com), right, made from stainless steel, are great for older kids and picky eaters who need a variety of foods to make lunch interesting. They're also good for kids (and adults) who don't like their noodles fraternizing with their fruit. Another option is bento boxes, which are colorful, contain no toxic chemicals and are very easy to clean. Crocodile Creek lunch boxes (crocodilecreek.com), left, are free of PVC and phthalates.
Pens and pencils: Grassroots' biodegradable pens (grassrootsstore.com), made entirely from corn starch, will completely disintegrate within a year of being thrown away. Try it out yourself in your backyard. If your kids aren't allowed to use pens in class yet, try ForestPoint pencils, made from FSC-certified wood.