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safer school supply solutions graphicBY AMY ZIFF

The reality is that there are unsafe chemicals in school supplies. At worst there are carcinogens in the classroom and what parents don’t realize is that they’re buying these harmful products and sending their kids to school with them each and every day.

BETTER CHOICES 

In the last several years we’ve seen asbestos in crayons, benzene in dry erase markers, while lead and cadmium have been found in pencil cases, backpacks and other common school supplies sold online.

It’s easy to be frustrated and just look the other way—trust me, I know. But I’ve chosen not to. At MADE SAFE we work daily to bring better choices to parents. We choose empowerment and education. We vote for progress with our wallets and try to lead by example.

There aren’t enough school supply companies making nontoxic options…yet. But that is why we are taking the time to highlight the issue, and recognize products that are going in the right direction. We want to help you make informed purchases while supporting companies that are making nontoxic products that won’t harm our children or the planet.

Here’s a round-up of some of our favorite safer-swap-school-supply-solutions!
backpack icon Backpacks need to be sourced from natural materials like canvas, denim, hemp or cotton to avoid the worst chemicals. These are carried widely. As a general rule, avoid shiny, sparkly or strong-smelling backpacks as they’re likely off-gassing chemicals straight from the manufacturer. 
notebook pencil icon Your search for notebooks, pens, pencils, colored pencils, erasers, and more should lead you to Wisdom Supply Co. They have a collection of school supplies that won’t pollute your body or the earth.
water bottle icon Water bottles should use zero plastic. Look for stainless steel options such as MADE SAFE Certified Pura bottles, or a glass solution, potentially in a silicone sleeve to survive trips with kids!
bento box icon For lunch packs, look for stainless steel bento box style or stainless containers like these from Lunch Bots and U•Konserve. You’ll invest in these once and use them for years. Though ours have been dropped and dinged they still work great and are lightweight and durable.
tote bag icon Say no to PVC lunch bags and vinyl lined lunch boxes. Quick tip: avoid #3 plastics. Opt instead for natural, reusable, fun and cute lunch bags, snack bags, backpacks and totes from Fluf.  Available on Amazon Smile (so your purchase can benefit MADE SAFE and Nontoxic Certified).
bees wrap icon Instead of plastic sandwich and snack bags that can contain and leach phthalates, try a reusable wrap made from bee’s wax like Abeego.
rainboots icon For waterproof gear – be very careful to source only natural rubber or you’re likely using something toxic for you or the planet. These Stonz rainboots are a good solution. The next best choice is polyurethane gear, like those from Puddle Gear, but polyurethane is really hard on the environment so while better than PVC, it’s not an ideal solution. We have to recognize however, that sometimes better is the best choice.
handsoap icon For hand soaps that are free of endocrine active antimicrobial and antibacterial ingredients, shop a variety of MADE SAFE certified solutions.
hand sanitizer icon Need a hand sanitizer without the hormone-disrupting chemicals? Opt for Kosmotology’s natural spray. It’s MADE SAFE certified and easy when soap and water aren’t accessible. 
wipes icon Kids often need to take wipes to school. Be sure you’re getting wipes that aren’t made from plastic! We like the MADE SAFE certified ones by Caboo such as these handy wipes.

These sources should be a good place to get you started on your nontoxic back-to-school buying! In the meantime, check out my recent interview on this topic with WSB-TV 2 Atlanta!


Amy Ziff is the Founder and Executive Director of MADE SAFE®, a program of Nontoxic Certified, a nonprofit 501(c)(3). MADE SAFE is America’s first comprehensive human health-focused certification for nontoxic products across store aisles, from baby to personal care to household and beyond.

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