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The Greening Of My School Supplies

This fall (sniffle) I will have a child in kindergarten. (Eep!)
With the arrival of August, suddenly I realize "I'd better get on it!" and research exactly what it is we are supposed to send on with a child entering school. My husband is German, so we will have a proper "send off" on the first day with school supplies and candy packed in a Schultüte. (Fear not, as much of a dork as I am, I won't send him to school with it and therefore brand him as a complete weirdo in the USA, much less the south. I know better.)

Fortunately, Grist and other green bloggers have walked this road before- I am not the first mom to attempt the "greening" of the school supply list; thankfully I do not have to re-invent the wheel. So if you are on a similar quest, just Google "eco-friendly backpack" or "eco-friendly school supplies." But finding affordable green alternatives to the school supply list can be daunting. Really, anything you can reuse that you already own is economical and eco-friendly.

This year, I learned my lesson with the 4 year old: Annually I would shop 80% off sales to stock up for clothes economically a year ahead. But I did not consider the young'un's adamant, individual taste in fashion. Who knew practical, striped dresses with nice, comfortable leggings would be ignored for a ribbon-bedecked frilly hand-me-down "princess dress"? That she wore over, and over, and over? (And often wore ALL her favorite dresses at the same time, thickly layered, always to her teacher's amusement?)

Fortunately we pass on all of the clothes that survive the first wearing to others, so it was not wasteful, but I really could have saved time and money if I had known...

So, this time, wiser, I sat the future kindergarten-er down to allow him the choice of picking out his backpack, his lunch box, for his own personal style of responsible gear.

This is what we had for our school supply list, and then, in blue, what we chose:
(Items with an asterisk are supposedly required to purchase that brand)

1 standard-size backpack without wheels Easy enough to find eco-friendly options. But affordable? Maybe I'll just head over to the thrift store. But finding a non-vinyl backpack? Hmmmm. Back to research.

I did run into stylish, recycled English Retreads, but er, um, not for a boy in kindergarten. ; ) But I finally found this interesting post, and from there ended up on who is, for a limited time, having a great offer of a rucksack as part of their membership drive! What better way & opportunity to explain this organization to your child?

1 marble composition book Regarding paper, what you need to remember is to look for high content recycled paper (PCW) and processed chlorine free (PCF) , which avoids the dioxin and mercury used in bleaching the paper.
1 box large *Crayola washable markers
1 *Fiskar scissors-blunt, metal blades Looking for higher recycled-content scissors.
1 box 16 crayons
1 plastic supply box (8 1/2" x 2 1/2") I Googled the dimensions and added "eco-friendly" to the query and discovered From there I was able to purchase the scissors, crayons, glue, and much more... except, sigh, a supply box.
Plastic Mat-*Kindermat, plastic, quad fold, blue/red about 1" thick (available at Wal-Mart, Ben Franklin, etc) Although I could easily find a way to purchase Kindermats, I surprisingly could not find a manufacturer link. The only descriptions of the product was on retail sites, and then they used words like "vinyl" and "plastic"... er, I will not be sending Kindermats with my child. (And think how many Kindermats end up in landfills a year?!?) Not to mention avoiding any PVC, whether it be in mats, backpacks, shoes, or clothes. From Grist:
"...soft vinyl contains plasticizers called phthalates, many of which affect reproductive health and sexual development, according to animal experiments. And di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate, which is widely added to soft vinyl products, is considered a probable carcinogen by the U.S. National Toxicology Program. In some studies, phthalates have been shown to migrate out of soft PVC products, so they can be inhaled or ingested. Tests by Greenpeace have also found the toxic heavy metals lead and cadmium in vinyl backpacks and raincoats. Clearly, PVC deserves not only a failing grade but expulsion from the planet."
So an eco-friendly version? That took me awhile...
In fact, it took me *more* than awhile, and I was surprised and irritated by the lack of immediate options to Kindermat. Ironically I found children's yoga mats and
lots of pet mats but no practical, simple, cheap eco rest mats (a nice organic cotton yoga mat I thought might work turned out to be $200!).

Finally, in frustration I turned to, thinking, "Well heck if I can't find it maybe someone there can *make* it." (I am not crafty with a needle & thread)
I found one gal who had a bunch of creative, fun prints and emailed her. Another gal, who I will call Gal #2, also replied to my inquiry:
Good afternoon and thank you so much for your question. The covers for the nap mats are made out of 100% cotton with velcro. I use the Vinyl Kindermat that the schools require due to health regulations. That is the only style I offer. Thanks again for your question.
(Obviously gal #2 doesn't read Grist! I sent her information on the bad health effects of vinyl.)

Gal #1 responded favorably, we discussed the issue, and she's agreed to offer a trial product of rest mats. I chose mine in a tattoo fabric, kinda boyish but not baby-boy or too stereotypical.

So if you're looking for something similar, hurry and visit to purchase the mat now!!!! The bonus is we can also offer our mat later to friends' children when camping on our land / spending the night in our zero energy house, so it will be used for years to come.

6 #2 standard sharpened pencils: Recycled content pencils are easy to find at Office Max / Office Depot / Staples.
16 glue sticks
1 *Elmer's School Glue, 7.6 oz. bottle Hmmmm. Just for kicks I researched "vegetarian glue" since most glue is made out of animal by-products (no I am not vegetarian so don't call me a hypocrite when I talk about my meat!). I found this, which I found fascinating, debating whether Elmer's is environmentally friendly, which compelled me to seek a non oil by-product glue... and I stumbled across MagiGlue. If you have time, visit the manufacturers page, whose story is interesting, as well as the product's site.
(white glue only)
1 family-size box of anti-viral tissues
1 container of baby wipes--new
1 bottle instant hand sanitizer Pretty easy to find eco-friendly options, I liked All Terrain's mission statement.

1 box Ziploc baggies (snack size)
1 box Ziploc baggies (quart size)
1 box Ziploc bags (gallon size)
1 pkg. brown lunch bags
First of all, I'm curious as to why they separate it out by gender.
Secondly, hellz no I'm not sending plastic bags to class! (Snort!) Who do ya think I am?!? I don't see why sending a few recycled tote bags can't hold any crafts & stuff to bring home daily... and for smaller stuff? How about folding it neatly into a cloth napkin? That's what we did with towels & our bathing suits/goggles/etc. at camp!

Oh, Geez Louise: Fine, here's how ya do it:
Lie napkin on table. Put whatever in it (picture a bead necklace or whatever it is they make in kindergarden) in the middle. Fold the left side over, covering 2/3... fold the right side over, covering 2/3... kinda like a burrito... and then roll, from top to bottom, or bottom to top, whatever floats yer boat. Place in recycled tote bag. Taaaa daaaa! Now that didn't hurt, did it?

So, sitting down wit my chile',
we picked out a lunchbox at

He chose the plain bento box, with a stainless steel thermos, because he "wanted to look like an adult." We also picked up some Wrap-n-Mats for sandwiches, which also then turn into a "plate" for his lunch.


  • Replaces wasteful plastic sandwich and snack bags
  • Pays for itself over time
  • Only reusable sandwich wrap and place mat in one
  • Lightweight
  • Made with Fair Labor/Fair Wages
  • Food safe, PEVA liner that wipes clean
  • Eco-Print design printed with vegetable based dyes
  • Available in Blue, Green, Red Check and Eco-Print
  • Click here to see swatches of each style.
  • Approximately 13 x 13 when open.

  • I eyed the cute reusable bamboo utensils but opted to reuse flatware from home.
    And of course we'll be packing cloth napkins for his use; this household certainly does not have paper napkins or towels!

    If you have any good, affordable links for kindergarten supplies, I'd love to hear more! Just comment below, people will appreciate them.




    At 8/13/08, 4:47 PM , Blogger mere said...

    Greetings from Texas!

    I found your blog through the Green Kits site. What cool little houses!

    As for your question about why they are separating school supplies by gender, it's because these items, as well as most of the other things you submit, will go into a pool of supplies for your child's class or perhaps his grade. That means that even if you choose not to provide these things because of enviromental reasons, or if you get the veggie glue for your child, he will still come home with his backpack full of plastic bags filled with stuff, smeared with Elmer's glue. I know. It's sad. We try to teach our kids to be responsible, and then send them to school, where they often get entirely the opposite lesson. This was new to me when one of my kids needed to go to public school because of special needs, whereas my others are homeschooled. Funny, we just don't have that issue at home. I do think his mat will be safe though...they are pretty good about that usually.

    Have a great day!

    At 8/13/08, 4:54 PM , Blogger Passive Solar Prefab Homes said...

    Thank you for your nice comment and explanation!

    I wonder if I speak with the teacher we might think of other alternatives... I did purchase a whole bunch of MagiGlue to supply the classroom, not just one child, but it would be nice if we could do something about those plastic bags...

    Thank you for your insight!


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