Here’s How To Minimize The Hazardous Chemicals In Your Child’s Back-To-School Routine

It’s back-to-school time. Grab a backpack. Pack a lunchbox. But this year, leave the toxic chemicals behind.

Shopping for the newest and shiniest supplies is a fun September ritual, but certain school products are made with some pretty nasty chemicals. This year, follow these simple rules for a fun and safe school year.

1. Avoid lunchtime plastics.

When planning and making your child’s lunch, skip the plastic. Use reusable materials instead of plastic bags or utensils to reduce waste and lessen your child’s exposure to potentially dangerous chemicals like BPA and phthalates. Choose natural-fiber bags or unpainted stainless-steel lunch boxes instead.

Check out this guide for easy techniques to help your family cut down on household plastics.

2. Avoid PVC in school supplies.

While you’re shopping for a new backpack or lunch box, watch out for recycling code #3. Plastic #3 is made of PVC (polyvinyl chloride) — a synthetic material that creates highly toxic and carcinogenic dioxins during manufacturing. PVC plastics are softened with phthalates, which have been shown to disrupt the hormone system. Opt for natural-fiber bags instead, or plastics #1, 2, 4, and 5.

3. Pack a healthy lunch.

This year, skip the processed snack bars in favor of whole, healthy foods. Use EWG’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists for ideas on how to pick fruits and vegetables with less pesticide residue. Be especially careful of apples, as they top the Dirty Dozen list for the fifth year in a row! Instead, try pineapple, mangoes or kiwis — all of which made the Clean Fifteen this year.

4. Hydrate sustainably.

Skip bottled water altogether. Single-use plastics are unsustainable and may contain harmful chemicals. In addition, bottled water isn’t necessarily cleaner than tap since its producers don’t have to disclose where the water comes from, how it's purified, or any water-quality test results. Opt instead for a reusable stainless-steel bottle filled with filtered tap water when sending your child off to school or sports practice.

Looking for more simple tips to help make your family's life a little greener? Check out my Clean Living 101 and Clean Cosmetics video courses.

Heather White

President and CEO at Yellowstone Forever
Heather’s role as the leader of Yellowstone Forever is to achieve the organization’s mission of connecting people to Yellowstone through outstanding visitor experiences and educational programs, and translating those experiences into lifelong support and philanthropic investment. She oversees an annual budget of $20 million and a staff of 65 year-round and 75 seasonal employees, in two offices and 11 Park Stores. Previously, Heather was the executive director of Environmental Working Group (EWG), director of education advocacy for National Wildlife Federation, and counsel to U.S. Senator Russ Feingold. She first visited Yellowstone when she was 11 as part of a cross-country national park tour with her dad, sparking a deep, lifelong commitment to conservation. She is an avid hiker and backpacker.
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Heather White

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