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Choosing safer school supplies is as easy as 1-2-3! First, reuse what you can from last year. Next, read on for healthier alternatives. Last, work with your school to develop safer options for next year, especially for items such as markers that require collaboration with the school.

Go PVC-free this back-to-school season

Lunch boxes, backpacks, and binders can be made of PVC vinyl, a type of plastic that may contain lead, cadmium, and harmful plasticizers known as phthalates which have been linked to asthma.

Lunch Boxes

Choose cotton, hemp, or bamboo lunch bags. You can find cloth lunch bags at Fluf,, and U Konserve.  If you opt for a bag with a plastic liner, be sure it is PVC-free. Alternately, opt for insulated lunch bags like this one from Crocodile Creek, but be sure they are PVC-free.

Consider packing lunch without plastics. Plastics are convenient but can leach chemicals that contaminate our food and drink. Resin codes #2 HDPE, #4 LDPE, and #5 PP are considered safer, yet can contain chemical additives that may not have been well evaluated for safety.

Opt for stainless steel containers such as All Stainless Lunch Bots or the ECOlunchbox, waxed paper bags or use tempered glass for older children.  Remember that fatty or acidic foods more readily absorb migrating chemicals, so avoid storing them in plastic.  From an environmental impact perspective, you can minimize waste by using reusable cloth and nylon bags such as Reusies. Take a look at other options at

Choose stainless steel water bottles like Klean Kanteen or perhaps glass bottles with a silicone grip for older children.


There are many vinyl-free materials, including canvas, nylon or polyester. JanSport is one example. You can also look for backpacks labeled “PVC free.”


Opt for cardboard, fabric or “poly” plastic binders. Poly binders are made of polypropylene, a safer plastic. Examples include Avery’s Round Ring Poly Binder and Mead’s Five Star Poly Binder, both available at office supply stores.