With numerous “green” products on the market claiming to be eco-friendly, it can be difficult to sift through all the options to find quality eco-friendly products. With more schools trying to become certified as “green” in order to take advantage of the financial incentives being offered in states like Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and California, finding green school supplies is becoming a necessary task for teachers and administrators.
Going Green in the Classroom
At least nine states in the U.S. are now requiring new schools to meet green-building standards – including Hawaii, Illinois, Connecticut, New Jersey, Washington, and Ohio – with at least three states offering financial incentives to schools going green. With the rising costs of energy, the greening of American schools is part of a larger movement toward increased energy efficient construction in general.
In 2007 the U.S. Green Building Council initiated the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification program which standardises and rates the “greenness” of a building. Standards of design and development for new and existing buildings have been created through the LEED program. Points are awarded according to various criteria including site selection, materials used, water and energy efficiency, and indoor environmental quality.
7 Favourite Green Classroom Supplies
1. Soybean Oil Crayons – Created by two Perdue University students in 1993, soy crayons are made of 85% soybean oil in contrast to their traditional counterpart, which are composed mainly of petroleum derivatives. Some of the advantages to soy crayons include less flaking, brighter colours, less toxic (safer for children), and they are completely biodegradable. Prang a manufacturer of soybean crayons, offers a variety of crayon packages on their website PrangPower.com. Prang’s soy crayons are also available at StubbyPencilStudio.com and a box of 8 crayons costs £1.
2. Eco-Friendly Pencils – GreenLinePaper.com offers “Eco-Writer” pencils made up of 90% P.C.W. (post-consumer waste). Two products featured on their website include Recycled Old Money pencils made from recycled U.S. currency and Recycled Old Blue Jeans pencils made from recycled old denim; each costs £.33 per pencil.
3. Tree-Free Paper – One elementary school with a student population of approximately 600 students could potentially save 78 trees in one school year by switching to either tree-free paper or 100% P.C.W. paper. Companies like EcoPaper offer the ultimate in “green” paper. Their paper products are completely tree-free and come in five “flavours” of banana, cigar, lemon, coffee, and mango. These flavoured papers have a hefty price tag ranging from £12.98 for a 100-sheet ream all the way up to £29.95 for a 500-sheet ream. They also offer a more affordable choice; their Bagasse Sugar paper is £6.99 per 500-sheet ream and is composed of 80% sugar cane waste (sugar cane fibres rather than wood fibres).
4. Refillable White Board Markers – Rated as one of the greenest choices on the market, the AusPen Whiteboard Marker Kit is manufactured by EcoSmart Products. This kit contains six coloured refillable dry-erase markers with six refill inks, which is comparable to 246 disposable markers. One kit costs around £70 but the price tag for 246 individual disposable markers is much higher.
5. Hand Wash/Sanitiser – The convenience of hand sanitisers makes them a popular choice for teachers and parents, but cannot replace the effectiveness of good old fashioned soap and water according to one Perdue University professor. If unsure about the greenness of hand cleaning products, TheGreenOffice.com offers eco-friendly ratings for all products offered on their site, ranging from dark green which is a highly sustainable product to grey which means the product does not meet eco-friendly standards. One can also look for products that are certified by Green Seal or EcoLogo.
6. Earth-Friendly Glue – Many traditional glues used in classrooms are high in VOCs (volatile organic compounds) creating greater risk for “sick building syndrome.” EcoGlue, from the makers of Goop®, is a water-based adhesive which contains less than 1% VOCs. It also comes with almost no hazardous air pollutants, no animal derivatives, and comes in 100% recyclable packaging. Another product on the market called MagiGlue meets green standards and costs around £3.25 for a 4-oz. bottle.
7. Reusable Lunch Containers – Washable, reusable plastic containers are a good green choice for packing lunches, but can be bulky in the average reusable lunch bag. GreenLinePaper.com offers an inexpensive alternative – the Wrap-N-Mat is a washable, reusable cloth sandwich bag that becomes a placemat when opened. It comes in two different designs and costs £6.50 per bag.
Options for Green Classroom Supplies
There are dozens of options out there for finding green classroom supplies. Although some of these products carry a high price, some are quite affordable. Some websites also offer services for green business certification, greening webinars, and sustainability consulting.