School Supplies Go Green If you’re looking to make a change for the better this year, consider choosing school supplies that are safer for your students and friendly to the planet. School Matters
School Matters  |   September 01, 2014
School Supplies Go Green
Author Notes
  • Anastasia Antoniadis, MA, CCC-SLP, is a private consultant and certified instructor for the Eco-Healthy Child Care Curriculum. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 1, Language Learning and Education.
    Anastasia Antoniadis, MA, CCC-SLP, is a private consultant and certified instructor for the Eco-Healthy Child Care Curriculum. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 1, Language Learning and Education.×
Article Information
School-Based Settings / School Matters
School Matters   |   September 01, 2014
School Supplies Go Green
The ASHA Leader, September 2014, Vol. 19, 38-39. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM.19092014.38
The ASHA Leader, September 2014, Vol. 19, 38-39. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM.19092014.38
Kermit the Frog’s famous tune, “It’s Not Easy Being Green,” gives a host of reasons why being green is so hard. But by the end of the song, Kermit decides that being green was what he wanted to be. How about you? For this school year, resolve to help the students on your caseload have a non-toxic—or at least less toxic—environment in which to learn, play and thrive by going green with your supplies.
What does it mean to go green for school supplies? Speech-language pathologists are inundated by catalogs filled with wonderful, colorful, fragrant, pliable toys as treatment materials. We use these every day with our students. But how much do we really know about the safety and composition of the materials our shrinking budget dollars are purchasing every year? And what about other materials, such as the rubber tubing you may use for oral exercises—how safe are these?
The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 made it mandatory for all toys aimed at children younger than 14 to meet new federal safety standards. Some of these include lead content and concentration of phthalates (DEHP, DBP and BBP in particular). Despite these protections, toys of questionable safety continue to enter the consumer market.
There are no third-party certifiers to provide information on school or office supplies. At best, an SLP would have to search online or contact the manufacturer or distributor to inquire. Too much work! There has to be a better way. One place to start is by accessing information available through the Green Schools Initiative that has suggestions for choosing green products. Its “Green Schools Buying Guide” is an excellent resource for school districts that are making purchasing decisions that support environmental health.
Choosing vendors
If you have flexibility in choosing vendors, here are some to consider:
  • The Green Office provides both green and conventional office supplies, discounts and free next-day delivery for orders that meet a minimum purchase amount.

  • New Leaf provides paper goods made from environmentally sustainable sources.

  • Greener Earth Office Supplies has backpacks, binders, calendars, desk supplies and art supplies. The product information page explains their standards, tree-free paper and other environmental considerations.

  • Office Depot sells recycled supplies; find them through a simple search on the website.

  • SuperDuper Publications places a product safety statement on its website and invites customers to e-mail them for more information. Companies with this types of statement make it easier for consumers to trust the safety of their purchases.

  • The Ultimate Green Store sells green school supplies such as eco-pencils and crayons, non-toxic glue sticks, and recycled notebooks.

  • You can order soy-based crayons from Red Apple School Supply.

  • Real Simple magazine has a great list of eco-friendly school supplies and the websites for distributors.

Working with specific vendors
Many school-based SLPs may be limited to a specific list of district-approved vendors. Here are some guidelines to use when making product choices:
  • Select products that are recyclable or have recycled content or are reusable or remanufactured.

  • Choose products free of anti-microbial chemicals.

  • Order odor-free or low-odor markers and art supplies.

  • Avoid PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and products containing phthalates or biphenyl A (some states, such as California, have banned these ingredients from toys). You can identify PVC plastics by the number “3” or the letter “V” below or inside the universal recycling symbol. The Center for Health, Environment and Justice provides a list of companies that are phasing out products with PVC.

  • Paper products with “Forest Stewardship Certification” come from a sustainable source.

  • Be careful when buying inexpensive toys or materials manufactured overseas. Some imported products may contain lead. Check with a website such as Consumer Product Safety Commission for recalls.

These lists are not exhaustive, but they provide a good starting point. Try replacing conventional school and office supplies with green supplies gradually. Take one step at a time—for example, using recycled paper or eliminating supplies made with PVC. Build your case for green supplies to your school administrator and fellow SLPs. Don’t forget parents—letting families know you have chosen to go green and how this benefits their child’s environmental health status is another way you can convey your care and support.
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September 2014
Volume 19, Issue 9