Saturday, August 14, 2010

Learning Green


Its that time of year again: back to school. Whether you are in school, have kids in school, work/teach at a school, or just feel like being a little greener in your home or office you can find some great green deals on the Internet.

If you are truly interested in buying recycled supplies you should first look into what the word recycled really means. It can be kinda like going to the grocery store and trying to figure out the difference between 'reduced fat' and 'less fat.' But, basically, most recycled paper products are made of wood chips and mill scraps, not what's called post-consumer waste paper (PCW). This PCW is the stuff that we throw away and using it is what keeps it out of the landfills and saves trees. The EPA requires a minimum of 30% PCW to constitute recycled paper. So its better to buy a product with a higher PCW percentage rather than the chlorine-bleached, virgin-fiber paper sold at mega office supply stores.

Think of this as kind of a link-a-polooza. I've tried to break things down by subject, including in-text links in addition to my typical link-list at the end. Hopefully that will keep things straight with so many hyperlinks running around. If the link is broken for some reason then just type the company name and/or product into your favorite search engine and you should find it. The link-list at the end includes sites/companies that have a whole range of products and I recommend clicking around on their websites to see what they have to offer.

Backpacks and Lunchboxes:

Bookbags are tough as most of them are made of synthetic fibers, specifically PVC (polyvinyl chloride). If you are looking for the lesser of evils then try to find polyester or nylon rather than PVC. Its best to try to find a natural fiber backpack if you can. One option is hemp backpacks which can be found at Nextag, Rawganique, and EcoChoices. The Ultimate Green Store has some nice and pretty good looking backpacks to chose from as well. Yet another option is bookbags from Dante Beatrix. What if you want to go high tech? Take a look at this backpack from Voltaic Systems. Its solar!

Lunchboxes, like backpacks, often contain a lot of PVC, so metal is a better choice. Take a look at the Shiva lunch box or recycled Bazura Bags (they're even insulated!) over at Reuseable Bags. And at Reusit they have some nice and very affordable lunch bags, too.

Binders, Notebooks, and Paper:

Nakedbinder sells binders that are 100% recycled. They come in several types and are very aesthetically pleasing. Another good place for binders is Jorgel, who makes their binders from cardboard. For your composition book needs take a look at the Greenline Paper Company, they are also good for notebook paper and index cards. Tactile Creations even has a notebook made from recycled sugarcane! A company called Ecopaper has a good (if somewhat hippie looking) selection of journals, sketchpads, and papers. And over at Ecojot you can find notebooks, sketchbooks, calendars, and notecards all made out of 100% recycled paper. How about something a little strange that will intrigue kids especially? Take a look at this: paper made from elephant dung!

Pencils and Utensils:

A company called TreeSmart makes some very neat, pretty cool pencils made from recycled newspapers. Forest Choice makes pencils from unfinished, smoothly sanded, incense cedar wood which has the added benefit of a great smell. And Green Earth Office Supply recycles blue jeans for their pencils! They also have the Wheely pen, a flexible ball point pen made from 50% post-consumer rubber tires and 10% pre-consumer recycled plastic, and they are refillable and imprintable. Over at Pilot Pen: Begreen you can find gel ink, rolling ball, and ball point pens as well as mechanical pencils, permanent markers, and whiteboard markers. All of these products are made from at least 70% recycled material. When it comes to art supplies go over to Clementine Art to find natural paint, modeling dough, and markers.

Other:

A staple-free stapler can be found at the CB2 website. It is finger safe, never needs refilling, and is environmentally friendly. It works by cutting out tiny strips of paper and 'stitching' them together. A similar model is the EcoStapler. Greenline Paper Company sells paper clips made from 100% recycled steel. Need a ruler? Check out the rulers over on the GreenRaising site, they are made from bills (yep, money) retired from circulation and plastic. You can even get recycled pushpins over at Green Earth Office Supply.

Here are some good stories about buying green school/office supplies:
http://www.care2.com/greenliving/best-cool-green-school-supplies.html#
http://www.naturemoms.com/green-school-supplies.html
http://blissfullydomestic.com/2010/the-best-green-school-supplies-for-back-to-school-time
http://www.thedailygreen.com/environmental-news/latest/green-school-supplies-44071008

Also check out these websites:
http://www.ecoproducts.com/
http://www.dolphinblue.com/
http://www.newleafpaper.com/
http://www.naturallyyourstore.com/
http://www.recycledproducts.org/
http://www.seventhgeneration.com/
http://www.treeco.com/
http://www.treecycle.com/
http://www.seejanework.com/
http://www.simpleshoes.com/

A good, but sometimes overlooked, website for school supplies is Amazon.com, they have some great choices on pencils made from recycled materials.

(image is of recycled newpaper pencils from TreeSmart)
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