Shopping locally is eco-friendly.
There are plenty of greener, affordable choices at major retailers and specialty Websites that are better for human health and the environment. While price may be an issue, considering what products are healthiest for our children may be critical in the long run. With so many choices available, what do parents choose?
As you pack your child's lunch box, opt for a metal lunch box, such as stainless steel from PlanetBox. PlanetBox is a safe, non-toxic alternative to hard plastic.
Some insulated bags have been found to have lead in the vinyl, so if you have an older bag, check it with a home lead test kit, available at hardware stores and home centers. Newer bags (on store shelves beginning in 2007) should contain labels that indicate they are "lead safe," but this does not necessarily mean lead-free. Avoid clear or tinted hard-plastic water bottles (made from #7 plastic, which may contain the hormone-disruptor Bisphenol A), unless they are labeled "BPA-Free." High-quality stainless-steel and coated aluminum bottles are increasingly available, from companies such as Thermos, Klean Kanteen, Sigg, New Wave Enviro and The Safe Sippy.
When food shopping for lunch items, avoid over-packaged pre-made lunches and opt for fresh, organic whole foods. Sandwiches made with whole grain bread can be filled with hummus and veggies, or more traditional options from the deli counter, where hormone- and antibiotic-free, or organic meat and cheese options may be found in many mainstream supermarkets. Fresh organic produce such as apples, bananas, mini-carrots and grapes are also easy and quick to pack on busy mornings. Raw organic nuts as well as yogurts in soy or dairy versions make great snacks. Keep in mind that organic foods have been shown to protect children from exposure to several harmful pesticides.
While shopping for stationery supplies, look for re-usable items such as refillable pens and well-made items that will last. Look for the recycled-content and chlorine-free symbols when buying any paper products. Aim for the highest recycled-content available. Plastic items such as rulers may be available in recycled versions as well. Remember to buy products with little or no packaging to reduce waste. Many of these options are now available at large big-box retailers.
Also shop smaller stores to support local business and vote with your wallet by requesting items youd like to see stocked. If computer equipment is on your list, use the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool. This site rates electronics according to environmental criteria. Choosing a product with minimum lead, mercury, cadmium or certain flame retardants is better for human health in reducing immediate and long-term exposures to these potent toxins.
For more tips about keeping your child healthy and safe, sign up for the Deirdre Imus Environmental Center for Pediatric Oncology newsletter.