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Green School Days

A column about our little "patch" of Earth called Bellmore, and how we can all make it a little greener.

Although "lead" pencils contain no lead and have always been made of some form of graphite, parents until recently knew or cared little about possible toxins, just glad to grab a box of #2s in time to march their little ones back to the classroom. Today, eco-friendly school supplies and other "green" items are must-haves.

Brown Bagging It is Back

Brown bagging it is fashionable again, despite the trees depleted. Old-fashioned non-inked brown bags are recyclable, and the plastic box alternative is often unsafe, many containing polyvinyl chloride (PVC), phthalates, bisphenol-A (BPA) or antimicrobial chemicals such as triclosan, substances that can leach into lunch. 

Chemicals released by the PVC life-cycle are linked to chronic diseases on the rise in children including learning and developmental disabilities, asthma, obesity and cancer, according to the Center for Health, Environment & Justice. See the PVC-free wallet guide attached here.

Wrap Up those Wraps (and Sandwiches)

Also, instead of using disposable plastic sandwich bags, try wrapping your P B & J sandwiches or leftover chicken wraps in aluminum foil – particularly new 100 percent recycled choices — or in cloth wraps with such catchy brand-names as Lunchskins, Reusies, Wastenotsacks or Wrap-N-Mat (yes, that last one is a placemat as well). 

Environmental Containment

Instead of putting those Fluffernutters or fruity snacks in traditional plastic lunch boxes, consider washable and reusable stainless steel containers or cotton lunch bags. For beverages, try reusable thermoses, including those made of stainless steel.  After all, there probably will be enough empty plastic water bottles laid end-to-end in Bellmore alone to circumnavigate Bedford Avenue and all its cross-streets soon, I would guess.

Surprising & Sustainable Supplies

When shopping for school supplies this year, unique "green" finds abound. How about a staple-free stapler or recycled paperclips? What about recycled pens or pencils, or refillable rather than disposables? Lots of interesting choices may be found as close as Bedford Stationery, as well as online and at nearby Staples or Office Max stores.

Look for recycled paper, cardboard, organic cotton, hemp, and other recyclable or sustainable materials instead of plastics when it comes to everything else kids carry or consume, from backpacks to binders, and from notebooks to book covers. 

"Green" the Schools

While the Town of Hempstead's school recycling program and state-mandated "green clean" policies are in place at the Bellmore and North Bellmore elementary school districts and the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District, there may be other "green" programs at work in school clubs or classrooms that you may wish to encourage as a parent. For example, Kennedy's H.O.P.E. Club (Helping Our Planet Earth) will meet on Thursdays in Room 309. Mepham's Environmental Interest Club will meet on Mondays in Room 118 at 2:15 p.m. "The Environmental Interest Club has been created to provide students a chance to make some changes in our local environment," the school's website states.

Recent energy efficiency and solar energy initiatives come to mind, but environmental clubs and in-school planet awareness programs for kids are growing in popularity nationwide everyday, and local schools are no exception.

"Green" for the Schools or PTAs

Get green by going green would be a terrific motto for today's PTAs and schools looking for new or unique fundraisers – something your school administrator or PTA officer might wish to consider. Environmentally savvy online retailer EcoUsable not only offers refillable, filter-included water bottles, but the opportunity for schools to earn money through their EcoRaising program. They'll donate a portion of sales to a school of choice. Customized bottles featuring a school logo, name, or mascot are also offered.

Another site that offers a "green" fundraising option is LunchBots stainless steel lunch containers. Schools purchase LunchBots at a reduced price, and $3 for every container sold is passed onto the school.

Green With Envy? 

Green certainly extends to fashion these days, so pay attention to those designer labels in local clothing retailers, perhaps at Clothesline & Co. Scratchy hemp potato sacks have given way to smooth raw silk and soft bamboo fabrics. The GreenShows, a fashion event exclusively committed to eco-friendly, ethically sound, fair-trade fashion during New York Fashion Week is in its third season this September. Austern's Antiques or Nature's Museum Store might be great sources for earth-friendly accessories. Sustainable style might be something you might not actually mind paying for. It might be a trend you'd actually find worthwhile for your child to envy...and emulate.

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