School is just around the corner! This year I’m mindfully seeking out school supplies for my daughter that are colorful and fun–but also toxin free! (Yes, school supplies can be harmful to your child’s health! I’ll explain more below…)
My goal is to make us both happy–but it’s trickier than it seems.
Mia wants to go to the store like we usually do and pick everything out that catches her eye. She likes to touch things, sort through options, get a feel for them, and try them on for size. I don’t blame her. It’s hard to know what an item really looks and feels like online.
Like most kids, she’s drawn to vibrant colors–backpacks, lunch boxes, pencil holders, folders, and anything with Elsa, Olaf, or a Minion on it. (Products that are unfortunately made out of vinyl, polyester, plastic, or other synthetic materials.)
I, on the other hand, am drawn to anything that claims it’s lead free/safe, BPA free, and phthalate-free. Yes, BORING, I know! And, unfortunately, most of those items are only found online at this time. (Yet another reason I want to open up my brick and mortar TCH store ASAP!!)
Try telling your third grader that health is more important than that backpack with the characters from Frozen on it–and you’ve got a recipe for disaster!
Perhaps one day these companies will get on board with creating products that aren’t a hazard to our children’s health and become the leaders in this industry!!
Until then, we’re on our own to become conscious consumers and track down the goods that meet our health and safety standards!!
Below you’ll find more info on specific things to avoid along with our personal picks for 2015 backpacks and lunch supplies!
(FYI – I am not affiliated with any of these companies at the moment. However, if you purchase any of these items using my Amazon links, I do get a small incentive that helps support my work on this website.)
First, what are phthalates and why should you care?
Phthalates are a family of chemicals used in plastics and many other products. They are used to soften and increase the flexibility of plastic and vinyl. Polyvinyl chloride is made softer and more flexible by the addition of phthalates. Phthalates are used in hundreds of consumer products.1
Laboratory tests in 2012 performed by the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice revealed children’s vinyl “back‐to‐school” supplies are laden with hidden toxic chemicals harmful to their health. This investigation demonstrates that popular children’s school supplies contain elevated levels of phthalates–hazardous chemicals that have been banned in toys, yet remain widespread in vinyl back‐to‐school supplies. 2
The levels of phthalates found in children’s school supplies would be illegal if these products were toys. Just like toys, school supplies are used by young children that are uniquely vulnerable to chemical exposure.3
Phthalates are hazardous at low levels of exposure, disrupt hormones in our bodies, and have been linked to birth defects, infertility, early puberty, asthma, ADHD, obesity, diabetes, and cancer. According to testing by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children have the highest exposures to these hazardous chemicals. As a result of the widespread use of phthalates in vinyl plastic products, they have been found in the air and dust of our homes and schools, our bodies, blood and breast milk.
With all of this in mind, and with the help of The Branch Basics Smart Guide to Safe School Supplies + a day or two of internet research–these are the brands and items my daughter and I recommend for a safe and healthy school year:
Non Toxic Backpacks
Wildkin Backpacks won out in our search for a toxin free, kid friendly backpack by a long shot! They have mulitple styles and designs for both girls and boys and according to their product safety info:
All Wildkin products are tested by a certified 3rd party laboratory testing facility. All products and accessories meet or exceed current safety standards as set forth by the Consumer Products Safety Information Act.
All Wildkin products are completely free of PVC, BPA and Phthalates. All materials produced are tested for lead content.
All Wildkin products are non-toxic and kid-friendly.
None of our products contain loose pieces or removable parts that could pose a choking hazard for young children.
All zippers are finger-friendly – they won’t bite.
Wildkin gave Mia several fun styles to choose from, and made mom happy, too!
Wondering about affordability? Most of the Wildkin Backpacks are in the $30 -$40+ range–which may be a bit more on the costly side if you’re used to Walmart prices–but for us personally, investing in my daughter’s health is totally worth it! (FYI – Check out the clearance section and compare those prices with listings on Amazon.com–sometimes you will find an incredible deal! We found Mia’s clearance backpack on Amazon for $26 and even got free shipping!!)
So far I’m loving the durability of these, too! They are made out of quality materials, feel comfortable to the touch, and appear to be significantly reinforced. (I’ll let you know as the school year goes on how it holds up!)
Non Toxic Lunch Boxes
Finding a lunch box that was free of phthalates, BPA, PVC, and lead was pretty easy, too. Wildkin won out for us in that department again! They have several styles and sizes, many of which match their backpacks. Mia decided she didn’t want a matching set and chose something fun!
Her top choice was the Majestic Lunch Box you see here!
Dimensions: 9.75in. x 7in. x 3.25in.
Made of sturdy, durable, fabric construction.
Food safe! PVC, BPA & Phthalate-free! Insulated and easy-to-clean with a zippered front pocket, inner tabs to secure water bottles and ice packs, and an inner mesh pouch.
Of course you could always bring a paper bag, but my guess is that 9 times out of 10 it ends up in the garbage rather than the recycle bin.
With a Wildkin lunch box you know your child is safe from harmful chemicals AND you can re-use it time and time again!
This year we are making an effort to boycott the use of plastic sandwich bags and plastic tupperware containers! Not only do they contain harmful chemicals (like phthalates), but the bags are extremely bad for the environment when you consider the quantities tossed everyday.
LunchBots Bento Cinco Stainless Steel Food Containers
The Bento Cinco is designed with two larger and three smaller compartments. We love it because it lets you pack a variety of healthy choices no matter what your lifestyle.
- 5 compartments for a wide variety.
- Only food grade stainless steel comes into contact with your food. No linings. No toxins.
- Made of the highest quality 18/8 stainless steel, easy-to-clean, and virtually unbreakable.
- Refill your LunchBots over and over, save money and add zero waste to landfills.
- Bento Cinco food containers are best for drier foods as lids are not water tight.
DIMENSIONS: 8″ x 6″ x 1.75″
*All LunchBots items are responsibly manufactured in ethical, humane and lawful conditions in facilities that they have developed long-term, trusting partnerships with. The LunchBots founders, in addition to an employee in China who’s regularly on-site, regularly travel to the factories to work with manufacturing partners and to inspect production runs. LunchBots are created using new equipment purchased especially for their manufacturing, and no metal processing is done on-site. They purchase rolls of certified Type 304 18/8 stainless steel which are then shaped into products.
Just think of all the fun meal ideas you can put in these things! Pinterest has a ton of ideas if you search “Bento Box”!
As of this post, one box is $34.95 at MightyNest.com. Which, I know sounds a bit steep, but just think of how much you will save by no longer having to purchase plastic bags! Not to mention you’ll have the added peace of mind knowing it’s chemical free. And, by pairing this with the Wildkin insulated lunch box I mentioned above, you’ll help keep food nice and cold, too!
I was quite pleased when I compared measurements and saw that the Large Cinco Bento Box will fit perfectly in the Wildkin Lunch Box!
Don’t forget these Dips Condiment Containers which are perfect for packing dips, peanut butter, nuts, or other small items, too! Available from MightyNest.com they are $24.95 and can fit inside the Large Bento Cinco Box.
- Sold in a set of 3
- 18/8 stainless steel container, Silicone seal
- size: 2” x 1.5” each
- holds 1.5 fl. oz. each
- Dishwasher safe, resists stains and rust, and lasts forever!
Another thing I want to mention is that MightyNest.com offers free shipping on orders over $50.00 and a portion of your purchase gets donated to your school! How great is that?
If you’re willing to invest a little more for another awesome option you might want to check out these:
PlanetBox Lunch Kits
I think I am in love with these! PlanetBox Lunch Kits are similar to the LunchBots Bento Cinco box, but are designed with a few additional fun features along with all of the healthy and eco-friendly benefits! Check it out:
PlanetBox lunches create a whole lot less trash, which should help you sleep better knowing you’re doing your part to help the planet for future generations.
We take “non-toxic, non-leaching, safe from BPA, phthalates, and lead” very seriously – in fact, it’s why we designed PlanetBox! We don’t think you will find safer products on the market than ours.
Built to Last
This isn’t your childhood flimsy tin lunchbox. Our high quality stainless steel is warrantied for 5 years, and has been known to survive getting thrown off the school bus (not that we recommend that).
Why should you pay this much for a lunchbox? Because it’s cheaper to buy food in bulk and pack your own meal. Because your health is worth it. And because it’s an investment your family will use every single day for many years to come – over its lifetime, it will pay off in spades.
Forget to pack some veggies? The empty compartment will remind you. Concerned about overeating? That won’t happen – PlanetBox is designed to hold sensible portions. So eat a rainbow of foods, and enjoy.
Dishwasher safe? Heck yeah. Peanut butter left for a week? No problem – our stainless steel doesn’t retain yucky food odors or stains like those unfortunate plastic containers do.
Whether you’re a rock star, a paleontologist, or a flower child, we’ve got a magnet set for you. And when you decide to become an astronaut or fairy lover next year, just change your magnets and you’ve got a fresh new lunchbox to suit your style.
Prices start at $49.95 for just the Rover. From there you can build your own kit. I figure if you factor in that each Rover Kit includes one Big Dipper and one Little Dipper stainless steel sauce container + a Bag or Sleeve + a fun Magnet set + a BottleRocket water bottle ($81.95 total)–you’re saving money in the long run vs purchasing other brand items separately. And since it’s reusable, that $81.95 spread over the course of several years use will even out!
I’m not sure which one we are going to go with yet, but I’ll let you know when I decide and it arrives! Mia and I are excited to come up with fun menu plans for these boxes, either way.
Non Toxic Water Bottles
To wrap up this post on non toxic backpacks and lunch supplies I wanted to share some of my favorite water bottles, too. It seems we use these all the time so having a few on hand is always a bonus. The following are my favorite picks for 2015:
The 18oz Kanteen Classic holds enough to keep you hydrated, but also fits easily into your bag, pack or tote. Also available with the Sport Cap 3.0, featuring a soft silicone spout, 25% higher flow rate and “chirp” free experience.
And, you never have to worry about the materials in a Klean Kanteen. They did the research for you and selected high quality, 18/8, food-grade stainless steel and BPA-free polypropylene #5 (for caps). Quality stainless steel doesn’t need a liner like aluminum bottles, so it doesn’t retain flavors or make drinks taste funky.
The best part?? The sport cap is leak-proof!! Which is perfect for kids who throw their bottles in their backpacks–so long as they remember to close it anyway. (Yeah, that’s totally happened at our house before!)
Another option to try is the 12oz Funtainer Insulated Straw Bottle. It’s a stainless steel, insulated, leak-proof, BPA, PVC and Phthalate Free. Simple push-button design pops open the lid to expose the straw for drinking. Thermos double wall vacuum insulation holds maximum cold temperature retention. The BPA-free bottle has an unbreakable stainless steel interior and exterior.
We’ve used the Thermos brand thermoses for years and still love them! For the most part they really are leak proof and very durable! (again, so long as they are closed all the way!!)
I hope you found something helpful here!
Have any other non toxic backpack or lunch gear supplies that you use and recommend? Please share them in the comments below! And don’t forget to let me know how these work out for you if you decide to purchase them! I’ll be sure to do an update on ours mid-year!
To a healthy home and school year!!