The month of August is often known as the “dog days of summer.” For parents and their students, August is also that time when thoughts turn to back to school and the long list of supplies needed to start the school year off on the right foot.

Shopping for school supplies is not just an annual activity for students. Teachers are drawing up their own lists of supplies to restock their classrooms for the busy year ahead. Options abound, but planning for supplies that fit in a green classroom can be a challenge.

Why buy green for the classroom? Isn’t a marker just a marker? Truth is, many office, school, and art supplies contain materials that may be toxic to children’s health, including PVC, phthalates, and bisphenol A. When buying school supplies, look for products that are less toxic, that are recyclable or have recycled content, and that are reusable.   The Green Schools Initiative has a webpage devoted to green back to school supplies and where to purchase them. Check it out!

And speaking of purchasing, does your school have a green purchasing policy in place? Green purchasing policies take into account the environment and health when making buying decisions for the entire school (or district). They can save schools money while protecting the health of students and staff. What’s not to love? More information, and sample policies, can be found on the Green Schools Initiative website.

There is more to a green classroom than eco-friendly school supplies. Indoor air quality plays a big role in student achievement, especially for children with asthma and allergies. Some simple, low-cost things you can do now to prep your classroom for success include removing unnecessary clutter, dusting regularly, keeping vents clear and open so air can circulate, and removing trash at the end of the day to avoid unwanted pests. The American Lung Association has a checklist with more tips and recommendations for creating healthy learning spaces for all.

Here’s to a green and healthy start to the new school year…welcome back!