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Green School Supplies Letter to Teacher

by Tiffany in Children, Eco Tips

blackboard at schoolWhen I wrote about a Green Back to School I received a question about how to handle supply lists you get from the school with specific product requests that are not so green. I am all too familiar with these lists and yes many do request specific products or brands that are not so great for green people. So I have written a sample letter you can send along with your student to explain why you have deviated from their recommendations. Feel free to use it, edit at will,  and it pass it along to others who might appreciate it. This is just a sample with a few of the products I remember on these lists. Others can obviously be added. Tell me, does it sound okay? Not too preachy?

Dear (Inserts Teacher’s Name),

My son/daughter (insert name here) is happy to be a part of your class this year. To help us get prepared we shopped for the necessary school supplies together and used the list you and the school provided to guide us. I wanted to write a quick note to you to explain why there are some deviations from the specific products you recommended.

In our household we have “green” values and we strive to live our lives with as little environmental impact as we possibly can. This no doubt effects some of the choices we make in our every day lives and the type of products we buy. We believe that every consumer choice we make is essentially a vote for the type of world we want to live in and we want a clean and beautiful earth for generations to come. To that end we have made the following deviations from your original list. I hope you understand why we have done this and will support our efforts for a cleaner planet.

Big Name Hand Sanitizer – This product has some unsavory chemicals that can be potentially dangerous for children so instead we have purchased a bottle of Clean Well hand sanitizer. In lieu of harsh chemicals, it uses essential oils from plants to kill bacteria. While it may not be the specific brand or type of sanitizer you had requested I hope you can see that it has the same function and it is a product I am comfortable with as well.

Big Brand Paper Towels – I have purchased a package of Seventh Generation paper towels for this requirement. While we generally do not use disposable products such as this in our own home but I recognize the need in a school setting where clean up resources are limited. To that end we are positive that these unbleached paper towels made from 80% post-consumer waste paper will work well.

Ziploc Plastic Bags – We do not use plastic bags in our home as they have many negative environmental impacts and recycling facilities for these are hard to come by. I would appreciate a quick note or phone call (insert number) to let me know what these bags would be used for so I can find an appropriate alternative that will work for us both.

Thank you for your time. I know I will enjoy working with you this year. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.

The Nut-job Parent

  • Alana

    That’s a great idea. DD isn’t in school yet, but I’ll have to stash this away.
    Also, there are “ziploc” type bags made from recycled plastic, which might be an alternative. The teacher really can’t complain too much (I was one in a previous life) because they still have the neccessary items, just safer versions.
    BTW, do elementary school teachers get a cut in the Crayola profits?

  • much more than a mom

    I am a teacher and a mom, and I LOVE IT! Now if we could only get our school boards “on board” with a greener philosophy.

    (FYI, in ECS & Grade 1 some ziplocs are necessary. We use and re-use them for everything, and we don’t have washing machines for fabric bags. We just rinse them in the sink and re-use all year.)

    We can’t get Cleanwell in Canada yet so I go to the US & bring it back. I cringe when teachers put that nasty stuff on kids. I wouldn’t allow it on my kids. In fact, I simply lied to an occasional caregiver once and told her my son was allergic to it so that she wouldn’t put it on him. She didn’t really get the ‘green’ thing.

    Thanks for the letter…I’m going to share it with my principal just as an educational thing.

  • Cindi

    I am wondering how you get your child to use the specific products you sent. In my daughters school everything was thrown into buckets and everyone just shared. Would you ask that your child’s hand sanitizer be put aside for his use only? What about crayons and those items. Do you think I could ask that Raymie’s supplies be put aside for her use, and do you think they will give me any guff? :) Denver is one of, if not the healthiest city in the US, they may not have a problem with that (tree huggers that we are).

  • Awesome. I am facing this with my daughter and her school too. She is very environmentally aware and even went so far as to eat vegan so she has less impact on the planet. We do our best to be green and I have butted heads with some teachers, but I say that we are paying them and this is how it is.

  • Julie

    LOL – I love the addition of the “nut job” at the end. Very cute. I would so sign my letter like that!

  • You rock :)

  • I love this letter…and I”m the teacher. However, we NEVER use Purell in my room and rarely use plastic bags. I try to be as eco conscious as I can !!

  • Cindi,

    With some stuff like paper towels and plastic bags they probably do get slushed together but I am not concerned with health issues there so much as doing my part. Other things like crayons, hand sanitizer, pencils, etc…those things were put in a personal bin at my son’s school and I labeled ALL my sons stuff last year.

  • This letter is fantastic! I never even thought of being able to stray from the list. You always think you have to follow the directions the teacher gives….even as adults! Thanks for shining the light in my face!

  • The ending to your letter, “The Nut Job Parent” cracks me up! Great letter and advice!

  • julie

    I love the letter… I am going to forward this to all my friends who are parents that are getting ready to head back to school.

  • Brooke

    This is a really great idea. I remember getting those stupid school lists (even in high school!) that had completely wasteful things on them, like Kleenex.

  • My kids are 12 and 13. We are with LAUSD and we have never been given a request for school supplies. It must be a regional thing.

  • Here in Ohio the lists are even at Wal-Mart. There is a big display with lists for each school and grade.

  • Perfect. I had to link you!


  • Jaimelee

    That Wal-mart comment scares me!

    Love the letter I will pack this away for later but hopefully by that time schools will be more green period.

  • Jen

    That letter is perfect. Thanks for sharing.

  • CC

    I work for a personal care product company and I’m concerned about the CleanWell product. They have a great website, marketing and packaging but the active they use (Thymus Vulgaris Oil) is not recognized as a safe and effective ingredient. Don’t be too quick to deem it as the “green answer” if you don’t know it is safe and effective!
    Alcohol based sanitizer have been around for decades and have tons of data to support their use. Small companies (like CleanWell) slip around FDA regulations unnoticed while larger manufactures (such as PURELL or GermX) have immense amount of research and development in their product to prove their safety.

  • CC,

    Thymus Vulgaris Oil has been used for a long time. It is hardly untested as you seem to be hinting. It is in fact a main ingredient in Listerine, a huge corporate product. It was used in days past to medicate bandages and you can even drink tea made with it. It is both safe AND effective.

  • Melissa

    Tiffany – I just want to tell you that I appreciate how you’re doing a lot of the ‘leg work’ when it comes to making my family healthier and more eco-friendly. Tips like these are things I never thought of (kids aren’t in school yet) but really open up my eyes. Now if I can just find a way to convince my kids that school hot lunches aren’t cool.

  • I love this…

  • AnnMarie

    Thank you!! My DD isn’t in school yet either but I checked out the lists for K and 1st grade the other week since it was in the newspaper. I was aghast at a lot of the stuff but hadn’t even considered doing it my own way. This will give me the courage to do so. The one I really hated was a VINYL coated art smock. It’s my kids clothes underneath, I’ll send what I want to send (probably an old shirt of DHs!). No way will I send vinyl.

    As to Purell and other whole classroom products–I’m hoping DD will be taught well enough at home to eschew such items. (I’m with the side that says we over use antibacterials and are making ourselves as a society sicker by getting rid of the minor bugs. You know, all us adults survived school w/o them.)

    I’m also annoyed by all the brand names. I wonder what they’ll do if DD shows up with non-Crayola brand crayons and markers?

  • Frugal Babe

    Thanks for the tip about CleanWell. I will never let my son use chemical hand sanitizer – it’s nice to know that there are other options out there.

  • great letter! We just went through buy school supplies, but the big problem we had was that certain things didn’t exist. “12 pack washable markers in basic colors” – yeah, you can get that in a 10 pack, you can get them non-washable, but you can’t get all three.

    We just didn’t need them bad enough to try Wal-Mart… there’s not much that we need bad enough to get us in there.

  • I think this is great- I know a lot of parents would never even think to stray from a list like that! I saw that a couple of people mentioned supply lists from (bad, bad) Wal-Mart- here’s a link to one mother’s experience with those lists. It seems as if Wal-Mart just made up some supply lists and made them look like they came from the schools?! Check it out here:

  • VikingMom

    Love Love the list and letter. So, far I have had eco-savy teachers with my two. My two kiddos are also gluten free and many of the school supplies are NOT gluten free. I have explained to the teachers that it is far easier for me to buy the supplies to guarantee that they are gluten free. It happens they are also eco friendly.
    We have been using Clementine Art crayons, pens and paints with happy success. My daughter’s friends always want to borrow her pens because the colors are different from the Crayola. One teacher fell in love with the brand because it was so much easier to clean up. Purell and many of the hand-sanitizers are NOT gluten free due to the alcohol. We have success with Burts Bee Hand Sanitizer which has Aloe and Witch Hazel instead. I also have made my own and sent it with them to school.
    For note books and sketch books we fell in love with Eco Jot.
    Bless Bless

  • Lisa @Retro Housewife Goes Green

    As the wife of a teacher I can tell you a lot of the time, if not most the teachers can add things to the list but the school makes them. So really the letter should go to the school.

    My husband would LOVE to have a totally green and non-toxic room but he doesn’t have that power. He does have the kids use his non-toxic cleaners if they need to use something in place of the stuff that was on the supply list and he recycles but there isn’t much else he can do.

    So go to PTA meetings and green the whole school. :) I know not ever parents has that time but if you do you may be surprised how many teachers will back you.

  • Good Girl Gone Green

    I will be using this later in about 3 years! I love it!