One of the big and necessary expenses of back to school shopping, whether outfitting a preschooler or a college student, is backpacks. This is one area where you definitely get what you pay for, the investment pays off in longevity and your child’s health and safety.Enviro Girl has three sons of the rough-and-tumble variety. They ride a school bus and walk a quarter mile through a field to get to and from school each day. Their backpacks endure a daily beating, plus they get used on weekends and in summertime to haul vacation and Nerf war equipment. Each of Enviro Girl’s sons carries a Land’s End backpack and they’re all on year 3 or 4. That’s a testament to quality! Even though those backpacks cost about $40 each, the kids have gotten between $10-$15 worth of use of them each year. Compare that to buying a brand new $20 backpack from a Big Box store and having to replace it each year–if you invest in quality, you come out ahead in the second year of use.
When her firstborn was little, Enviro Girl indulged his request for a $25 Batman backpack from Target and it lasted a year before fraying at the seams. Then she bought him a Transformers backpack which lasted about another year before the zipper fell apart. Third time around (Enviro Girl’s a slow learner) she bought him a Land’s End backpack and it lasted 3 years before she had to replace it. Lesson learned!
But why is a quality backpack a health and safety concern? According to the Center for Health, Environment and Justice:
PVC/Vinyl is unique among most plastics because it contains dangerous chemical additives such as phthalates, lead, cadmium, and/or organotins, which can be toxic to your child’s health. Laboratory tests commissioned by CHEJ and the Empire State Consumer Project in 2012 uncovered high levels of phthalates in common back to school products including backpacks, lunchboxes, and 3-ring binders. Over 90% of all phthalates are used to soften vinyl products. These chemicals have been linked to asthma, learning disabilities, diabetes, and other chronic health problems on the rise. Congress has banned phthalates in children’s toys, yet they are widespread in these and other PVC back to school products. Children are at risk from even low-level exposure to these toxic chemicals. In order to protect your child, it’s important to purchase PVC-free school supplies whenever possible. Cancer causing chemicals like vinyl chloride and dioxin contaminate the air from the very beginning of the PVC lifecycle. When PVC is manufactured or burned, numerous dioxins are formed and released. Dioxins are a highly toxic group of chemicals that can cause cancer, and harm the immune and reproductive systems. These, and other toxic chemicals released during the PVC lifecycle, contaminate our children’s bodies and may pose irreversible life-long health threats.
Where can you find a PVC-free backpack or lunch sack for your student? Land’s End, Hanna Anderson, Garnet Hill, Jansport, High Sierra, LL Bean, Northface, Timbuk2, and Seal Line Gear are some of the brands that are guaranteed PVC-free.
Purchasing backpacks and lunch sacks without vinyl means they’re easily tossed in the washing machine for easy cleaning, too. When buying lunch sacks that get rugged and daily use, metal or canvas is your best bet for easy-to-clean and chemical free durability.
Buying quality backpacks and lunch sacks means saving money, less consumption, less waste and a chemical-free environment for everybody–kids and grown ups.
Tell the Eco Women: Do you have a lunch sack or backpack testimony to share?