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Many of us have a love/hate relationship with back to school. Younger children may look forward to going to school for the first time, older children are excited to reconnect with friends, and, as parents, we hope to make the transition as positive as possible for all of us! Here are a few simple rules-of-thumb to help manage that transition and stay healthy doing it:

  • Don't buy what you don't need. Check last year's surplus before you head out to buy new supplies.
  • Avoid vinyl. The lifecycle of polyvinyl chloride (a.k.a. PVC) is a leading source of the toxins, including phthalates, lead and dioxin, that have been linked to childhood health problems. Seek out healthier alternatives to soft vinyl lunchboxes and vinyl binders.
  • Help lunch keep its cool. To prevent food rising to unsafe temperatures, make and refrigerate lunches the night before and pack with frozen juice boxes to provide some extra cold. Step it up by packing a litterless lunch!
  • Prepare for shorter days. Dark mornings and dim afternoons are not too far away. Put some reflective tape on childrens' jackets to make them visible to passing traffic.
  • Help your kids get enough sleep. We all know that sleep has many benefits, but sometimes it can be hard to prioritize with busy after school activities and early starts. Getting good quality sleep is as important to our kids as food and exercise for improved focus and learning, better peer relations, and a stronger immune system.
  • Breakfast is still the most important meal of the day. Lots of studies confirm that low-sugar, high-protein, fruit-filled whole-grain breakfasts with healthy fats boost school performance, reinforce positive eating habits, help maintain healthier body weights, and lower cholesterol. So make sure nobody ever leaves home without one.
  • Advocate for sustainable, healthy practices. Help your kid's school switch to safe cleaning products and other environment-friendly practices. Grades of Green's website provides step-by-step instructions for how schools can reduce trash and energy use, cut down on auto emissions, and educate students on environmental issues, all for free.
  • Wash school and work clothes in cold water. You'll save money and help the planet.
  • Green your commute. Even if you can't walk or bike your kids to school, carpooling is a great option. One clever idea is to drive your kids to school or daycare and then ride your bike to work. A simple way to cut down your transport footprint and build in exercise!

How do you prepare for back-to-school?