San Francisco Environment Department

Ten Tips for a Green School Year

Follow these tips to conserve resources, save money, and protect your child’s health this school year.

Buy Less New Stuff

1. Go to SCRAP for school supplies and crafts. Instead of purchasing new craft supplies, visit SCRAP, a local creative reuse center, for quality materials such as paper, fabric, art, and school supplies.

2. Get your thrift on. Thrift shopping is cool again! Second-hand stores are a cost-effective resource for quality, reused clothes, shoes, backpacks, and more. 

Use the Green Bin

3. Pack a zero waste lunch. Purchase reusable food and drink containers made out of stainless steel, cloth, or neoprene (the material used to make wetsuits). Plastic sandwich bags, bottled water, juice boxes, and other single-use products waste resources and cost more over time than reusable containers. 

When your kids get home from school, ask them about composting. SF Environment’s School Education team partners with schools to put green bins in school cafeterias. Ask your children for help when you’re wondering whether that milk carton goes in the recycling or composting bin (psst – it goes in the composting bin!).

Green Your Commute

4. Kick off the school year with an active commute. Walking and biking to school promotes clean air and helps kids to arrive at school energized and ready to learn. Visit for resources on how to start biking and walking to school.

5. Find other families in your neighborhood to share the trip to school. Sharing a ride, walking, biking, or taking transit to school with other families helps build community in your school and can save you time and money. Sign up and find a match near you at

6. Participate in Walk and Roll to School Day. Thousands of San Francisco kids participate each year. Register your school to participate and get free materials and support.

Use Safer Products

By choosing less toxic products, you can avoid exposure to many chemicals linked to negative health effects such as asthma, cancer, and reproductive harm.

7. Purchase lunch, food and drink containers made out of stainless steel, cloth, or neoprene. Containers made out of these materials do not leach chemicals into the food or liquid they hold, so they are the safest option when compared to plastic or aluminum. Even plastic products that claim they do not contain the toxic chemical BPA and are labeled "BPA-free" may still be unsafe. 

8. Purchase school supplies that are labeled “PVC-free.” You can also refer to this helpful guide (PDF) to learn how to identify PVC (polyvinyl chloride)-free products. School supplies that may include PVC include backpacks, binders, lunch boxes, and more. Children face health risks from PVC even after coming into contact with it only a few times. 

9. Purchase alcohol-based hand sanitizers or just use soap. Regular soap or alcohol-based sanitizers are safer alternatives that are just as effective at killing germs than products that contain tricolsan. Triclosan is a known pesticide most frequently found in soaps labeled as “anti-bacterial” that can alter or disrupt hormones. You can identify products with triclosan by looking at the ingredient label.

10. Purchase non-toxic, water-based pens and markers. Look for pens and markers that are labeled “water-based” and “non-toxic.” These can be easily found at your local drug store or stationery supply store.

More Information
The Precautionary Principle

city seal png