“Mom, I Can’t Go to School: I Don’t Have a PLASTIC Water Bottle!”

August 31st, 2010

I swear I’m not making this up. No sooner had I finished my post about the Top Ten Green School Projects to tackle, and fallen into bed when my newly minted third grader hit me with this zinger.

It seems stainless steel water bottles are noisy. Really. When little hands drop stainless steel water bottles from their desks, apparently they make quite a din. So my son’s teacher, on the first day of school, banned anything other than plastic water bottles.

That’s a problem for us.

After much experimentation with everything from re-used Honest Tea glass bottles to Sigg water bottles, I finally switched the family over to stainless steel water bottles. I even shelled out $20 for insulated stainless steel water bottles.

I looked and looked and looked and realized we just have no more plastic water bottles. As an ode to my bloggy friend Beth of Fake Plastic Fish, the nation’s top anti-plastics blogger, I had banned plastic water bottles from the house!

My son was very concerned.

“I can’t go to school! I need a plastic water bottle!”

“We don’t have any! You’ll have to take the stainless steel. I’ll write a note to the teacher,” I responded.

“No,” he insisted. “It HAS to be plastic. The stainless ones make too much noise; they fall from the desks.”

“Well, we got rid of all the plastic water bottles and I’m not buying any more,” I retorted. “Can’t you just get up and use the water fountain?”

“NO!!!,” he shrieked. “We can’t just get up and get a drink of water whenever we feel like it. We only get breaks like only every two hours. And I won’t get to drink until lunch time. And it’s TOO LONG!!!,” he exhaled in a burst of eight-year-old whininess.

Now I thought about just letting this go. I’ve recovered from Green Mom Culture Shock.  I understand that not everything will be a Green Nirvana, not even at a Montgomery County, Maryland Green School.

I hate being THAT MOM. Yes, I’ve been called a “piece of work.”

But as I’ve blogged before, you can either sit behind your laptop and bemoan the state of the world, or you can do something.

So I wrote an email to his teacher.

Dear Ms. X:

I hope you are enjoying a wonderful start to the school year.  I very much look forward to meeting you at Back to School Night.

My son informed me this morning that he needed a plastic water bottle rather than the stainless steel one he brought to class. As part of our family’s commitment to protecting and preserving the environment and our family’s health, we have reduced our use of plastics, including plastic water bottles. We no longer own any plastic water bottles – part of an expensive, time consuming process to switch from plastic to stainless steel, glass, and other more eco-friendly alternatives.

I respectfully ask you to reconsider requiring plastic water bottles for the following reasons:

1) many plastic bottles leach harmful chemicals which can disrupt the endocrine system of young children. Plastic #3 (polyvinyl chloride/PVC can leach hormone-disrupting chemicals into the liquids they are storing and will release synthetic carcinogens into the environment when incinerated. Plastic #6 (polystyrene/PS), leaches styrene, a probable human carcinogen, into food and drinks as well;

2) the plastic nib at the top of most plastic water bottles is easily scratched by young teeth, resulting in ingestion of plastic chemicals (as opposed to most stainless steel bottles, which contain an open spout for drinking);

3) stainless steel bottles, like the one I purchased for my son, can be insulated to keep water cooler longer;

4) the production of plastics accounts for about 8% of our usage of fossil fuels (petroleum, oil, natural gas);

5) it would be expensive, wasteful and time consuming for the class to replace their existing water bottles with plastic. My son told me that all but about two of the students came to school with stainless or other bottles made of materials other than plastic (likely for the reasons cited above).

I understand there is a noise issue that is causing you to request plastic bottles rather than water. Could I help you to brainstorm other solutions? Perhaps the stainless water bottles could be labeled, put in a blanket and left in a wagon near the door. I recall that approach being used for lunch bags in my son’s classroom last year.

I’m so sorry to have our first communication be about this issue. As you can tell, I am very passionate about environmental issues! I am happy to help you as you look at other classroom issues and their impact on the environment – I know from experience that switching from conventional methods to greener, more environmentally friendly practices can be a long process, requiring lots of trade-offs and education.

Thanks so much for your consideration.



Yikes. Where do you think this will lead? And actually, I spoke too soon. I’m experiencing Green Mom Culture Shock all over again.

How’s back-to-school going in your world? I’m thinking of  updating that post about “Top 10 Green Projects” to make it “Top 20 Green Projects.”

— Lynn

Copyright 2010 OrganicMania

Green Moms & Public Schools: Top 10 Green School Projects – Pick One!

August 30th, 2010

If your child is heading off to school for the first time, prepare yourself: you may suffer Green Mom Culture Shock, like I did when my son entered public school two years ago.

For eco-conscious parents who have agonized over a zillion purchasing decisions related to choosing the greenest, healthiest products for home cleaning and only the freshest, local, organic and sustainable foods, it can be hard to cope when you discover your local “green” school doesn’t seem so green, particularly when compared to your own home.

While most schools these days (at least here in Montgomery County, Maryland and the surrounding DC suburbs) do have a Green Committee at the PTA level, you may find, as I did, that “green” means different things to different people.  To some, the main function of the green committee should be tending to a school garden. For others, it’s recycling or “waste free lunch.”   What happens if there’s so much to do, you just don’t know where to start?  And is it really possible that maybe, just maybe everything “green” has been “done” at your school?

I’ve put together a “Dream List” of Ten Green School Projects you may want to tackle this year, and I’ve  linked to posts that relate to the project whenever possible. Am I suggesting you try to get the PTA to tackle all ten? Uh, no. (You might want to first read my post, Green Schools: Five Lessons Learned the Hard Way).  But maybe, just maybe,  you can work to get one new project added to your Green Committee’s existing project list.

Take a look and let me know what you think. I’m particularly interested in hearing from parents who’ve tackled the walkable school initiatives. What’s worked and what hasn’t worked for you at your kids’ schools?

Top 10 Green School Projects

  1. Waste Free School Lunch
  2. Ban the Bottled Water  – Switch to Bottles and Jugs!
  3. Solar, Wind, and Alternative Energy at School
  4. Just Say No to Mandatory AntiBacterial Hand Sanitizers and Soaps
  5. Healthier School Lunches
  6. Just Say No to Cheap Plastic Crap: Oh, the Trinkets!
  7. Why Throw Out Unopened Milk? Forced Dumping of Unopened School Milk Bottles in the Garbage
  8. Energy Audits: Wearing T-Shirts In The Classroom During Winter = An Energy Efficiency Problem in Your School
  9. Buses? Try Walkable Schools!
  10. Healthy Schools, Healthy Cleaners. (Or Did You Ever Consider Your Child’s Mysterious Head Aches Might Be Related to the Cleaners Used at Your School?)

This is a post for the Green Moms Carnival on Back to School – our third annual! – hosted by the lovely Micaela at Mindful Momma. After you leave your comment, be sure to check out the other posts!

— Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2010

Back to School with Obama

September 8th, 2009

The early days of the back-to-school season are typically full of anxious parents, crying kindergartners, and school buses that can’t seem to keep to a schedule. Today was not much different – but as I waited an extra 15 minutes for my second grader’s bus to arrive, I wondered if my son had seen President Obama’s address to the nation’s school children.  I wasn’t expecting so – I’d called the school office and was told that viewing varied by classroom.


But when he finally stepped off the bus and I asked him if he had watched the President’s speech, he surprised me by saying “Yes.”

“And?,”  I asked excitedly. “What did you think?”



“Boring. What’s for snack?”

“Hold on there a minute,” I said. “I read his speech. He talked about taking responsibility, he talked about working hard, he talked about all those things that Mom and Dad talk to you about, didn’t he?”


“Well, what did he talk about?,”  I feigned.

“I don’t remember.”

I let the poor kid have his snack and gave him a ten minute rest before I started interrogating him again.

“Did your teachers talk to you about his speech after it was over?”



“Did you understand his speech?”

“No, not really.”

Let’s hope the speech went over better with the 7th graders and the 17-year-olds than with the 7-year-olds.    I read the speech and was really impressed.  It was a simple message about taking responsibility for one’s actions and working hard. You can read the text here.

What did you think? And more importantly, how did the children you know react to the speech?

— Lynn

Copyright 2009 OrganicMania

Dealing with the Schools: Coping as a Green Mom

September 15th, 2008

It’s not often that I’m taken by surprise, since I tend to research issues to death. But want to know the reason there have been so few posts of late? It’s this back to school thing. I honestly thought that my life would get easier when my son started first grade at the local public school. Instead, I feel like I have another job.

Between morning melt downs, afternoon crying fits, folders stuffed full of papers to be reviewed by a responsible parental unit, and my continued Green Mom Culture Shock at the many environmentally unfriendly practices common to one of the most progressive school systems in the country – well, I’ve been exhausted!

For nearly a year now, but never more so than since the launch of the Green Moms Carnival, I’ve enjoyed the company of a like-minded sisterhood of Green Moms. These sympathetic souls include Green Moms with college-age kids– La Marguerite, Karen Hanrahan, Anna from GreenTalk and Diane MacEachern – as well as many with elementary school age kids like my Big Boy – the Not Quite Crunchy Parent, Surely You Nest, Sommer from Green and Clean Mom and even a few like me, still dealing with diapers – Alana from Gray Matters holding the honor of having the youngest baby among us.

Between the Green Moms in the blogosphere,  the Green Parents who find their way to leave wonderful comments on OrganicMania, and my growing list of wonderful green clients,  I thought that Green was everywhere.

Well, Green is not everywhere. So here I am, trying to figure which issue to address first. The mandatory plastic ziplock bags? The throw-away Styrofoam trays? The forced bussing past shuttered schools? The high fructose corn syrup laden lollypops handed out by my son’s math teacher? The cheap plastic crap toys given as rewards for good behavior? The environmentally unfriendly school fundraisers?

Hey Green Moms, how are you doing in week three of back-to-school? And have you been successful in “taking on” any of the environmentally unfriendly practices at your local schools?

And, yes, I am co-chairing the school’s Green Committee, so my question is serious. For those of you who have  been successful at  bringing  about change, what’s worked? And what hasn’t worked?

— Lynn

Green Mom Culture Shock: Back to School

September 3rd, 2008

As a seasoned mother of a six-year-old and a nearly two-year-old, I thought I was past the point where much could shock me. But then school started.

And suddenly I went from the friendly confines of the Green Mom blogosphere to the public school system, where teachers routinely send home “supply lists” containing environmentally unfriendly items such as (gasp) plastic ziplock bags and Purell hand sanitizer (2 bottles, please!), where students use thousands of styrofoam lunch trays each day, and where fossil fuels are burned sending children to school on buses that drive past shuttered schools near the bus stops.

I feel like a creature in a strange land.

How’s it going in your world?

— Lynn

Correction: This post originally stated that the styrofoam trays were thrown away. That is incorrect. They are re-used and then after they break are sent to the incinerator.