The most sustainable backpacks for toddlers, preschoolers, grade schoolers, teens, and adults!

Non-Toxic & Eco-Friendly Backpacks

Roundups

Updated for Fall 2021!

As soon as August rolls around, all we can think of backpacks! A new backpack is often the most exciting thing on the back to school shopping list, especially if the one from last year is torn to shreds or not big enough anymore. Many backpacks are made from harmful plastics like PVC, which contains phthalates, and many times they are treated with a PFAS (Teflon-like) finish. This is why we searched high and low for backpacks that are not only cute and functional, but are also good for the environment. Our backpack recommendations are all phthalate, PVC, and lead free. We also looked for backpacks that are made from recycled water bottles, GOTS certified organic cotton, or that feature a PFAS-free water repellent. We found backs in sizes that will work for toddler, kids, teenagers and adults. Many of these backpacks have different sizing options and all of them come in assorted colors and prints so there really is a backpack for everyone!

We list the dimensions or size in liters of each backpack below. As a reference, toddlers usually need a backpack of about 6 liters, preschoolers from 6-12 liters, elementary school kids from 12-18 liters, and teenagers/adults from 18 liters and above.

a) Apple Park Backpack- Toddler 10.75" x 12" x 5.5", Big Kid 14.5" x 12" x 7"

These cute backpacks are made from 100% recycled materials. Each animal backpack saves 27 plastic bottles from landfills. Also comes in an owl and fox styles, and big kid and toddler sizes.

b) Deuter Kikki Kid's Backpack- 8 liters

This is a really fun little kid backpack. It comes in three different colors and has a chest strap to help your little one carry their load. This backpack is PFAS free and manufactured according to the Blusign (R) standard, which ensures environmental health and safety in the manufacturing of textiles.

c) So Young Toddler Backpack (9.5"L X 5"W X 13"H) and Grade School Backpack (11"L X 5.5"W x 15.5"H)

So Young backpacks come in toddler and grade school sizes and all sorts of unique modern prints. They are constructed of linen and cotton and are free from harmful chemicals.

d) Terra Thread Organic Backpack (16"H x 12"W x 5"D) and Mini Backpack (13"H x 10.5"W x 4"D)

Terra Thread backpacks are made with a durable, thick GOTS certified organic cotton canvas. They are also carbon neutral, because the company purchases carbon offsets. Plus the backpacks are made in a Fair Trade certified factory and the company is a Certified B Corporation! Terra Thread backpacks comes in a mini and a standard size, so it works for kids (and adults!) of all sizes.

e) Fjallraven Re-Kanken (16L) and Re-Kanken Mini (7L)

A special edition of the trendy Kanken backpack from Fjallraven that is made entirely from polyester recycled from plastic bottles. The dye technology also reduces the amount of water, energy, and chemicals used. It comes in a mini and standard size in lots of bright color choices, so there is something for everyone. Fjallraven takes sustainability seriously and has an impressive Code of Conduct. They were also one of the first adopters of going PFAS free.

f) North Face Youth Recon Squash Backpack (17L) and the North Face Sprout Backpack (10L)

North Face has two excellent and well built kids backpacks that are made from 50% recycled polyester. The fabric is water repellent with a non-PFAS durable water repellent. With all the right pockets and comfortable supportive straps, including a chest clip, this backpack will last for many years.

g) LEGO Brick Backpack (18 L)

The perfect backpack for the Lego obsessed. There are two zippered front pockets, and the adjustable shoulder straps and sternum strap all help to make this backpack comfortable. It's also exciting that the fabric is made from recycled plastic bottles, which reduces energy use, water use, and air pollution

h) State Kane Kids Recycled Poly Canvas Backpack Original (14.95" H x 11.22" W x 4.72" D), Mini (12.60" H x 9.45" W x 3.54" D) and Large (17" H x 13" W x 7.5" D)

This backpack is thoughtfully designed and made from 90% recycled polyester. The main compartment has organizational zip pockets and the outside has two side water bottle pockets. The recycled fabric version also comes in several other prints and a mini version for the younger kids! There's even a large size for teenagers. State bags also gives to families in need for every backpack that is purchased.

i) Everlane Renew Backpack (18L or 27L)

This backpack is made from 100% recycled polyester and features a PFAS free water resistant finish. The dyes are also Bluesign (R) approved, which are safer for workers and for the environment. These backpacks feature a zippered laptop pocket and other slip and zippered pockets for organization. It's a comfy and classy backpack that is perfect for class, work, or travel.

j) Fluf B Pack (22L)

These Fluf backpacks are made from GOTS certified organic cotton with 100% recycled polyester felt padding. There is a sleeve for a laptop and a zipper front pouch. For every backpack sold, Fluf donates to support sending a girl to school in a developing country through Plan International.

k) Vera Bradley Reactive Grand Backpack (25 L)

A favorite brand of tweens and teenagers, Vera Bradley now makes backpacks from recycled plastic bottles. This backpack comes in a couple of trendy prints and colors and can hold all the school books kids will need.

l) Jansport Recycled SuperBreak Backpack (26 L)

A classic backpack, but now made with 100% recycled materials. Each backpack is made from the equivalent of 20 plastic bottles! This is a quality lightweight backpack that is great for school and more.


*Because Health is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program so that when you click through our Amazon links, a percentage of the proceeds from your purchases will go to Because Health. We encourage you to shop locally, but if you do buy online buying through our links will help us continue the critical environmental health education work we do. Our participation does not influence our product recommendations. To read more about how we recommend products, go to our methodology page.

Roundups

PFAS and PVC Free Adult Rain Gear

Stay protected from the elements

As spring approaches, you may be thinking of upgrading your rain gear before the rainy season hits. Most rain gear can contain harmful chemicals like PFC/PFAS or PVC, which is not something you want on your body. PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) is a common plastic that is used in hundreds of places, but it's often used in rain gear to make it more waterproof. PVC on its own is not inherently toxic but it is extremely brittle, which is why phthalates are often added to make it stronger. Phthalates are harmful endocrine disruptors that have been linked to cancer, infertility, heart disease, and obesity.

The other group of chemicals that we want to steer away from is PFAS or PFC (i.e. Teflon-like chemicals). These chemicals have extremely tight bonds between the atoms, which means nothing can get past them. While this makes them great waterproofing agents, it also means these chemicals basically don't break down over time. These "forever chemicals" are also found in nonstick cookware, stain-resistant fabrics, and even take-out containers. Because these chemicals are found in so many common products they eventually end up in our environment polluting the water and soil and staying there forever. PFAS have been known to cause serious health problems like decreased fertility, increased cholesterol levels, harming the growth and development of children, and lowering immune system function.

That's why we found the best rain jackets and rain boots for adults! These boots and jackets are free from PFAS and PVC but will still keep you protected from the elements.



a) VAUDE Escape Light Rain Jacket

b) Marmot Phoenix EVODry Jacket

c) Jack Wolfskin Hardshell Jacket

d) Royal Robbins Switchform Waterproof Jacket

e) Joules Welly Print Rain Boot

f) Columbia OutDry Jacket

g) Tretorn Wings rain jacket

h) Western Chief Women's Printed Tall Waterproof Rain Boot

i) North Face Dryzzle FUTURELIGHT™ Jacket

j) VIKING Unisex Marine Kadett Boot

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Roundups

PFAS and PVC Free Kids Rain Gear

Rain, rain, go away... unless you're wearing one of these jackets!

For most people, the arrival of spring also means the arrival of the rainy season. And if you have kids, and are having an increased number of outdoor playdates due to covid, you probably need to stock up on some new rain gear. Remember, there's no bad weather, just bad clothing! But before you go out and purchase just any rain gear, you should know that a lot of the common gear you see at the stores could be made with toxic chemicals.

The two chemicals that we want to steer clear of are PVC and PFAS. PVC or otherwise known as Polyvinyl Chloride is a super common plastic that is used in hundreds of places, but it's often used in rain gear to make it more waterproof. PVC on its own is not inherently toxic but it is extremely brittle, which is why phthalates are often added to make it stronger. Phthalates are harmful endocrine disruptors that have been linked to cancer, infertility, heart disease, and obesity.

The other group of chemicals that we want to steer away from is PFAS or PFC (i.e. Teflon-like chemicals). These chemicals have extremely tight bonds between the atoms, which means nothing can get past them. While this makes them great waterproofing agents, it also means these chemicals basically don't break down over time. These "forever chemicals" are also found in nonstick cookware, stain-resistant fabrics, and even take-out containers. Because these chemicals are found in so many common products they eventually end up in our environment polluting the water and soil and staying there forever. PFAS have been known to cause serious health problems like decreased fertility, increased cholesterol levels, harming the growth and development of children, and lowering immune system function.

I think it's pretty clear that it's best to stay away from any rain gear that uses these chemicals. They are not good for the planet, nor for your health. We definitely think PVC, PFAS (PFCs) need to be avoided, which is why we rounded up our favorite PVC and PFAS free kids rain gear so you don't have to worry this Spring!



a) RAINY DAYS KIDS This lightweight jacket is waterproof, windproof, and comes in a variety of fun colors and sizes for toddlers to preteens! It also has built in, high visibility reflectors for added safety.

b) Kids' PreCip Eco Jacket This waterproof jacket is ultra lightweight and breathable for all types of weather protection. Also it's made out of completely recycled materials!

c) JAN & JUL Girls' Fleece-Lined Rain Jacket for Toddler Kids, Water-Proof This jacket comes in a variety of prints and solid colors and is fleece lined to keep the kiddos warm no matter the weather. It also comes with reflective strips for some added safety!

d) Playshoes Childrens Waterproof Reflective Rain Jacket and pants These super cute raincoats and pants are heavier duty while also being breathable and easy to pack away. Plus, they're waterproof and windproof!

e) CeLaVi - Kids Rain Suit Reflective Waterproof 2 Pcs Jacket and Pants/or Dungarees This waterproof set comes with a jacket and pants for full protection from the rain. The set comes in a crazy amount of colors and has sizes from toddlers to age 10.

f) Hatley Boys' Printed Raincoats This rain jacket comes in so many fun prints your kids are guaranteed to love it! It also comes in sizes for toddlers to preteens and is super durable.

g) WATERPROOF SHELL JACKET Made from recycled materials, this jacket is fully sealed to create the ultimate waterproof jacket. Also because of the jacket's unique finish it makes it super easy to clean!

h) OAKI Rain & Trail Suit - Kid &Toddler - Girl & Boy One Piece Rain Jacket & Pant Not only does this one piece waterproof suit come in so many fun colors it is also guaranteed to keep you kids dry! It's great for the rain and the snow.





Roundups

PFC and PVC Free Kids Rain Boots

Puddles don't stand a chance against these wellies!

Spring is right around the corner, which means so is the rain! If you have kids, chances are you need to stock up on some new rain boots (how do kids grow so quickly?!). But a lot of rain boots you'd find in stores often are made with harmful chemicals like PVC and PFC. PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) is a common plastic that is used in hundreds of places, but it's often used in rain gear to make it more waterproof. PVC on its own is not inherently toxic but it is extremely brittle, which is why phthalates are often added to make it stronger. Phthalates are harmful endocrine disruptors that have been linked to cancer, infertility, heart disease, and obesity.

The other group of chemicals that we want to steer away from is PFAS or PFC (i.e. Teflon-like chemicals). These chemicals have extremely tight bonds between the atoms, which means nothing can get past them. While this makes them great waterproofing agents, it also means these chemicals basically don't break down over time. These "forever chemicals" are also found in nonstick cookware, stain-resistant fabrics, and even take-out containers. Because these chemicals are found in so many common products they eventually end up in our environment polluting the water and soil and staying there forever. PFAS have been known to cause serious health problems like decreased fertility, increased cholesterol levels, harming the growth and development of children, and lowering immune system function.

That's why we found the best kids rain boots that don't contain PFAS or PVC! These rain boots are seriously cute, come in lots of different sizes, and will keep feet dry! Check them out today!



a) Hatley Rain Boots

b) Joules Welly Print Rain Boot

c) L.L. Bean Kids' Wellies

d) Oaki Rain boots

e) Polarn O. Pyret Classic Stripe Rain Boots

f) Stonz Natural Rubber Rain Boot

Real talk— polyvinyl chloride (or PVC for short), seems to be in practically everything, doesn't it? If you walk down a random aisle in a store, you can find this material in upholstery, shower curtains, toys and even school supplies. You might be thinking, if it's in so many things (including items for children), it should be safe right? In reality, the answer is no. BUT, don't fret, since there are simple, yet effective ways to avoid PVC in your everyday life.

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Roundups

Non-Toxic Yoga Mat Roundup

So many om-azing choices!

If you're sheltering in place and want to take up a new hobby, why not try yoga? It's challenging, requires little space or equipment, and helps you relax! What more do you need!? Plus. there are a lot of free online yoga classes available right now for both kids and adults! We love that the whole family can practice together under one roof.

But what you may not know is that most yoga mats are made from harmful, synthetic material. Our other article goes into more detail about this topic, but to sum it up: yoga mats are made from PVC and PU. And yoga mats break down over time and little bits of harmful material can end up all around your house. Some companies claim to be eco-friendly but still use harmful chemicals like PER, which contains PVC. Nama-stay away from that!

Our yoga mat roundup only features mats made from natural materials (with the exception of recycled water bottles) like jute, cotton, cork, and natural rubber. None of these mats contain harmful chemicals derived from fossil fuels.



a) Jade Yoga Harmony Mat
b) Maduka Eko Yoga Mat
c) Merrithew Natural Rubber and Cork Yoga Mat
d) Repose Yoga Mat
e) Design Lab Yoga Mat


*Because Health is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program so that when you click through our Amazon links, a percentage of the proceeds from your purchases will go to Because Health. We encourage you to shop locally, but if you do buy online buying through our links will help us continue the critical environmental health education work we do. Our participation does not influence our product recommendations. To read more about how we recommend products, go to our methodology page.


Life

Don’t let a PVC Yoga Mat Ruin Your Om

Nama-stay away from this material

Yoga is the perfect way to destress while still giving your body a good workout. It's as beneficial for the mind as it is for the body! Plus, it doesn't hurt that you don't have to leave the house to practice it. But while yoga might be good for your health, your yoga mat could have hidden health risks.

The Problem With Yoga Mats

When you think of a yoga mat, you probably picture a soft, sponge-y material that you can easily roll and bend. Turns out, most yoga mats are made from polyvinyl chloride- otherwise known as PVC or vinyl. While this material is good at proving grip and padding, PVC is actually a type of plastic. PVC starts out as a really hard material, but becomes flexible when phthalates are added during production. Your super flexible yoga mat probably has a lot of phthalates added to it, which means you could be exposed to endocrine disrupting chemicals during your downward-facing dog. Yoga mats are also known to peel and flake as they age. These little crumbs could end up all over your house and you could be exposed to harmful chemicals even when you're off the mat!

Plus, the production of PVC is horrible for the environment and can be a big source of pollution. It has also been known to contribute to climate change. That's just not a material we want to purchase!

What You Can Do

Never fear! There are tons of PVC-free yoga mat options out there. Try looking for a yoga mat that's 100% made from natural materials like cotton, cork, or natural rubber. These materials will still provide padding while reducing your exposure to harmful chemicals. Jute is another great option, but be sure to avoid any mats that mix jute with polymer environmental resin (PER), which contains PVC (1).

You can also look for yoga mats that specifically say they're PVC-free, but make sure to carefully check out the materials the mat is made up of. Just because it's advertised as PVC-free doesn't mean it's made from better materials.

If you have an old yoga mat you're no longer using, call your local recycling facility to see whether or not they could recycle it. But be aware that it might be difficult to find a facility that will accept it, since PVC is notoriously hard to recycle (2).


References

  1. https://www.ecocenter.org/healthy-stuff/reports/yoga-mats-2019
  1. https://www.latimes.com/lifestyle/story/2019-07-18/yoga-mats-bad-for-environment
Family

Are Foam Play Mats Safe For Babies?

Don't let tummy time be toxic time

Squishy foam mats or those large colorful floor puzzles can seem like a great way to keep your baby comfortable during tummy time or cushion your clumsy toddler's falls. As useful as these play mats are, it is important to choose the right material before buying! Some mats are made of substances that can harm your baby's health, and manufacturers are often not transparent about what is in their "foam" products. The safety of products manufactured for use by children is particularly important, since children are especially vulnerable to toxic exposures. Here is what you need to know to make an informed, healthy choice for your child.

What's in Foam Baby Mats?

Foam mats popular in homes, schools, and even childcare centers. But what is in the foam? Many foam materials like those used for baby mats, yoga mats and in gyms are usually made up of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyurethane, or EVA. But it's almost impossible to find a more detailed description than that. Even extensive research doesn't turn up many results.

Polyvinyl chloride and polyurethane foam in baby products are less popular than they once were, and EVA is often looked at as a less toxic alternative. However, there are problems with all three materials. PVC, aside from being a plastic polymer that can bind and spread other toxics, is often also treated with phthalates. This additive, used for increased flexibility, is a known endocrine disruptor with harmful effects on many body systems (1). Polyurethane, although itself is non-toxic, is flammable and typically contains added flame-retardants like PBDEs that can be detrimental to child development (2,3).

EVA, typically advertised as the non-toxic choice often tests positive for formamide, another toxic chemical. Although some EVA mats are advertised as formamide free, this doesn't necessarily mean what it says. "Formamide free" means that there may be trace levels of formamide, but the levels are low enough that companies are allowed to market their products as free of the chemical (4). EVA is definitely a better option than PVC or polyurethane, but with any of these foam materials, it is very difficult to know what chemicals you could be bringing into your home.

Safer Alternatives

If you want to ensure your child will not be exposed to any toxics from their play mats, an organic cotton mat is the best choice. There have been a number of studies showing that foam mats use at home, in childcare centers, and in gyms are associated with significantly increased exposure to a wide range of toxic chemicals, like the ones mentioned previously. These chemicals are associated with many adverse health and developmental problems including neurological issues, and reproductive and liver toxicity (5).

As research becomes more robust, we are finding that more and more household items contain toxic chemicals or materials. Currently, there are no strong laws that ban the use of chemicals in foam mats and manufacturers are not required to disclose their composition. So, it is up to you to be proactive and keep your little ones safe from harmful exposures.

References

1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29684738

2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29703676

3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29630944

4)https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/201...!

5) https://www.cdc.gov/biomonitoring/chemical_factshe...

6) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31108294

7)https://s3.amazonaws.com/hbnweb.prod/uploads/files...

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