Erica Cardenas

Saving planet earth, one student at a time

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With eco-consciousness on the rise, everyone is trying to “go green” in one way or another. As young people become more educated and aware of the hazards of producing, using and discarding non-green items, they are attempting to switch to green alternatives. 

So what can you do as a family to care for the environment, and what are some eco-friendly products your child can use both at home and in the classroom? 

Color yourself green: Most crayons are made from petroleum, a non-renewable resource that takes years to biodegrade. Opt for soy-based crayons instead, such as the Prang brand. The nontoxic Prang Fun Pro soybean crayons are made from soybean oil and are $1.95 for sixteen; available at

Other school supplies can be switched, too. Consider this: If your child’s school uses 20 cases of recycled instead of regular paper, it’ll save 17 trees and 7,000 gallons of water. To help decrease water pollution specifically, choose chlorine-free recycled paper. 

And, while the good old number-two pencil isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, there are still plenty of eco-choices such as the Paper Mate® EarthWrite™ pencils made from 100 percent recycled materials, down to the lead and eraser. There’s even a brand on the market called Smencils, made from recycled newspapers and infused with scents for scratch-n-sniff fun.

Art with a “green” touch: Kids are crafty by nature, so having a well-stocked array of art supplies on the home front will allow them to unleash their inner artists at whim. Some eco-friendly art supplies that can be used both at home and in the classroom include a green paste, known as “Eco-glue.” This handmade concoction is composed of rice flour, water, sugar, citric acid, corn starch, potassium sorbate and rosemary oil. It comes with its own small applicator brush and costs $6.99 at

Also available at Eco-kids is their handmade finger paint made with organic fruit and vegetable extracts from beets, carrots, curcumin, annatto seed, purple sweet potato, red cabbage and spinach mixed in a base of flour, cornstarch, wheat paste and clay. This powder-based, all-natural finger paint set includes five 4-ounce containers for $23.99 and is also available in a gluten-free variety for $30/set.

In addition to opting for some of these eco-friendly products, getting involved with local organizations, such as the Valley Permaculture Alliance, can inspire you and your family to create a more sustainable community. From tours of local sustainable homes to hands-on training and demonstrations, the organization also works closely with St. Luke’s Health Initiatives in supporting school and community garden start-ups by organizing classes and providing technical assistance to garden groups across the Valley, among other activities.

The term “permaculture” is a combination of “permanent” and “culture,” and addresses the sustainability of human and natural ecosystems – each dependent on the other.

The Alliance will be offering a class, “Keeping Vegetables: The ART Technique” on December 15 from 10:30 a.m. to noon at the Desert Marigold School, 6210 S. 28th Street in Phoenix. The class will discuss the ART (aqueous revitalization technique), which enables you to keep all your self-harvested produce fresh right up until you’re ready to prepare and serve it to your family.  

Based on the same principles that florists use to keep their flowers long-lasting, the workshop will teach you the hows and whys of ART, and how your fresh produce can last two to three times as long using this technique.

No pre-registration is required and the cost is $15 payable at time of the class. For a complete list of classes and workshops offered by the Valley Permaculture Alliance, visit

Pack a better lunch: Opt for an insulated Bazura bag, made by a women’s co-op in the Philippines from recycled juice boxes, starting at $15.95 at, and pair it with a reusable water bottle. And, when it comes to what to actually pack in the lunchbox, try a local farmer’s market. An apple a day will taste good, help the local economy and cut down on the energy costs of shipping. To find a market or co-op near you, go to

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