Blog

13
Nov

Refillable Dry Erase Markers

Refillable dry erase markers (whiteboard markers) simply make sense.

 

We were talking with a teacher from a British Columbia high school this week who has been using the EcoSmart Refillable Dry Erase markers for over two years now and she estimates that her use alone has kept over 140 disposable plastic markers out of the local landfill and has saved her school over $100 – that is from one single teacher making one very small change.

refillable markers green

 

Imagine when you multiply that across an entire school, then an entire school district. It equates to thousands of pounds of toxic waste pulled away from local landfills and tens of thousands of dollars in cost savings for the schools. That is money that can be spent on books, computers, athletic equipment, etc.

And what a great example that teacher is setting for her students.

Check out our full selection of Refillable Dry Erase Markers to see if the switch from disposable markers to a refillable, non-toxic option works for you and your students.

#Nevertoss

23
Oct

Toxic Classrooms – A Guide for Pregnant Teachers

 

Toxic Classrooms – Keeping toxins out of the classroom is important at the best of times, but when a teacher is pregnant, the question of indoor air quality and environmental toxins becomes even more crucial.

Let’s have a look at Toxic Classrooms – A Guide for Pregnant Teachers:

Paints, glues, window treatments, carpets and vinyl flooring materials can release toxic chemicals long after they’ve been installed. While factors such as these in a school cannot easily be controlled, there are several steps that a teacher can take to reduce her exposure to harmful chemicals, especially when she’s expecting.

 

Toxic Classrooms - A Guide for Pregnant Teachers

 

Using non-toxic markers and art materials, avoiding PVC plastic, ensuring proper indoor ventilation and controlling toxic cleaning supplies are a few ways to create a safer work environment during pregnancy.

A recent study by the University of California at San Francisco found dozens of contaminants in 99 to 100 percent of the pregnant women they examined. Their findings showed that chemicals can cross the placenta and enter the fetus. In some cases, such as for mercury, fetal exposures are higher than maternal exposure. And multiple chemical exposures are of increasing concern since they can work together to compound a health risk. With a small body weight, immature systems to defend and detoxify the body, and a long life span ahead of them, unborn babies are the most vulnerable to chemical exposures.

The following tips are simple measures that can be taken to reduce exposure to toxins ever-present in schools.

Tip 1: Non-Toxic Markers – use non-toxic, low-odor dry-erase markers that are not solvent-based.

Yeah, you might have seen this one coming, as it is what we do everyday. Using non-toxic, low-odor dry-erase markers is the most effective way for an expectant teacher to protect herself and her unborn child from the vapors of xylene and toluene, chemicals that are used in regular dry-erase markers.

Xylene appears naturally in petroleum and tar, and studies have shown toluene to have an embryo-toxic effect on animals. Even many markers labeled ‘non-toxic’ cause headaches and a buildup of smelly fumes in a poorly ventilated room. Our EcoSmart markers use ink without the bad chemicals (our ink is made with denatured alcohol and vegetable dyes, and are odor-free), taking away the toxicity risk for expecting teachers.

 

Tip 2: Avoid packing food and beverages in plastic containers

Plastic wrap, plastic drink bottles and plastic food storage containers can all leach phthalates into what we are eating or drinking. Phthalates are chemicals used to soften plastics and pose a risk to an expectant mother’s endocrine (hormone) system.

Phthalates chemically mimic hormones and are particularly dangerous to children, potentially affecting their future fertility. Glass or ceramic containers, stainless steel bottles and organic cotton food wraps are all safer ways to store food and beverages.

 

Tip 3: Ask if your classroom can be cleaned with certified green cleaning supplies

A recent study conducted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in the U.S. has revealed that cleaning supplies used in schools could be polluting classroom air with more than 450 distinct toxic contaminants, including chemical agents linked to asthma and cancer.

If you request for your classroom to specifically be cleaned with products that have the Green Seal or EcoLogo, you’ll be sure to have approximately 80 percent fewer contaminants being emitted into your classroom air. It may be up to you to purchase products such as Marauder, Glance NA, and Alpha HP, but you will be assured of a ‘cleaner’ work environment.

 

Tip 4: PVC-free products

It seems like school supplies are laced with PVC plastic. Infamously known as ‘the poison plastic’ PVC plastic can be identified by the number 3 sign, and can be recognized under the name vinyl. Binders, rulers, backpacks, lunchboxes, writing instruments, and apparel like rain boots and rain jackets are common PVC plastic products.

But there are several alternatives on the market made out of natural fibers such as canvas, wood, hemp, bamboo, cotton or even 100% post-consumer waste rubber. Synthetic materials such as polyester or nylon are also good non-toxic choices.

 

Tip 5: Classroom ventilation – ensure that there is good ventilation

The contaminants circulating through classroom air can include carbon dioxide, illnesses such as respiratory infections, molds and bacteria, vehicle exhaust and vapors from markers, cleaning products and copy machines, to name a few.

In an effort to make our schools and homes more energy efficient, we have made them more air tight, and as a result environmental contaminants are unable to escape the room. A discussion with the building maintenance staff could be helpful in ensuring that the ventilation equipment and filters have recently received attention. A government checklist “School Ventilation Systems” can help ensure the overall health of the school’s ventilation system.

 

The dizzying array of chemicals found in our classrooms is troubling, but rather than being overwhelmed by their presence, a few simple choices can help significantly reduce your exposure to harmful toxins and ensure a healthier pregnancy.

Armed with non-toxic school supplies, certified green cleaning products, and products free of PVC plastic and phthalates, you know you will be giving your baby a cleaner start.

18
Sep

Green Holiday Gifts: 5 Tips for Green Gift Giving

green holiday giftsGreen Holiday Gifts: A little early to be thinking holiday shopping? Maybe a bit, but at some point you’re going to have to head out in search of Christmas gifts. Here are a few tips to help you celebrate the holidays with gifts that will be both unique and eco-friendly. This guide to Green Holiday Gifts offers straight-forward suggestions for thinking outside the box when choosing gifts for the home, school or office. These simple tips will help you find the best in reusable, non-toxic, organic, and sustainable products and will tweak your regular buying patterns into ones that will make an impact on family and friends, as well as Mother Earth. This holiday season, look for:

 

 

Tip # 1.  Natural products rather than ones made of chemicals:

For beauty and health products, you may want to head to the health food store rather than the perfumery or drug store. Synthethic-based compounds, which are derived from petroleum, make up the majority of our cosmetics and fragrances. Not only are these substances resource-intensive, but they’ve also been linked to cancer, hormone disruptions, allergic reactions and other harmful effects.

Instead, try natural perfumes made of essential oils or beauty products for both men and women that are made of organic ingredients. What is especially important is to look for products that are phthalate-, paraben- and sulfate-free.

 

Tip # 2.  Long lasting products instead of “single use” products:

A gift is nicer if it is quality-made and eco-friendly. Steering clear of disposable or one-time use items will help reduce the amount of waste sent to the landfills, and take a step closer to a greener culture. Reusable items such as mugs, drinking containers, lunch boxes, bags and other items made out of durable materials make for great gifts, as long as they are PVC-, BPA- and lead-free.

 

Tip # 3.  Foster a green thumb or love of the outdoors:

We simply spend too much time indoors. Encourage the great outdoors with gifts that celebrate nature and our stewardship of the earth. A stainless steel composter, a season’s pass to the local parks, outdoor gear and sports equipment are all great ideas for the outdoor enthusiast. Or, bring a bit of nature indoors with indoor plants (Boston ferns are beautiful, hearty, and help purify the air!).

Accessories for the garden or patio, such as chimes, planters, a bird bath or outdoor candles and lanterns will also delight those who love the outdoors.

 

Tip # 4.  Services, or non-material gifts:

For those who would be appreciative of a non-material gift, giving a donation or service in lieu of a material gift is one of the best ways to reduce our impact during the gift-giving season.

Consider giving the gift of an experience (the theatre, a local restaurant, a certificate for the farmer’s market or local artisan shop), or a donation to a favorite environmental or humanitarian charity. No gift wrap and ribbons necessary.

 

Tip 5.  Products made from more sustainable materials:

Bamboo is quickly becoming the sustainable material of choice when it comes to wooden items (think bowls, serving platters and serving utensils) and cotton items (think pjs, bathrobes, blankets and bedding).

Organic cotton items avoid all the chemicals used in traditional cotton crops.

Avoid PVC (the ‘poison plastic’) by looking for toys made of natural materials like wood, cotton and wool, with non-toxic dyes, paints and finishes. This will protect children, especially those who put toys in their mouths, and give them a few non-plastic toys under the tree.

 

There you have it – five tips to keep in mind when shopping for Green Holiday Gifts. Whether the presents you give this season are reuseable, sustainable, outdoorsy, or non-material, your choice of a uniquely eco-friendly gift will help us all go a bit greener for Christmas.

 

EcoSmart Products distributes non-toxic, refillable markers for the whiteboard, reducing waste, saving money and reducing office space and classroom toxins.

 

Image courtesy of: http://www.pinterest.com/ecoartware/diy-gift-wrap-eco-friendly/

5
Sep

Reducing Waste at School: One Drawer at a Time

reducing waste in schools

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Reducing waste at school – one drawer at a time:

Psst…what’s in your top drawer?

One of our now loyal users, an instructor at a community college, told us the story of his “aha” moment about the wasteful impact of one little product.

There was a drawer in one of the classrooms that had hundreds of used, dried markers. That drawer was the real thing for me in realizing the amount of waste. Just imagine what this is doing nationwide.

With one Refill Ink bottle and one EcoSmart marker replacing about 30 disposable markers, it’s hard to ignore the waste and cost savings of refillable markers.

The instructor’s students, after he made the switch to refillable markers, called it a no-brainer – and he has never tossed away another marker since making the change.

Imagine never throwing away a disposable plastic marker in your teaching career. Think of the impact that would have on your local landfill and water table. Let alone the impact on your health and your students by using a non-toxic marker.

Join the #nevertoss movement to never throw away another dry erase marker  – EcoSmart’s refillable markers for the whiteboard.

3
Sep

Recycling Ideas for Children: 7 Quick Tips

Mom and Dad – here are seven quick tips to help kick-start your kids on the path to being little green machines.

Recycling ideas for children: In addition to leading by example – and by that, I mean taking those extra steps to reduce, reuse and recycle – it’s important to begin teaching your children at a young age. After all, it’s a well-known fact that the earlier habits are picked up, the easier they will become a life-long routine.

Even toddlers can help out – chances are they’ll be pretty happy to lend a hand, especially if you make it into a fun game. Who says recycling has to be a bore or a chore?

Here are 7 ways you can encourage your kids to protect our natural resources and recycle. Get ready, set, recycle!

 

Recycling Ideas for Children: 7 Quick Tips

1. Dial It Up and Junior Will Follow

Let’s face it – it’s going to be a waste of time teaching your kids to participate in green behavior if you aren’t exactly doing it yourself. Just recycling here and there, whenever the urge strikes, isn’t going to cut it – sorry to say. By leading a green lifestyle – all the time – your children are going to notice. Kids look up to their parents and take their cues from our actions –  the good and the bad. If you make a habit of sorting, recycling, reusing, composting, etc., they are going to pick up on it.

 

2. Teaching Time

When it comes to the three R’s – reducing, reusing and recycling – there are plenty of opportunities for parents to teach their children how and why they should participate. Simple lessons about where food comes from, showing them how to sort through garbage/recyclables and which items go where is a great starting point. Books are also a great tool to help peak their interest. Living Green Magazine lists the following 15 children’s books about recycling – Books About Recycling.

 

3.  Pitching In

In addition to tidying their rooms, helping clear the table and whatever other chores your children are assigned, consider adding recycling duties to the list. Option for age-appropriate tasks –  there are plenty to choose from. For example, have your preschool-age child assist with sorting recyclables, taking labels off cans – even picking up litter that lands in your yard or in your neighborhood.  Older children could help by emptying food scraps in to the compost pile/bag, taking garbage and recycle bins to the curb and rinsing out cans, bottles and cartons.

Recycling with your children

Matt Edgar, Flickr

 

4. Kudos

While your youngster may not be able to understand the impact of their actions in helping to create a sustainable future, most are going to be a big fan of getting a reward. Something as simple as a sticker on their chore chart for a job well done or a little treat at the end of the week – or just taking the time to acknowledge how proud you are of the job they’re doing to help out is likely enough to keep them motivated and on the path towards greener pastures – quite literally!

 

Recycling ideas for children

Scott Clark, Flickr

 

5. Plant the Seeds

One of the best – and probably the most fun – ways to teach your child about going green is gardening. And really, what better way to ‘grow’ family memories and teach them about sustainability than in a garden? In addition to teaching them about where fresh food comes from, it’s a great way to teach respect and an appreciation for Mother Nature. Gardening can also foster communication, build strong relationships and offer an opportunity to work towards a common goal, according to Kids Gardening –  a website that offers plenty of resources and tips for parents, including monthly activities and a ‘Parents’ Primer’ designed to help you get started.

Recycling Ideas for children

Wikilogia, Flickr

 

6. Get Crafty

There’s no doubt that being a parent can get expensive. Fortunately, one doesn’t have to spend much at all when it comes to arts and crafts projects that the whole family can enjoy. Chances are you’ll find inspiration within recycle bins and throwaway boxes. Objects like discarded toilet paper rolls, empty milk cartons, paper plates and anything borrowed from Mother Nature, such as rocks, pinecones, acorns, leaves, etc. can be used to great something amazing. For some inspiring crafty ideas to get your family to reduce, reuse and recycle, check out this list – Great Craft Ideas.

 

7. Game Night!

Kids love playing games, so why not incorporate some friendly competition into their recycling duties? Play a game of recycle relay by having each member of the family race to sort and recycle their pile of garbage the fastest. Of course, you’ll have to make sure they know how to separate the piles and clean plastics beforehand. Whoever is the fastest wins the title of ‘Recycle Superstar.’

 

And there you have it – 7 simple ways to help your child prepare for a brighter and ‘greener’ future. Just remember – reducing, recycling and reusing don’t have to be a chore. Have fun making it a family affair.

6
Feb

Game-Based Learning: More Tips for Teachers

With our last blog post, Game-Based Learning: Tips for Teachers we looked at the trend of teachers we talk to using game-based learning techniques in their classrooms.

game based learning tips
Engaging students with game-based learning

 

Here are a couple more tips we’ve come across that could be useful for educators as you do your lesson planning.

 

 

Tip #2: It’s all in the journey

 

Let the elements of your lesson plan emphasize the journey of discovery more than the end result, such as a project or test. Gamers are attracted to the journey: how to play the game holds as much interest as the result of the game. Game design has figured out how to let participants explore multiple angles and perspectives to see what the outcome would be. As an educator, consider how to make the figuring out a fun process, rather than just whether the end result is correct.

 

Let the students know what resources would be helpful on their journey of discovery and how to find them, just as collecting stars in a game can ‘power up’ their strength. Half the fun of the journey in a video game is searching for these guideposts. With this strategy, students develop the critical thinking skills that will lead them to find helpful answers and resources.

 

 

Tip #3: Level up

 

Think of the elements of your unit in terms of levels, with each level of knowledge or skills acquired ‘unlocking’ to the next level. Gamers always know what level they are on, and are motivated to level up. Most video game designs seem to understand the gamer’s drive to keep advancing. Why else would so many games unlock the next level only once certain challenges have been achieved? This building up to the next level works an inherent reward system into your plans, and motivates students to build on their expertise levels.

 

One way that teachers often check understanding along the way, long before test-time, is with personal whiteboard slates. Teachers can ask questions, to the students flash their answers on the whiteboard slates. This will give the teacher an adequate read on whether certain information or concepts need to be reviewed, or if it is time to move on to the next level.

 

Check back later this week and we’ll have the final installment of our blog posts focused on game-based learning.

 

30
Jan

Game-Based Learning: Tips for Teachers

How to use Gaming Principles in the classroom – even when you aren’t using technology! Game-based learning.

game based learning

 

Here at EcoSmart Products, not only do we get to talk to teachers every day about our refillable markers, but we’re parents of school children (ranging from grade three to grade 10), so needless to say a lot of conversation focuses on the classroom.

 

One of the recent topics was “game-based learning” and how many teachers we know are doing a great job of building gaming principles into lessons. Their students are benefiting from game dynamics without realizing how much they’re actually learning.

 

We thought it might be worthwhile to compile a list of “Game-Based Learning” tips some of our favorite teachers are using in their classrooms.

 

We have four tips in total.

 

Here is Tip #1 for game-based learning techniques in the classroom (check back throughout the week as we will have blog posts for Tips #2, #3 and #4).

 

Tip #1: Story of My Life

 

As sung by Harry from 1D in Story of my Life, “Written on these walls are the stories that I can’t explain

 

Which leads us, clumsily, to…using a story to engage and intrigue students.

 

Often students tune out of a lesson because they don’t see the relevance or importance of the subject to their own lives. Try and place them in a central role in the story, even if imaginary. If they were faced with the same choices, dilemmas and opportunities, what would they choose?

 

Teach the students to mind-map or draw out multiple pathways. Let the students loose on the whiteboard to brainstorm the pathways, actors and possible outcomes of the story.

 

Kids who play video games are used to flexible and multiple ways to win, or reach the end. The risk of having only one ‘correct’ way to solve the problem is that it rewards one type of learner, typically the most logical, linear thinkers. Look for opportunities to pose meaningful questions for the students to consider, from their point of view.

 

We’ll post up the rest of the tips throughout the week (and link them here as they go up).

 

Thanks for checking in.

 

Here’s another post you might be interested in:

Refillable Markers: The Quest for Less

 

30
Jul

Refillable Markers and the Quest for #Less

 

recite-1i56rop

Often we hear about MORE: how to recycle more, how to commute more, repurpose more, compost more, buy organic/recycled/fair traded/local more. All good stuff, but can we assume that LESS naturally flows from the conversation about MORE? If we focus more on recycling efforts, do we naturally consume less? If we compost more, do we waste less food? Clearly not. How can LESS be the corollary of MORE when Target reminds us: Expect More. Pay Less? So let’s assume the conversation about LESS (not the Target concept of less) is something other than a nuance and doesn’t always result from our efforts to go green. Think of it: if the conversation in a school or office focused on how to increase recycling efforts, a blue box system soon be placed near every doorway and trash can. But if one looked around the office or classrooms to find the most wasteful products – ones that could be used less – one would easily identify products like the always-necessary, often-dead dry-erase marker. We don’t just want to recycle plastic disposable markers more (oops: they aren’t even recyclable), we actually want to consume them #less.

Enter the solution of EcoSmart’s refillable dry-erase markers. Made of a recycled aluminum, these markers can be topped up and refilled over and over again without the need to buy more markers. Even when the tips get frayed or smushed, they can be replaced for a minimal cost. As a great illustration of a product that is based on the mindset of LESS, EcoSmart markers cost significantly less than disposables, as a refilled marker costs approximately 23 cents compared to $1+ for a new regular marker.

Often the overlooked R of the 3Rs, ‘reduce’ asks us to think of ways to consume and discard less. In the age of more, EcoSmart markers draw a greener pasture in the landscape of going green.

 

EcoSmart's markers are refillable, made of recycled aluminum and use non-toxic ink at a fraction of the cost compared to disposable markers.
EcoSmart’s markers are refillable, made of recycled aluminum and use non-toxic ink at a fraction of the cost compared to disposable markers.


 

 

 

6
Jul

Do you doodle? And other ways to help you think.

Refillable Markers DoodleThe humble doodle may have gotten you in trouble at school for not paying attention to the teacher. Maybe you’re a teacher now and find yourself annoyed by doodling students. Is it not enough that students are preoccupied with their laps (i.e. phones)? Is there no one left who will look you in the eye as you teach? But studies have shown that doodling can help the thinking process by increasing memory retention, boosting creativity and enhancing problem solving. Companies and schools on the cutting edge are embracing the art of doodling and non-linear drawings as a way to enhance performance, unleash innovation and tap into all types of learners. Many have blanketed their walls and desks with whiteboards. Of course, using EcoSmart’s refillable markers makes the possibilities endless, with no getting funny in the head from the vapors of regular, toxic markers. Here are some top tips for dry-erase doodling.

The headquarters of Beats by Dre feature whiteboard walls.
The headquarters of Beats by Dre feature whiteboard walls.

1. The Office Whiteboard Wall.

While technology is certainly stealing the thunder from the pen and paper (millennials think ‘laptop’ when you are looking for your notebook), we are seeing that whiteboards and dry-erase markers are on the rise in office spaces. Idea Paint and other whiteboard products have made it possible for whiteboard spaces to go big, allowing for group brainstorming sessions and expansive mind mapping. We hate to say that all the cool kids are doing it, but they are. These collaborative thinking spaces are driving innovation as different employees add to a diagram, storyboard, flow chart or visual landscaping of a problem or vision for the company. Pictured here, the headquarters of Beats by Dre features a whiteboard zone. Google Ventures proved that they mean business with their whiteboard room by naming it the war room.

 

2. The Whiteboard Table.

Whiteboard tables at NASA's Johnson Space Center
Whiteboard tables at NASA’s Johnson Space Center

Now that we know the hip kids are using whiteboard walls, we also need to know that the geeks are decking out in whiteboard surfaces too. At NASA, tabletops are surfaced with whiteboards so scientists at the Johnson Space Center can jot down their ideas and notes. They gather here, in their sp.ace room to ‘connect, collide, and coalesce’. (It’s all rocket science, even their vocabulary.)

Schools are also decentralizing their use of the front board with individual whiteboard desks and slates. Students can work out their math problems at their desk without having to appear in front of the class. This way, teachers can check student understanding along the way, well before test-time. And if students are just doodling on their desk, one only has to remember JFK who was well known for doodling his way through his presidency.

 

JFK would often doodle the same word over and over again (first image), but he also doodled images to overcome the Cuban Missile Crisis (second image).
JFK would often doodle the same word over and over again (first image), but he also doodled images to think through the Cuban Missile Crisis (second image).

3. Kids Quarters

Drawing with dry-erase markers is safest with non-toxic markers.
Drawing with dry-erase markers is safest with non-toxic markers.

The whiteboard wall is now a common feature in home decor magazines, as parents have decided it’s ok to actually write on the wall. While this opens up opportunity for young minds to connect visual and kinesthetic aspects of learning, it becomes problematic if they are using heavily scented or toxic markers. Brain fog, dizziness, triggered asthma, headaches and nausea are some symptoms that can be triggered with regular dry-erase markers in an enclosed space. A truly non-toxic marker (not just ‘AP approved’) is a healthier option.

Pinterest is teeming with ideas for how to think outside the box with dry-ease markers. Check out EcoSmart’s curated list of 50 Things to Do with Dry-Erase Markers. You just may want to make sure that your markers are refillable first!

EcoSmart's markers are refillable, made of recycled aluminum and use non-toxic ink at a fraction of the cost compared to disposable markers.
EcoSmart’s markers are refillable, made of recycled aluminum and use non-toxic ink at a fraction of the cost compared to disposable markers.
1
Jun

Summer Calls: The Whiteboard Goes Blank

Refill ThanksAs the school year winds down, and teachers wipe clean their whiteboard for the final time of the year, we wanted to extend a big thank you to all the teachers and staff who are using EcoSmart Markers! By using refillable markers, you are cutting down not only on the cost of disposable markers, but also on all that waste that ends up in the landfill. It doesn’t seem like much waste when you toss one marker in the garbage, but you know more than anyone else, how those dead markers add up through the year. We look forward to stocking your classroom, supply room and office next year… after you’ve had a little refill of your own.

“The markers are tough as nails and they last for years.”

-Instructor, Canadian Forces Naval Engineering School

 

“I continue to be convinced of the effectiveness of these markers.  Janitors tell me that they clean off whiteboards easier than other types of dry-erase markers, and I love that they are essentially odourless.”

-J Hardy, teacher at Cardston

 

“…to paraphrase a well known advertisement – It just keeps on writing and writing and writing…”

-G. Spears, High School Teacher

We love to hear from you and your experiences with EcoSmart Markers.

Happy summer holidays from the EcoSmart team!

EcoSmart's non-toxic, refillable markers and refill ink. ecosmartworld.com
EcoSmart’s non-toxic, refillable markers and refill ink. ecosmartworld.com