Tuesday, September 28, 2010


If you’re my age, you might have childhood memories that go something like this:

Saturday night is bridge night.  You love bridge night because your parents take you and your sister with them to these parties.  The grownups sit around one or two card tables playing a game that is impossible to understand. While the cards distract the adults, you can walk right by and snag handfuls of “bridge mix” (chocolate-covered who-cares-what) from little crystal dishes found on every corner of the  tables. 
Your parents bring your pajamas because bridge usually goes late and includes several martinis for them and lots of TV and candy for you.  Eventually you fall asleep in front of your friends’ TV wearing the fuzzy pink jammies with feet that will become a bunny costume for Halloween. Once the grownups have washed down the last martini, you head home.
            Your dad carries you to the car and carefully places you on the back dash of the Chevy Impala so that you can stretch out there to sleep. Your sister sleeps across the back seat. It’s practically bunk beds.  Brilliant.
            On the way home, your dad (who always drove) pulls in to Dunkin Donuts for a large Styrofoam cup of coffee to counteract that last martini.  If he finishes it before getting home, he might simply toss the cup out the car window.  The world was huge back then and one little cup didn’t make a difference.  Or did it?

It sounds absurd now, but back in the ‘70s, no one gave any of this a second thought until:  the Indian got sad, the moms got mad and the word got out.

If you recognize the story above, you probably recognize this guy too.  Advertising executives jammed him into our brains on Earth Day, 1971 where he has lived ever since.  The “Crying Indian” came ashore in his canoe, walked up to the edge of the freeway and stared hopelessly at smokestacks and traffic as one passenger threw a bag of fast food garbage at his feet.  He made our moms cry.  He made them think. And then they taught us not to litter.
Car seats existed in 1971, but none of the children whizzing by the dismayed native was in one. Then someone showed mothers that children were dying needlessly every day. Can you imagine tucking your toddler into the back dash of a Honda? Today, carseats are an inconvenient, ugly, expensive but completely accepted fact of life.
Once I could drive myself, I didn’t hesitate to drive home from a party after uncountable beers. It never crossed my mind that I might kill myself, or someone I loved, or someone that someone else loved.  All I can say for myself is that I was not the only one. It was considered acceptable - until it wasn’t.  In 1980, a mom buried a child and started Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) the very next day. She has dedicated her life to making us think about the consequences of our actions.

·      We don’t litter.
·      We don’t let our children ride unrestrained.
·      We don’t drive drunk.

It sounds absurd now.  We don’t even think about it.

·      We drink our coffee then throw the cup (and its plastic lid) out the window into a landfill. Every day.
·      We pay more for water than gasoline.
·      We use plastic grocery bags for an average of 12 minutes and leave them on the Earth forever.

It sounds absurd now.  Please, think about it.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Do Lunch Do Over

Hmmm. I may have to rethink my suggestions about Bento Buddies and thermos’.  Literally the day after I posted about all those expensive-but-worth-it reusable lunch items, my 9-year-old lost her lunchbox at school.  Since it contained almost a full set of new Bento Buddies ($12) and a new thermos ($8) in an old lunchbox ($10), it was kind of frustrating when she didn’t come home with it. Needless to say, she’ll be getting lots of GladWare in her even older lunchbox the next few months.  Still no excuse for baggies and disposable plastic bottles.  
 Interestingly, the missing lunchbox never showed up in the class lunch wagon or the lost and found.  Is that because the “finder” was so in love with the colorful containers and cool Star Wars Thermos that he couldn’t bare to drop the lunchbox into the lost and found?  Or could it have something to do with said 9-year-old falling in love with the cool new GoGreen bento/lunch box/whiteboard combo she saw on my blog the night before?  Hmmmm.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


       You’re moms. So I don’t have to explain why it’s taken me so long to come up with the blog about greening our lunch boxes.  You don’t need to know about how 6 in-laws were visiting while we were preparing to evacuate our house due to the Boulder Canyon wildfire.  You understand.  You’re busy too. 
We’re all busy. That’s why products like Lunchables exist. I like to think that we’ve come a long way since the bologna on Wonder® bread, potato chips in a baggy and warm milk I had in my Snoopy lunch box. I think that Lunchables contain about the same nutritional value as my 1970s version. Unfortunately, Lunchables are packed in plastic that is wrapped in plastic then over-wrapped in plastic coated cardboard, shipped across the country and sold for about ten times the price of their old-school counterpart. But they’re quicker, easier and unfortunately, kids LOVE them.  
So, while I can’t hide my feelings about Lunchables, I can remind you that this blog is not about guilt, it’s about baby steps. It’s about all of us making small changes, and convincing a friend or two to do the same. 

Are you willing to take a baby step this week?
Step 1: Instead of a prepackaged “meal” like Lunchables, pack a lunch or buy hot lunch once more per week.
Hot lunch is actually the greenest way to go. But, unless you live in Boulder or Berkeley, it may not be the healthiest. More on Boulder’s hot lunch program later.
Step 2: Say goodbye to juice boxes and single-use bottles: Invest in a thermos or reusable water bottle. 
Step 3: Replace 1-2 individually wrapped snack items (chips, goldfish, pretzels) with reusable containers (not Baggies!).
Buying food in bigger bags (not necessarily giant bulk packages) saves money. I usually fill up several small containers with crackers and snacks at the beginning of the week so I can throw one in at the last minute.
Step 4: Trust your kids with flatware and cloth napkins instead of plastic forks and spoons.
Step 5 DIVE IN: If you have most of these items already (and you probably do), ask yourself if you can commit to  “waste free” lunches for one week. Once you’ve done it for a week…

Making these changes doesn’t have to be expensive.  Avoid buying new plastic if you can. If you own it and it’s safe, USE IT.  If you don’t, here are some resources for buying new. 
Make sure whatever you use is lead, BPA and phthalate FREE. The tag should tell you. More on the various poisons found in plastic to come. For now, trust me on this one.
ALL of these items and so many more can be found on my new favorite site: www.reuseit.com

BOTTLES: The initial investment seems expensive, but you will save so much in the long run. Don’t forget to put your kids’ names on them with permanent marker! (photos NOT to scale)

1.    2.  3. 
1. http://www.camelbak.com/sports-recreation/bottles/kids-bottles.aspx  It’s not really a thermos, but Gracie says her Camelback bottle keeps drinks cold, even when it sits in the hot car.

2. We have 3 Klean Kanteen bottles. One leaks. http://www.kleankanteen.com/

3. I’m mad at Sigg because they sold us stainless steel water bottles lined with BPA, but they have since fixed the problem, and they are darn cute. (Plus mine have never leaked.) http://www.sigg.com/


4.   5.  6. 
4. Best news I’ve heard in a long time: GladWare® is BPA and phthalate free and always has been. Yes, it’s plastic (Mother Earth’s biggest pet peeve) but if you already own it, use it.  Don’t throw it into the ocean only to buy more plastic. Available at Target, Wal-Mart, everywhere...
5. http://lunchbots.com/ Lunchbots:  I don't have any of these since I still have lots of GladWare, but I like the fact that they're not plastic.
6. Bento Buddies by Laptop lunch  http://www.laptoplunches.com/ (Also at Whole Foods)
The rectangular shape makes these easier to pack than round GladWare®. The little dip container makes veggies much more desirable.  My friend Bevin tells me that so many little lids are hard for smaller kids-- which brings us to the next cool item.  Thank you Bevin! Check out Bevin’s Blog, The Food Evangelist,  for ideas about what to put in these lunches: http://bevinwallace.wordpress.com/ (Note: Our blogs are not normally as similar as they are this week.)
7. Bevin's Find: This little bundle has the whole package - even a little whiteboard for love notes.  I’m trying (really hard!) not to buy things I don’t need. Otherwise, the UPS man would be arriving in 3-5 business days... http://www.gogreenlunchbox.com/index.html (This one is not on reuseit.com yet)


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Pay Attention

It’s all about sustainability.  If you try to give up your car entirely, you probably won’t succeed.  If you try to live a plastic-free life, you definitely won’t succeed.  It’s like dieting.  When I was young, I was always trying to lose that extra 5 pounds. Okay 20 pounds. Whatever. I tried many extreme measures: hating myself, living on grapefruit or sauerkraut, giving half my paycheck to a gym for access to a class I hated. Ask my college roommate how the sauerkraut diet turned out. Eesh! None of it worked.

When I got pregnant with my first child, everything changed.  I educated myself about what I was eating and what I should be eating. I took the time to create healthy meals and made sure I was getting enough protein, vitamins, fiber and exercise.  I cared. 

I gained 50 pounds when I was pregnant, but I never loved my body more.  This body that I had all along could make a baby! It’s a miracle machine.  How can you not respect a body that can do that? Once I fell in love with my body, even my 50-pounds-bigger-than-usual body, the rest was easy.

I never dieted again. I remembered to take vitamins more often.  I ate more whole grains.  I took the stairs instead of the elevator. I began to mother myself: I looked after my body “kindly and protectively, with care and affection.” Remember, that’s the definition of mothering.  I gained 50 pounds when I was pregnant.  I lost 60 – one small choice at a time.

The point is that starving yourself doesn’t work. Swearing off plastic or driving isn’t sustainable. Baby steps work. Caring works. Mothering works.

Baby step of the week:  pay attention. Notice the cool, crisp fall air.  Think about how lucky we are that ours is the planet with the blue sky.  Smell the grass. Doesn’t the green go so nicely with the blue?  If you’re lucky enough to live near the ocean, get in.  If your lucky enough to live near the mountains, hike up. Look at your child.  Listen to her breathe.

Once you’ve been reminded that this planet of ours is a miracle machine too, pay attention to the choices.  Don’t do the guilt thing. Pay attention to other people’s choices. (Trust me, it’s easier this way.) Stand behind the row of cash registers at Safeway and notice the carts full of single use plastic bags going out the door.  Linger on the front lawn of your kids’ school and notice how many kids are being dropped off in cars or notice the cars on the road with only one person inside. Notice the water delivered in plastic instead of pipes. Notice the coffee in cups that will never be used again.

I know what you’re thinking:  It’s hard not to pay attention to your own choices.  It’s because you’re a mother and you care.