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:

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.  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.

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.)


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. 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 (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: (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... (This one is not on yet)



  1. I subscribe to this blog by email (just to be sure it works) and when I got my emailed version, the photos of the products were missing. Sorry about that subscribers. If anyone knows how to fix this in the future, please let me know.

  2. I love your blog and all the great resources for reducing lunch waste! We've had really good luck with those CamelBak bottles, and my husband loves his Kleen Kanteen (I don't know why. but I can't get into drinking out of metal). However, I would not buy a Sigg bottle. I think that company betrayed our trust and, even though, their products NO LONGER contain BPA, I can't support them. I threw out several (very expensive) of the old Sigg models and I can't forgive them for that!

  3. Thank you for the great tips! You both have great blogs -- very informative! I bought both my kids water bottles to take to school everyday and they use them. No more plastics bottles for us. I will definately try the eggplant receipe!

  4. Great blog and great post! My friend Leslie sent me over. We try to be as waste-free as possible at mealtimes -- and my kiddo's school has breakfast, lunch, and "supper" (a late afternoon snack), so it adds up. One treasure we've found is a reusable sandwich bag. Unlike cloth napkins (what I used to wrap sandwiches in), the bag keeps moisture in and wipes clean. The current issue of Working Mother magazine features some cool choices, for those who are interested.

  5. Yes, the reusable sandwich and snack bags are great. And cute too. We use "LunchSkins" by 3 Green Moms. Gotta love the "3 green moms" part. Geniuses. has lots to choose from.

  6. This super smart friend of ours, Julie Bobo, buys flatware at yard sales for next to nothing. Those are the forks and spoons that go in the lunches. If they don't come back, it isn't the end of the world. I've been buying the flatware made of corn, sugar or saw grass (totally biodegradable) for birthday parties. There's always extra. That's the flatware we use on the go. Then it goes into the compost. Same deal with plates, bowls and cups. I have been using wax paper bags for things that are too yucky to go in the cloth sandwich or snack bags. A great alternative to plastic. And I have been trying to buy many less pre-made snacks. Instead, I pop a batch of (organic) popcorn or use up those zucchinis making cookies or muffins and they go in for a treat. Also, I put up a TON of jellies this summer. One of my favorite uses, I make oat bars with whichever jelly or combo sounds good. In the end, I know exactly what my kids have been eating and I'm not kvetching over spending $3 on a tiny bag of cheesamawhosits. That's my 2 cents.

  7. Such good tips, thanks. Another great place to get flatware is restaurant supply stores. Even new flatware through these online restaurant supplies stores is $2-3/dozen forks. You can buy used stuff for even less. We purchased tons for our school.

  8. great post. i love to collect old metal lunch boxes too. here is a very useful guide with images, descriptions and values to each one hope its helpful.