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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Back to School: Waste Free Lunches

By Rachel H and Guest Blogger Jenni Mowery

Happy Thursday! If you are reading this post between 6 am and 8 am, turn to Fox 8 News! The TSP Team will be featured live on the morning news program and will be sharing our Smarty Tips for Back to School. Our segments air at 6:15 am, 6:45 am, 7:15 am, 7:45 am, and 8:15 am.

We blogged about two of our segments earlier this week. Check out "Getting Your Day off to a Good Start" and "Smart and Trendy School Supplies." Today's post covers our GREEN segment on waste-free lunch products.

As we prepare our children for back-to-school this fall, let’s all take the time to consider a better way to pack their lunch. The waste that comes from a typical student’s lunch bag totals up to $250 or over 70 pounds during the school year! That might be more than they weigh themselves! Not only is it now easy to make better choices and eliminate waste from their lunchbox entirely, but it’s also fun and stylish! I went on a hunt for TSP and have broken it down for you here, Mommas! If you are just starting out and feel overwhelmed by the green movement, you are not alone. Pick one of these 5 to try for the first couple months and then take on another. Every single choice you make, every single day counts toward reducing the amount of waste we send to the landfill. We appreciate your efforts! Here’s what I found, locally and online:

1.Reusable lunch box or bag:

Most of us already have moved from the brown paper sack to a reusable lunch box and this is a great first step! There are as many lunchbox designs as there are children in the world! Good choices are insulated and compartmentalized, giving you extra confidence that the lunch you pack will still be delicious when your child unpacks it. (The pictured lunch boxes above can be purchased at Whole Foods locally or online at Land of Nod)

2.Reusable Bottle:
I am the first to admit that a juice box has its place in our busy mom lives, birthday parties and jumbo playgroups, certainly, but in the lunchbox does not have to be one of those places. A study was recently done in Germany that kids with a refillable bottle at school not only drank more water but maintained a healthier weight! It’s a good habit to get into at any age. Reusable drink containers come in a variety of materials and cover all your different needs; sippy cup style, ones with straws or flip-tops or those sporting graphics of superheroes or ballerinas. Stainless steel is much safer from a health perspective, but can be pricey. If you do go with a plastic cup, make sure it is BPA free (Bisphenol A, also called BPA is a chemical that is used to strengthen some plastics but has been linked to cancer and other diseases). Many companies now make BPA free cups and bottles; Nuby, Munchkin and Gerber among them. For older kids Nalgene or the insulated Polar Bottle makes a good choice. (the bottle shown is Ecousable, locally through Green Beanie’s NC rep, Nancy Tuohy at There are also a number of stainless steel bottles on now for around $6 a piece and up.)

3.Reusable Containers:

The next hurdle is the banishment of the Ziploc baggie!! These little bags are so handy but are really (I mean it girls!) killing our beautiful earth. And look what great alternatives we have now. Again, BPA free plastic (this can be simple Rubbermaid-ish containers or the fancier Laptop Lunchbox or ZoLi stackables) or stainless steel lunch containers (like Lunchbots, SIGG or To-Go Ware) are now available to pack your child’s lunch in and can easily be carried home in the lunchbox for washing and reusing! Fabric bags like these shown are great for sides, snacks and can be thrown in the laundry or dishwasher! (Products like the ones shown are available at online and locally through Green Beanie’s NC rep, Nancy Tuohy at, or at O’Baby Organic)


Your child’s school may have stainless reusable utensils readily available, if so, that is great. What is more likely offered, disposable plasticware. The solution at my home is a gathering of random flatware that has its own space in the drawer that I call “picnicware.” I just grab the appropriate utensils for the meal and throw them in. If you want something a bit more stylish there are great utensils that come in a little bag (To-Go Ware) or a flip-out version (your boy scout might like the swiss army knife style offered by SIGG). (Both can be found at

5.Cloth Napkin:

This is my personal favorite as it has become a fun item to look for at yard sales and consignment shops and I can’t even think about how many paper napkins are thrown away in the world each day without holding my hand to my chest for support! For my boys, I have taken several of my favorite brightly striped napkins and gotten their first initial monogrammed on it. Another great idea is to make or buy a napkin for your child to decorate. This can be a fun family project and will provide your child with a sense of ownership, increasing the chances that the napkin will make it home again. (The napkins shown are from and

What other Smarty advice on this topic can you share?


Summer said...

These are great ideas ladies. I too have been trying to reduce our waste. We use cloth napkins for our picnics, and pool trips. They are very very simple to make!! These lunch boxes are so cute! But by far the most adorable item are the greenie beanie reusable lunchbags. How adorable (and green!) would your lunchbox be with a monogrammed set of those?
Thank you for helping us to be more responsible, and stylish!!

Lisa Borden said...

Check out this guide for school lunches - and even included is a great (and healthy) recipe for the now banned (for allergic reasons) PB & J sandwich. Enjoy!

Kathy said...

These items have inspired me! I just checked out all the websites you listed for the green items and hope to do some shopping very soon!

RLR said...

I'm hoping to make the move to cloth napkins in the kids' lunchboxes this year. I'm going to check out lunch skins, too, for packing afternoon snacks for the oldest. Thanks for the tips!

Jessica said...

Loved this article! I'm definitely going to check out the bags at OBaby Organics.

We also really like bags from
I used them very successfully with my family last year. The only problem is that some invariably "disappear" throughout the year...especially with my preschooler! That and there are lots of cute prints - hard to choose!

Maythi said...

Nice job with the article and FOX News. The segments were informative and you guys did great! I especially loved the reusable water bottles - I always wondered what happened to the Thermos?!? Guess this is the new and improved version. And no more spills from kids squeezing a juice box! Hooray for that!

Jenna said...

Last year I got hooked on trying to pack lunches bento-box style. My biggest time saver: We also use those silicone cupcake holders in our lunches. They've held everything: veggies, fruit kabobs, pretzels, gold fish even peanut peanut butter. It helps keep things seperated and less soggy, and they are bright colors to boot.

Jenna said...

Speaking of cupcake holders. . . Spaghetti nests! I use our cupcake pan for that, it makes single serving sizes for their lunches. The trick is to add just enough sauce that they freeze together but aren't all sauce when thawed.

Once they are frozen, I rebag them for later. We take them straight from the freezer in the morning to make lunches and they are roomtemp by lunch.

Kari Foster Allison said...

Thanks to Jenna for the cupcake holder spagetti idea! Brilliant!

I am so glad you guys are helping to educate moms about all of the waste and unhealthy lunches we've unknowingly bestowed upon our children! I am looking forward to the day when my girls will no longer be the odd children for having bento boxes ( and meals with all 4 food groups included!

hparsonage said...

A word of caution on the silverware that looks like a Swiss army knife - this would probably get your child in trouble with the school and be confiscated as a "weapon". Most schools ban penknives of any sort.

Danielle said...

Thanks for the great tips! I just ordered these awesome reusable lunchboxes from! They are amazing and so easy for little hands to open. Only one lid, 3 separate compartments, bpa free, no need for plastic baggies! Love them! Can't wait to see how they hold up with my new kindergartener this year.

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