Reducing Our Waste Part 1: Packing An Eco-Friendly, Low Waste Lunch
I have always been the type of person who weighs their actions before leaning into them, especially when it involves someone or something other than me. Becoming a mother has changed me on so many levels. Not only have I realized what true love is and how unconditional it is truly supposed to be, but having my little Trinity has opened my eyes to so many other things. The journey to becoming a mother, particularly during pregnancy, made me more aware of how my personal choices, whether they be about food, the products I used on my body, what I was inhaling when I would clean my home, as well as the energy I was creating or absorbing from the people I surrounded myself with, not only affected me and my state of wellbeing, but were the building blocks of this perfect little human life I was growing inside me. After a very traumatic birth where she came into this world in both cardiac and respiratory arrest, a story I may share with you some day, I knew I would do anything in my power to make her thrive. Eliminating as much as possible toxic, harmful substances from her environment became one of my goals and a way of life. Since that gorgeous, sunny June day two years ago, all my choices and decisions have been about how they can and will impact her, this perfect little blank canvas on its journey to becoming a masterpiece!
Back to school time is the perfect, easy and obvious occasion to make the transition to reducing waste in our lives and passing on these healthy habits to our children. Nowadays, there are so many eco-friendly, low waste alternatives available out there to the traditional lunch options. Here are some of my simple tips and favorite items for packing a low waste lunch and that are suited for both kids and adults!
1. Ditch the plastic bags, plastic wrap or foil you use to pack your sandwiches and snacks.
How many plastic bags for sandwiches and snacks do you go through per week, especially if you have kids?! How many lunches and snacks on the go for classes or after school activities are you preparing? I dare you to just do the math for a week. And are you one of those that washes them after each use and leaves them to dry so you can maybe make use of them a few more times? I have and still do when I use them, and I have a feeling I am one of the few because each time someone has seen me doing that, even my own husband, I get a “funny" comment or reaction. Why do I wash them? Why not? Honestly when they are brand new I can’t bring myself to just throw them in the recycling bin after one use, it’s simply a wasteful habit that has such a negative impact on the environment! Here are a few of my favorite alternatives to the disposable and single-use plastic baggies. They also work amazingly to replace plastic wrap or foil. Personally I love and use each one of these products now, and I am sure that there is one option that will be the right choice for you.
Beeswax Food Wrap
Some companies have pushed the beeswax food wrap a step further, two of which are B Factory® a Canadian company from right here in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec, and Bee’s Wrap® a Vermont based company. They both make beeswax food wrap, a natural alternative to plastic wrap, and have turned it into these beautiful sandwich wraps that I love and are not only an eco-friendly option, but also a stylish way to finally get rid of all those wasteful plastic wraps, sandwich and snack bags! Their beeswax food and sandwich wraps are made with organic materials and ingredients, and their designs and prints are simply beautiful!
Reusable Sandwich and Snack Bags
LunchSkins, an American company that exists since 2008 and has been producing smarter, prettier and eco-friendly alternatives: a reusable sandwich/snack bags made from pastry cloth and a recyclable and sealable plastic-free sandwich/snack bag! The paper bags, although a disposable option, they are recyclable and much less polluting than plastic bags, actually remind me of my childhood and the themed paper lunch bags I used to get so excited about using at every start of the new school year!
And then of course the Stasher® bags are one of my personal favorites! Stasher bags are made of clear 100% pure platinum food grade silicone and create an airtight, leak-proof seal around your food. They are non-toxic (no BPA, BPS, latex, lead, phthalates), more sustainable than plastic and endlessly reusable! They are available in the perfect size for sandwiches and snacks, and are the perfect, leak-proof solution to cut up pieces of fruit that may exude some liquid by the time they are eaten.
2. Buy a reusable and eco-friendly lunch box, containers and bags.
I remember the days we used to pack our lunches in brown bags and plastic bags. Then the plastic lunch boxes became the big thing, and they are still going strong. The good part is that these are reusable, until the break or until the new school year and then we throw them away. Here too we choose a better alternative and today we have so many fun options available to us. We have all heard about or seen the bento-style lunch boxes, the ones with different sized compartments integrated in them. The compartments are great for reminding us to add a variety of foods and make the meals well-balanced, as well as help us manage or control portion sizes. Ever since they came out I kind of wished I was packing my lunches daily! They are definitely the perfect solution for kids of all ages, and us adults too.
Bento-Style Boxes and Leak-Proof Containers
The one that wins my top vote is the Planetbox®. Made of high quality stainless steel, these boxes are non-toxic and built to last! They come in three sizes (Shuttle, Rover and Launch), so they grow with your child’s appetite and are also the perfect option for you, and are designed to hold sensible portions and are an all-in-one, completely waste free lunch box option that will last you for years! In fact their magnet sets make the boxes customizable and renewable each year with a fresh new design to suit your style! They also have a variety of stainless steel and food grade silicone containers, some with leak-proof lids, to safely store your messier or liquid items like yogurt, dips, sauces or juicy fruit pieces, as well as colorful pods to attractively section foods.
ECOlunchbox™ is another great zero waste, reusable alternative for meals on the go. The founder, a mom who wanted to eliminate plastic from her kid’s lunchboxes in order to reduce their exposure to the toxins commonly found in plastic and to help the planet, developed a plastic-free lunch ware line in stainless steel, silicone and cotton. She offers a number of products; my personal favorites were the leak-proof Seal Cup™ Trio containers, the ECOSpork (see below tip number 3) and the organic cotton lunch bag to carry it all!
Reusable Lunch Bags
Another reason I love Planetbox® is because they have literally thought of everything, including the environment! They make perfectly sized, insulted carry bags for each of their models of lunch boxes that are made of recycled plastic bottles and also have ice packs made with only purified water. I could go on, that’s how much I love my Planetbox® kits, and right now my baby is only two so the smaller Shuttle box is perfect for her on the go meals.
Another company that makes bags from recycled water bottles is Parkland, a Canadian company located in BC. They have made it their mission since 2015 to use polyester made from recycled water bottles to make the exterior of all their products (backpacks, duffle bags, lunch bags, totes, sleeves for tablets, backpacks, etc.). In fact, it takes 12 water bottles to make each back pack! Not only are they stylish looking, durable and comfortable, they are manufactured using a more sustainable process and help use up some of the plastic waste that is in circulation on the planet and makes something useful with it. I am not pro plastic, but this kind I can definitely stand behind!
Fluf® is a Toronto based company that makes these beautiful, trendy, high quality, reusable, washable, sustainable and 100% certified organic cotton lunch bags that I absolutely love. They offer their lunch bags with a zipper or snap closure, and also have pretty snack packs made with the same material and that are a fun and healthier alternative to the plastic sandwich and snack bags. They have such a great variety of designs that can perfectly suit both kids and adults. Their products are also independently certified to be free of BPA, phthalates, heavy metals, azo (in dyes and pigments) and formaldehyde.
3. Say NO to plastic utensils and paper napkins.
As I mentioned above, one of my favorite ECOlunchbox™ items is the ECOSpork, a small, convenient and sustainable bamboo (also available in stainless) spoon and fork all-in-one solution to plastic utensils. They also offer an offer an assortment of 100% cotton napkins in various colors and patterns.
Another company whose mission is to provide people with sustainable and healthful solutions to plastic waste is TO-GO Ware®. I love their bamboo utensil sets for on the go. You can get a fork, knife, spoon and chopsticks in your choice of colorful holder which were also produced by giving plastic bottles a second life! The best part is they also make these pretty sets, minus the chopsticks, for kids (18 months and older) which my daughter loves and uses at home and on the go!
Finally, both Fluf® and Planetbox® offer pretty reusable napkins to help you keep lunches clean and waste free. Fluf® makes them out of both hemp and organic cotton, whereas Planetbox® makes theirs out of 100% organic cotton.
4. Say NO to plastic water bottles or single-serve juice and milk packages.
Yes plastic bottles are recyclable, in most cases at least, but do they actually all get recycled? Apparently not! According to Ensemble Montréal, more than 700 million water bottles end up in Quebec landfills every year! Considering that plastic can take up to 1000 years to even begin degrading/composting, this is a big problem. Luckily, Montreal city has taken a stand and 500 milliliter single-use plastic water bottles will no longer be sold at any City of Montreal events or in municipal buildings (arenas, libraries, sports centers, etc.). Not only are these bad for the environment, but also for our health. Also, I do suggest reusing as much as possible, but not in this case.
Ideally, toss your plastic water bottle habit or single-serve packaged beverages and replace it with a beautiful stainless steel bottle like those from Healthy Human or S’well®, two companies whose mission is to inspire us to live a healthier life and contribute towards a healthier, plastic-free planet. These are made from non-toxic insulated stainless steel; they are durable, keep your drinks hot or cold, are fashionable and come in various designs and shapes to meet everybody’s personal style and taste. Choose a better way to hydrate! (Go to Amazon.ca for Healthy Human products that can be shipped to Canada)
S’well® also launched S’ip by S’well® in 2016 and they offer cute, playful and smaller 10 ounce water bottles that are perfect for kid’s lunch boxes or bags!
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