Best eco-friendly lunch kits for kids

 

It’s the middle of summer right now and I’m trying to soak it all up.  Long hours of sunshine. Warm days on the beach. Family trips. Ocean swims.  Ahhhh…

 

But I also know that school will start up again in the blink of an eye!  And with school comes LUNCHES! Our weekday mornings are usually a little hectic – we make breakfast, walk the dogs, make our lunches, and gather up whatever we need for the day (dance today?  Piano? Permission slip? Bake sale? Your friend’s shoes need to be returned? You get the drift).

 

In case you were thinking it – I know we are a little overscheduled at times!  To say the least.

 

BUT, we do have our morning lunch packing pretty well figured out and I thought I’d share it with you in the hopes that it can make your morning just a teensy tiny less hectic 🙂 .  BONUS: our approach is a greener way to pack your food!

 

So, for all you busy parents out there, or parents to be, I thought I’d take a moment to talk about some of my favorite eco-friendly lunch kits for kids that keep your kids safe from plastics and also keep the planet healthy!  No packaging, no waste!

 

So here they are: Top eco-friendly lunch kits for kids (and adults!) – plastic-free!

 

Insulated food jar/thermos:

  • Bentology insulated food jar is great for warming before school leftovers and keeping them pretty warm until lunch time!  The container is stainless steel, although unfortunately there is plastic on the lid and base of the container.
  • Thermos brand makes an insulated food jar that is almost entirely stainless steel, but it comes with a couple of plastic containers.  
  • Thrift store thermos – if you can find a wide-mouth thermos for food at your thrift store – buy it!!  And consider yourself lucky :).
  • Lunchbots makes an insulated thermos too – also with some plastic, though and i haven’t tried theirs – but I love their other lunch box, which brings me too…

 

Stainless steel lunch box

  • Planet Box:  I love their stainless steel lunch box and my kids do too.  It has separate compartments to help portion out different types of food.  In our house, we ask the kids to pack a fruit, veggie, carb, and protein for every meal.  Sometimes they take a small treat like chocolate chips too. What can I say – I’m weak! Let me recommend that you say no to the magnets, though.  These are hard to recycle once the stickers are worn out.
  • LunchBots:  This company makes some great 100% stainless steel lunch containers with separate compartments or a single compartment.  We love using our two-compartment box. Sometimes we’ll grab one other small container if the two-compartments aren’t quite enough for our food, or we want to keep things separate. 
  • Tiffin lunch box:  These are stainless steel lunch bins that connect together in a sort of tower.  We haven’t used one in our home, but I do see lots of rave reviews from other zero wasters.  
LunchBots holding veggie sushi – yum!!

Sandwich bag or beeswax wrap

  • Sandwich bags:  These are a super easy way to tote a sandwich or pastry for lunch.  Simply fold it open, pop in your food, and fold it shut. Easy to wash, reusable, biodegradable.  I would encourage organic cotton only for these – non-organic cotton could potentially leech chemicals into your food.  Also, nylon-lined bags, although nice for moisture, are not biodegradable and nylon is a synthetic fabric that is essentially a form of plastic.  Check out my offerings here.
  • Beeswax wrap:  If you are worried about keeping your sandwich really moist, or if your sandwich is really drippy, a beeswax wrap is another great way to tote your lunch.  These are super easy to clean (wipe or rinse off between uses) and are 100% biodegradable and all natural. I make mine with organic cotton, beeswax, pine gum rosin, and jojoba oil.  They last over and over again about a year. If the stickiness starts to wear off, you can also use a rubber band or string to keep it shut.  See mine here.  

 

Mason jar

For older kids only – A mason jar is a great way to store food that doesn’t need to be kept warm.  But I wouldn’t recommend a jar for kids under 7 unless they are pretty careful.  And you’ll still have to remind your kiddos not to throw their lunch bags on the ground.  

 

Cloth napkin

These are a great alternative to paper napkins – reusable, biodegrable, and sustainable.  I make organic and upcycled napkins that you can see here. Help keep those finger tips tidy!

 

Reusable utensils

A couple of options for utensils…

  • Camping utensils:  I love our Coglan camping utensils – they are stainless steel, small, and super affordable.  We got them at a local camp store. And we don’t feel bad if they get lost since they weren’t too pricey to buy.  
  • Thrift store utensils:  these are even more more economical.  You might be able to get forks and spoons and knives for under a dollar each – maybe even all three for $1.  Check around and see what your options are.

 

Organic cotton lunch bag

Of course I make these too!  But I would recommend ANY cotton or all natural fiber bag over the typical plastic-y, lined lunch bags, which are sadly destined for the landfill.  Unless you have some spectacular recycling resources near you. We don’t.   All natural materials like cotton, bamboo, linen, and hemp are much better choices for toting your lunch.  I would avoid nylon or other synthetics. You can see my offerings here.

Organic cotton lunch tote

 

Use what you have

Last but definitely not least.  I’ll be honest that we also use some old plastic tupperwares on occasion that we bought or otherwise acquired before going zero waste.  These come in handy and sometimes everything else is sitting in the sink, waiting to be washed. I would encourage you to use up what’s on hand rather than spending a ton on new supplies!

 

If you’re just getting ready to send your little one off into the world with a lunch, start out green and eco-friendly with any of these reusable, sustainable options.  These are all awesome ways to send your kiddos into the world with a plastic free and waste free lunch.

 

There you have it – my list of the best eco-friendly lunch kits for kids.  To sum it all up, here are my favorite pieces:

  1. Insulated food jar/thermos
  2. Stainless steel lunch box
  3. Sandwich bag or beeswax wrap
  4. Mason jar
  5. Cloth napkin
  6. Reusable utensils
  7. Natural fiber lunch bag
  8. What you already own

 

Do you have any favorite eco-friendly lunch kits to recommend?  Or awesome thrift store finds? Leave a comment below!  And thanks for reading.

 

 

 

Liz

Zero waste travel tips

Right now it’s summer time, which in my house means family trips!  Traveling opens doors to new experiences and perspectives and I really value our family trips.  It also changes up our routines and takes us from the comforts of home, which creates a few challenges for our zero waste goals.

 

So, to help us all cut down travel waste, I’ve put together my top 4 tips for zero waste travel.  These steps are simple enough for even the busiest families and individuals, so check them out and give them a try!

 

Here are my top four tips for zero waste travel.

 

1. Prep a simple travel kit.

 

If you’re traveling with your family or friends, it’s a great idea to have at least some of these things for each person.  Here’s what we pack in our zero waste travel kits.

 

  1. Water bottle – and fill it up after security if you’re traveling by plane!
  2. Napkin, handkerchief, or both – say ‘no thanks’ to paper napkins and tissues.  You can even wash this in a small sink during your travels if you can’t easily run a load of laundry.  Check out my napkin & hankie offerings here or find some at your local thrift store!
  3. Small fork, knife, and/or spoon (or, my personal fav – a spork)!  Note that you don’t want to bring knives if you’re traveling by plane!  Airport security doesn’t like that :). I got us each a little set at a local camping/outdoor gear store in Santa Cruz.  
  4. Mason jar – perfect for leftovers, a smoothie, juice, you get the idea :).  We usually bring one with us when we go out to eat to avoid the doggie bag/box, which can be made of plastic.  
  5. Sandwich bag or beeswax wrap – great for bringing along a sandwich or picking up a pastry or cookie when your out and about.  You can buy a sandwich bag made by me here and a beeswax wrap here.
  6. Travel coffee mug – if you need some caffeine in the morning like me, this is a great way to get it to go and avoid disposable coffee cups and lids.  Your kids may not need to bring one along, but hey, maybe they’d like some hot cocoa in the morning!
  7. Market bag – again, maybe kids don’t need this, but I would recommend bringing along at least one bag for shopping.   Our market bag often doubles as our kit bag. I’ll ask the kids to carry their own water bottles, and usually I’ll toss a few napkins, utensils, mason jar, etc., into the market bag.  I try to bring this along for our outings in general, and especially if we are going to be out and about for the day or going to eat somewhere. And of course, I make a market tote that you can see here.  
Part of my travel kit from my recent trip to Seattle

2. Bring extra snacks.

 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to buy some last minute packaged treat because we didn’t have enough snacks!  For example, ever have a morning bike ride that was supposed to end before lunch? And suddenly it’s 1pm and everyone is losing it?  Been there. Or that flight that was delayed now that you’re in the airport surrounded by shiny packaged treats? Been there too. So, I try to bring snacks that travel well (i.e., the opposite of a peach).  Think nuts, granola, carrots, apples, and banana chips. What’s available in your local bulk bins or farmer’s market that will hold up well on a journey? Or, can you squeeze in an hour to make a tin of cookies or granola bars?

 

One more thought about snacks – I try to bring snacks that are a little extra special – good enough to compete with roadside and airport junk food.  I’m sure that’s different for every family, but try to find some options that everyone will get excited about.

 

3.  Check out nearby bulk foods, farmers markets, and natural food stores.

 

Look into bulk shopping options wherever you’re headed!  There might be some fun and unique offerings, and I’m pretty confident that you can find bulk options almost EVERYWHERE.  Bea Johnson of zerowastehome.com has a cool bulk finder app to help you find something wherever you’re headed. Check it out here.

 

If you’ll be visiting somewhere long enough to shop for food, you might want to bring along some reusable bags and jars to avoid waste.  I’ve got some made by me with love for sale here, but you can even use an old pillow case or make your own!

4.  Consider your compost options.

 

Anywhere you travel, you have some compost options.  Some cities have curbside compost pick up, making it super easy (yay, San Francisco!).  Other cities have composting services you can check out. Santa Cruz, for example, has a local business that will come pick up your compost for you – by bike!  How cool is that? Check them out here. The local farmers market might collect compost as well.  If you’re staying with friends or family, maybe they have a little compost pile you can add to, or maybe you can inspire them to start something simple.  You can purchase some compost bins for under $50. Some folks also recommend burying your non-meat, non-dairy food scraps (think eggshells, fruit and veg peels) in the dirt, at least 10 inches deep.  My cautions, though: 1. You need to be aware of possible pest issues – you don’t want to burden your host with an onslaught of new critters in their yard. 2. You need to be careful of nearby plant roots and landscaping.

 

Another option, which we do whenever we camp or road trip, is to collect your scraps in a bin or bag and bring them home to compost.  We’ve done this for up to a week of waste scraps with no issues – no smell, no pests. We’ve used a big cooler as our bin before, or a big plastic tupperware, or even a big plastic bag when we forgot our bin in the past.  Back at home, we just add it to our compost bins and voila! Soil! (months later 🙂 )

compost after a week of vacation with 2 other families

So there you have it – my top 4 tips for zero waste travel.  I hope you found these helpful! Do you have any to add? Have you tried any zero waste travel tips?  I’d love to hear, so share in the comments below!

 

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

Liz