A More Sustainable Lunches Continues… the HORROR of ziplock bagsOct. 15th

ziplocksI have a confession to make: I use ziplock bags, a lot of them. Before my son started kindergarten, it would take at least 6 months to go through the box of ziplock bags, but suddenly, with packing school lunches for a picky eater, I have been going through 1 box every month. I hate to think that I’m contributing to the giant trash gyre of the pacific, or to my family’s exposure to endocrine disruptors released by plastics. Plastic, a ubiquitous part of modern life, is very hard to eliminate from the household. I remember one playdate I went to where the house was pretty much plastic free. I was so envious of the amount of jars and pretty ceramic containers that they had. So, I’ve tried to start, with one container at a time, one less processed food at a time. After all, my cupboard used to be full of Teflon non-stick pans  and one by one I replaced them with safer (and more expensive) options. One step at a time, I CAN do this!! I’m not much of a seamstress, so luckily there’s Etsy with lots of options for hand-made reusable bags.handmade bags When choosing fabrics, you want to look for BPA and phthalate free material as the liner, as some are made with cheaper PVC plastic that is not safe for packaging food. When I googled “do it yourself sandwich bags”, the first link was to a better homes and garden article which says to use the PVC fabric because it is easier to sew than ripstop nylon. If you are handier at sewing than I am, you can look at do it yourself materials on the internet like this. Your kids will enjoy picking their own fabrics and you can teach them how to sew with this really easy first project. You can even sell them for your PTA fundraiser instead of candy or other junk food popularly used as fundraiser fare. So, who’s with me in dumping plastic ziplock bags?

Guest Blogger: Rebecca Wolthers, parent educator and aspiring green mom

Guest Post: 5 ideas to get us out of a lunchbox rutOct. 12th

HeartSandwich

When we think of school lunches normally food items such as a sandwich, mini pizza, cookies, a pack of juice come to mind. These are what usually form the lunch box of a child. Why is that so? Mainly because they are convenient and children like them too. No preparation time is required, saving you time and effort, and all you have to do is pop them in your child’s bag. Children also love you for that. But are parents really doing a favor to their kids by giving them such items for school lunch? Not really. Not only are these highly processed but they also contain high levels of sodium, preservatives and sugar, making them unhealthy. School canteens also do not always have a variety of healthy options available. Besides, it is better for you to pack homemade lunch for your children rather than giving them money to buy something from school. Not only will that ensure that the food is hygienic and nutritious but it will also save loads of money over time. Since most kids are unaware of the health hazards of unhealthy food, it is up to you to provide them with nutritious meals and help them eat healthy.

Last night’s leftovers

No, there is no hard and fast rule that school lunches can only include chips and cookies. Last night’s leftovers will work just fine. Did your child love the meatballs from last night? You could make some extra and maybe add some rice with it. There you have a healthy lunch ready and something that your child would be eager to have. You could prepare chicken chunks, make chicken and egg spread for a sandwich, fry or bake boneless fish. There are plenty of options for you to consider. Just make sure to pack everything properly to ensure freshness and safety. You could use a thermos for warm food. Include reusable utensils and cloth napkin for ease.

Fruits and vegetables

Pack them such that they can be eaten easily. A child would prefer sliced apples and oranges rather than a whole one. The downside is that they would turn brown by lunch time and your child would rather skip them. Use lemon juice on them to avoid that. Bananas could be given as they are. A bag of grapes is also a good idea. Rather than buying jams and jellies from the stores, you could prepare these at home. The ones available in the supermarket contain very high sugar levels plus preservatives. Some children tend to prefer smoothies over eating fruits. If your child is one of them, you could skip on whole fruits and instead prepare a fruit smoothie, with maybe just a small portion of some vegetable, like spinach. Believe me they would not be able to spot the difference. The best part is that this could be prepared the night before and frozen.

Dairy products

Smoothies are a good way for your child to consume dairy. If not, you could give them the small tetra packs of milk available in the market. Another option is yogurt that you could freeze at night and it would be ready to be eaten by lunchtime. You could add fruits to the yogurt to make it more appealing to a child’s palate. But while you are working on adding dairy to your kids’ diet, think about choosing organic dairy products. You will be doing a favor not only to your children but also to the environment. Factory farms are still injecting artificially produced hormones into cows that make them give more milk. This is not natural and definitely not healthy for you, your children, or the cows. Opt for organic milk even if it costs slightly more.

Grains

How can you incorporate grains in your child’s lunch? Whole grain or whole wheat bread should be preferred over white bread. Prepare rice cakes at home and sprinkle them with fruit syrup or maybe peanut butter to make them more appealing. Whole grain crackers are also a good idea and you could also include cheese in the lunch box to go with them. Making cookies at home of whole grains, such as oatmeal raisin cookies instead of the usual chocolate chip, will add nutritional value to their desserts. 

Proteins

Meat does not necessarily have to be a part of your child’s diet to get them to take in protein. If they do not like it, do not fret. There are alternatives. Egg is a great source of protein, and packaged perfectly for on the go. Hard boiled eggs are easy to prepare and eat. Nuts are also good for lunch or snack time. You could prepare chicken salad or a tuna sandwich if they are into these.

Final thoughts

Children who have healthy, well balanced lunches are better able to concentrate in their class than those who go for the less variations. So there is another reason you should ensure that your children are being supplied with a healthy lunch box. There is also the issue of food allergy to consider. If a certain kind of food does not suit your child, it is best to have their lunch packed from home. Kids may not be as careful about their food choices even if you have instructed them about it beforehand. It is better to be safe.

Author Bio:

Batool Ali is an international blogger who loves to write on different disciplines such as Health, lifestyle, fashion, finance and education.

A More Sustainable Lunch Continues….Oct. 8th

Today’s entry focuses on how to reduce waste and packaging when it comes to the lunchbox. In our featured video, Lily shows us not only what the contents of her lunch look like but how it is packed.

  • reduce, reuse, recycle may be words that seem over played but they really cut to the basics and are in the right order of operations. If you are striving for a more whole foods diet for health reasons for example, you will have the bonus of reducing plastic and cardboard packaging that are ubiquitous in the processed food aisles of the grocery store. You may also be using more bulk foods, which will prompt you to have glass or tin containers to hold your bulk foods, and nearly completely eliminate plastic containers and throw away boxes. Instead of grabbing a box of “insert comfort food here” you may learn how to make more things from scratch, one recipe at a time replacing such things as granola bars and cookies and turning them into secret power foods with nut butters and coconut sugars instead of processed sugars and empty calories.
    • DO THIS MORE: Bulk foods are now widely available

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AND LESS OF THIS: health food stores have attractive and tempting packaging!

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Sometimes it is easier to get kids on board than to “sustain” sustainability, so we want to hear about your “reduce” and “reuse” hacks, including containers, bento boxes, lunch bags, etc… especially home made and low cost options. Here’s a great read on high quality sustainable and safe lunch boxes, Here’s some wild ideas from a sustainable restaurateur to cut your food waste, including how to tell if your eggs have gone bad, and some pretty wild ideas on how to eliminate packaging in your kitchen or pantry.

Coming soon, a guest blog on healthy lunch ideas, organic and humane products, local and home grown produce, and recipes galore!!

Question of the MonthOct. 2nd

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How do you pack a more healthy, sustainable lunch for your kids?

lunch bentos

With everyone caught in the Back to School frenzy, our October topic is all about our desire to explore how to pack our kid’s lunches in a way that aligns with our values regarding keeping our planet and our bodies clean and sustainable. With many modern parenting issues, there are often more questions than answers that come up, and we are all about taking ideas and putting them into action. For some, sustainable may be about organic, for others, about going vegan, or even dabbling in urban permaculture. In the end, we all have to make it work within our family’s budget and time constraints. It isn’t a contest to see who is the greenest parent, but comes from a desire to put good things in our children’s bodies so that they can feel healthy, happy, and energetic. We want to show our kids how to be stewards of the earth and make good choices for themselves and their future families. The resources that come out of making these inquiries will hopefully help you come to terms with the lunchbox struggle in a way that fits your values.

This month we will be sharing ideas, recipes, and yes, PLAYING around on Youtube! Stay tuned!

Guest Writer-Going Green for the Holiday-Inspiration and Advice for Setting New Eco-Friendly TraditionsDec. 7th

Going Green for the Holidays Inspiration and Advice for Setting New Eco-Friendly Traditions By Sandra Ann Harris Contributing Writer / ECOlunchbox Founder

LAFAYETTE, Calif. – When it comes celebrating the holidays sustainably this season, the old adage “waste not, want not” offers great guidance.

“There are lots of great ways to go green for the holidays,” says ECOlunchbox Founder Sandra Ann Harris, whose company specializes in no-waste lunchware. “With some eco-friendly thinking, it’s easy to come up with ways to avoid wasting money and resources around the holidays.”

A few sobering statistics about holiday waste are helpful when it comes to getting motivated to go green for the holidays.

More than 30 million living Fir trees are cut in U.S. for Christmas each year. There’s no eco relief, however, in choosing a fake trees instead, because these plastic trees often contain non-biodegradable PVC and possible metal toxins, such as lead.

When it comes to paper waste over the holidays, keep in mind that a whopping half of the paper consumed in the U.S. annually is used to wrap and decorate consumer products. Adding to the paper waste, enough Christmas cards are sold each year (about 2.65 billion) in the United States to fill a football field 10 stories high.

“We can try to hang on to the status quo-living a Wal-Mart life so we can buy cheaply enough to keep the stream of stuff coming. Or we can say uncle,” says author Bill McKibben, a contributing writer to Mother Jones and co-founder of 350org.

To help families hone their eco-friendly thinking around the holidays, ECOlunchbox is offering green holiday tips on Facebook and Pinterest all month.

“Let’s say goodbye to wasteful holiday celebrations,” says Harris. “When it comes to green gifts, there’s nothing better than making choices that result in less trash, less toxins, less carbon footprint, less expense and less impact on Mother Earth. Less is definitely more when it comes to giving green.”

To get started, here are a few green gift and holiday ideas:

– Agree with family and friends to skip gifts – and spend time together doing something you both enjoy! A walk? A cup of tea?

– Come up with a list of your personal favorites when it comes to tools for eco-friendly living. Inspire your friends to go green with you all year long by giving them practical reusable items, like a stainless steel bento ECOlunchbox, machine washable artisan napkins or a plastic-free stainless steel water bottle.

-Go to you local Christmas tree lot. Don’t buy a tree- instead buy inexpensively or possibly pick up for free extra branch trimmings. Use indoors for decorations or in vase.

– Dust off a present you received but didn’t need or want – and re-gift it!

– Buy a potted Christmas tree – and either plant it in your own yard after the holidays or find a home for it at a friend’s house or local park.

– Bake double your favorite holiday desserts – and give the extra dessert away!

“Selecting green gifts is a gentle way to encourage friends and family to consider adopting new sustainable living habits,” Harris explains. “Did you know a typical family throw away 4,320 pieces of trash during lunchtime and spends more than $400 on plastic baggies and other packaging waste? Our stainless bentos and artisan lunchbags make awesome green gifts!”

ECOlunchboxes specializes in waste-free, plastic-free, lead-free, BPA-free, PVC-free and vinyl-free lunchware that’s healthy for people and the planet.

ECOlunchbox is sold through The Container Store, select Whole Foods, independent natural groceries, children’s boutiques and at www.ecolunchboxes.com

Sandra Ann Harris lives in Lafayette, Calif. with her husband, two school-age children, three chickens and terrier Hobow. She is the founder of ECOlunchbox, which specializes in eco-friendly, no-plastic lunchware.

Busy Moms Go Green in 2012Jan. 15th

Editors Note: This post is coming from a new voice from Playful Planet. Jessica is an amazing woman who has offered her services to our company because of her belief in our mission and vision. She is helping us with outreach into the world of P/R and I loved her first “pitch” so much, I wanted to share it here. Stay Playful, Karen

Busy Mom’s “Go Green” in 2012

When each New Year comes around, we resolve to change our habits. Typically, how many months, weeks, days, does your resolution last? For the busy mom, it can be especially difficult.

This time around, rather than setting unachievable expectations, opt to make adjustments in your daily life. Think of Earth Day as every day and start with these ideas from Playful Planet:

5 Key Lifestyle Adjustments: keep your wallet full, your body trim, and your kids creative, all while pleasing the planet in 2012.

Everybody Stand Up

Here are some words associated with sitting: sedentary, stationary, still, stiff. How many hours a day do you think you spend in this position? If your calculation shocks you, think of all times in your daily life where you can afford to stand up and move rather than sit down. Watching TV, spending time on the computer, driving your car to then continue sitting at a restaurant; these are a few examples. It’s time to treat your body with respect and stand up!

Farmer’s Market Family Event

Bring your own bag or basket and peruse the outdoor produce promenade with your child. Use this opportunity to engage your child about seasonal fruits and vegetables picked straight from the vine, and sustainable farming. If you don’t know the answers, just ask your friendly farmer. By purchasing locally, not only will you be saving money and stimulating your local economy, you will be voting with your dollars to reduce the use of fossil fuels used in shipping.

Another perk: the farmers offer samples of their products so you get a taste of what you are getting!

Dine a la Maison

Bring the basket of seasonal, freshly picked Farmer’s Market vegetables to your home kitchen. Let your child choose one of these healthy family recipes, and start creating. This is a chance to let your child have responsibility and to have fun cooking together. You’ll know exactly what ingredients are being used, keep the restaurant server’s tip for yourself, and have freedom to move about!

From Baggies to Bentos

Send your child to school with the leftovers she created the night before in Bento Lunch Boxes! These colorful lunch packing options for the family are free of lead, BPA, phthalates or PVC. They are reusable and recyclable, pay for themselves in three weeks, and made in the USA. Skip the plastic baggies for the sake of the environment, your wallet, and your health, and let your child choose his bento box style at www.laptoplunches.com.

Packaged Goods No Good

It’s time we associate packaged food with what’s behind the scenes: unhealthy additives, lower nutritional value, high consumption of fossil fuels in production and shipment, waste. By shopping in bulk at a whole foods market for items such as grains, legumes, pastas, and cereals, you will be doing your part in cutting back on packaging. Engage your child at the market by letting him weigh the food items and find out the cost. At home, allow her to be crafty and decorate or label the mason jars for the food staples.

4 Back-to-School Sustainable Lunch Box AlternativesSep. 23rd

4 Back-to-School Sustainable Lunch Box Alternatives

With Labor Day past us, school for everyone should now be in session. While you may like to pack your child’s lunch every day so that he or she has access to healthier and greener food items (not to mention it’s more budget-friendly) the container you place your child’s lunch in can be as equally as important as what you actually packespecially in terms of the environment. To paint a better picture for you, according to statistics more than 20 million sandwich baggies are sent to the landfill every yearand if you weren’t aware it takes a 1,000 plus years for plastic to degrade. And using small brown paper bags are an automatic no-no for obvious reasons: the killing of trees. Even some “reusable” lunch kits can be just as bad some of the ones made from plastic can actually jeopardize your child’s health. Thankfully there are some eco-friendly alternatives you can look into to make sure your child and the environment are properly protected. To check out the top 4 choices, continue reading below.

Disclaimer: We have no affiliation with the products listed below and were not given samples. The products were recommended through word-of-mouth and were tested for efficiency/reliability.

Lunch Skins by 3 Green Moms

1. Lunch Skins by 3GreenMoms. These ultra-chic and colorful bags made of “a thick cotton fabric” and “coated with a food safe-polyurethane” are the ultimate solution for toxic plastic zipper and folding baggies. With three sizes available, they’re perfect for any snack, traditionally sized-sandwich, or sub sandwich. All you need to do is wash them after each use (they’re dishwasher safe) and you’re all set. Baggies are durable enough to withstand 1,000 washes. Price: $7.85 to $10.95

Kids Healthy Lunch Kit by Fit and Fresh

2. Kids Healthy Lunch Kit by Fit and Fresh. This eco-friendly 13-piece “kit” includes all the essentials your child needs to pack everything from soups, salads, fruits, dips and yes of course sandwichesthe best part? They’re BPA free and meet FDA regulations for food-grade plastic. Price: $16.99

Planet Box

3. Planet Box. Not only is this nifty lunch box a safer alternative to plastic lunch boxes (it’s BPA free and is made of 400 series food grade non-toxic stainless steel) but it also serves as a major organizational tool. It looks like your typical lunch box from the outside, but in the inside it has convenient containers engraved in the tray. It almost looks like a bento box, which leads us to our last option

Price: $34.95-$59.95

Bento Lunch Boxes by Lap Top Lunches4. Bento Lunch Boxes by Lap Top Lunches. Originally Bento boxes are of Japanese origin, but these bento boxes are made in the U.S. Like the other lunch boxes that made the list, these line of bento boxes are contain no lead, are BPA free, contain no phthalates and are made of recycled materials and as a bonus they can in-turn be recycled too. The separate containers come out for easy cleaning and the actually lunch boxes themselves come in an array of colors and designs. Price: $24.99

Author Bio:

This is a guest post by Nadia Jones who blogs at online college about education, college, student, teacher, money saving, movie related topics. You can reach her at nadia.jones5 @ gmail.com.

‘Tis the Season to Do Good!Nov. 1st

I am a firm believer that our actions are always painting a picture of who we are, what we believe in and what is important to us. Especially where it comes to how we spend our hard-earned, fiercely sought-after, making the world go round money.

I love it when I find an organization that hits on all levels. Great product. Conscious citizen of the planet. Gives back. Excellent customer service. It almost sounds too good to be true, but I swear its out there.

I was very fortunate a couple of weeks ago to attend an event (Creative Alliance 10) that had a couple of exemplary sponsors, and for now I want to focus on Paper Culture.

For the earth conscious crowd, Paper Culture uses 100% post consumer content recycled paper on high-quality 130lb stock (which is very substantial and durable) and plants a tree in a US National Forest with EVERY order!hlannan_ho_h_joy_f_green_548B_2

For the hip-designer crowd, Paper Culture features really great looking, modern designs AND gives you access to a professional designer AT NO EXTRA CHARGE!

For the very busy, Paper Culture had an amazingly fast turnaround time (which I cannot personally guarantee as the holiday approaches, but in my experience I had cards in my hand in 3 business days,) AND offers a FREE mailing option. They will address and add a personalized message to every card for only the cost of the stamp. Really.

And for the skeptical, Paper Culture offers a 100% Satisfaction Guarantee.

Enough, enough already! you say. Well, I wish I could appease you, but there is another amazing thing about Paper Culture. They like to give back. A lot.

Paper has a policy of donating a portion of every sale in support of sustainability, family and education. One of their pet projects is Somaly Mam, an incredible organization named after an even more incredible woman who broke free of the sex-slave trade and has gone on to help thousands of other women do the same.

They have offered a code for all the women who attended Creative Alliance 10 to offer all the people they reach. Use this code: CA10 at checkout to know that 20% of your purchase will go to support Somaly Mam.paper_culture_lily

Disclosure: I did receive a $50 gift certificate from Paper Culture, but it was not in exchange for this or any other review. Once I knew of them, I would have shouted this out regardless.