Check Out This Month’s Green Moms Carnival: Green Back-to-School!

August 30th, 2011

For the fourth time in as many years, my friends — the Green Moms of the Green Moms Carnival – have come together to share our tips on how to get ready for the back-to-school rush.

Green Moms Carnival

I hope you’ve read my post about how sometimes even Green Moms forget to Reduce, Reuse, Refuse, Repurpose, and Recycle.  But that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Head on over to Mindful Momma to read a great compilation of more than twenty posts about the green-back-to-school.

Enjoy!

– Lynn

Back to School Shopping: Remembering You Can Still Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose or Recycle!

August 20th, 2011

I chalk it up to a mother’s Prehistoric background as a Gatherer, married with her primal instinct to protect and prepare her offspring. How else to explain the fact that so many of us forget all about the Cardinal Rules of The Five Rs (Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose and Recycle) when it comes to our own precious darlings’ return to school?  Sure, it’s tempting to fall into green shopping mania, but take a closer look at some of these tips…you may find that you can get away just fine without many new items for back-to-school.

Back to School Essentials?

After all, when was the last time you heard a grade schooler say, “Mom, I really need a  new lunchbox!” OK, granted, maybe girls are different – but I’d wager that boys could care less about the many new “back-to-school” items most Moms feel compelled to buy.    My rising fourth grader has been toting the same Crocodile Creek lunch box since kindergarten. Sure, it’s looking a bit beat up now, but does it really matter?

durable PVC-free lunchboxes

The fact is, if you spring for high quality gear at the outset, you may find, like me, that you’ll get years and years of use out of your back-to-school items.  Here’s what’s worked for me:

1. Lunch Boxes: Crocodile Creek’s PVC-free lunch boxes are incredibly durable. The one pictured here is going into its fifth year of service. For some reason my other son’s Crocodile Creek lunch box didn’t last quite as long – perhaps because of too much spilled yogurt on the inside.  When it got even a bit too funky for my taste, I replaced it with this Hanna Andersson lunch box, which is a bit roomier.

Do I think it’s time for a new lunch box after four years? Well, yes, so I purchased a new one…but Big Boy told me sensibly, “The other one is perfectly fine, Mom. And it’s not so eco-green to buy new every year, is it, Mom?”

2. Backpacks: Resist the temptation to buy the cheap theme backpacks. It’s amazing how soon that cool character they absolutely must have this year become so LAST YEAR or worse yet, BABY-ISH.   Perhaps because of the shortness of the “awesome factor,”  most of them are not built to last, but if you’ve got a younger one in preschool, they do make good cast-offs — even with broken zippers.

After my son’s Spiderman backpack broke after just two weeks of use, I purchased a durable Eddie Bauer backpack, which is going into its third year of use.  Sure it’s a little dirty, but again, we’re talking about a boy. And we could always …wash it!

durable school back packs

Other great sources for durable, long lasting backpacks that last for years? You guessed it…Hanna Andersson and Crocodile Creek.  And if your little one must absolutely have Spiderman, Thomas, or some other character, check the consignment shops. After waiting patiently for a season, I found an adorable Thomas backpack for $5. Of course, it’s broken now.

If you’re tempted to give in to the Back to School shopping mania, just think about all you can do with the $100 or so bucks you might save by not indulging. A nice dinner out. Some money in the savings account. Or a great little something for YOU.

What do you think? Will you be skipping any of the so-called back-to-school “must haves” this season?   Check out what the Green Moms of the Green Moms Carnival have to say about Back to School shopping at our 4th annual Back to School Carnival, hosted by Micaela of Mindful Momma on Monday.

Disclosures: In case you’re wondering, I don’t do any work for the companies mentioned here. They’re not clients, and I purchased all the items mentioned in this piece…most of them, years ago!  :)

– Lynn

Mandated Waste: Simple Questions about School Lunch Reform

September 16th, 2009
Chef Ann Smiles as she puts on her Whole Foods Chefs Jacket and Prepares to Talk about School Lunch.

Chef Ann Smiles as she puts on her Whole Foods Chefs Jacket and Prepares to Talk about School Lunch.

Last Thursday evening I was thrilled to hear Chef Ann Cooper, aka “The Renegade Lunch Lady” speak at my local YMCA. Of course Chef Ann didn’t travel all the way from Boulder, Colorado, where she’s recently begun a new job in the school system, to speak to the Bethesda Y. She was here to meet with federal policy makers about reform efforts for the USDA’s school lunch program.  Together with Whole Foods, which is supporting her work, Chef Ann is urging the government to allocate $1 more per day for each child’s school lunch.  But as The New York  Times reported here,  some Congressional Democrats think just 70  cents more would be a generous increase – and well, I’m sure you know that others think no additional funds are necessary.

I’ve blogged many times over the past year and a half about issues with the school lunch program.  From this first post expressing shock at elementary school lunch entrée choices of  pizza or hot dog,  to this post about how the School Lunch Controversy Ended Up on TV , to this one about How to Get Organics and Healthier Foods Into the Schools, to attending local and regional PTA meetings with our school district’s head of nutrition services, I’ve been asking questions….and not getting much in the way of answers.

Chef Ann Cooper talks about the school lunch program at the Bethesda, Maryland YMCA. September 10, 2009

Chef Ann Cooper talks about the school lunch program at the Bethesda, Maryland YMCA. September 10, 2009

But this time I got very direct answers to my questions. Chef Ann is blunt. She calls things the way she sees them.  So after asking the first question in at the Q&A session after her talk, I waited until everyone else had a chance and then asked…four more questions! I could have spent all night talking to her, quite honestly.   I’ve got fodder for at least one more post about Chef Ann, but in this one, which is timed to coincide with the Green Moms Carnival on “Conserving Resources,” I want to focus on waste.

Although I agree with Chef Ann and would  like to see more funds allocated to school lunch (and in fact, just this week $50 million more was allocated to the new Farm-to-School program),  there is a tremendous amount of waste in the system.  So that was my first question for Chef Ann. Were government officials talking about reducing waste in the school lunch program?  Apparently not.

I explained how I had finally allowed my 2nd grader to purchase pizza once a week for school lunch. But, I told him, he was to skip the non-organic, hormone-laden milk and the non-organic apple, since he had water and fruit in his lunch bag.  My son told me that he was forced to buy the apple and the milk as well – and then to throw them out. Not only is this wasteful, but when you consider that the milk and apple are taxpayer subsidized, it is doubly wasteful. Why can’t we let kids purchase just what they need to? Why are we subsidizing food items that end up in the trash? And then spending more taxpayer money to pay the school custodians to handle the trash, and to pay for the operation of  the municipal landfills and transport to the landfills and recycling centers? (Not the mention all the carbon we’re burning through each of these wasteful activities).

If you think you could return the unopened milk to the cafeteria, for re-use, you’d be wrong. I’ve volunteered many times in my son’s cafeteria, where I’ve been asked to open unopened milk bottles and POUR THE MILK  DOWN THE DRAIN. Talk about waste.

And Chef Ann? She said that in the school lunch programs she’s run in Berkeley, California and Boulder, Colorado, the children take as much (organic) milk as they’d like from a large jug. No waste, no fuss.  What a concept.

In addition to lobbying for more funds for school lunch – and the schools as a whole – we need to focus on conserving resources and reducing waste, as Chef Ann has done in her school systems.

Are you seeing these same issues in your local schools? Leave a comment and share!

And more on the talk by the wonderful Chef Ann in a future post!

Check out the rest of the Green Moms Carnival Submissions here at The Mindful Momma!  (And for a few more great posts on school lunch, check out last month’s  Green Moms Carnival on Back to School,

– Lynn

Copyright 2009 OrganicMania

Green Giveaway: Waste-Free Lunch Box by Citizen Pip and 15% off Kids Konserve

August 24th, 2009

Kindra, you are the winner of the Citizen Pip lunch kit! I used random.org to generate a winning number, which was #2 (comment #2). I’ve emailed you separately, please get back in touch with your mailing address and let us know which kit you’d like. You can contact me at organicmania at gmail dot com. Thanks to everyone for participating, and thanks to Citizen Pip for the donation of their “muck free” lunch kit! —Lynn

After a trip to Target today, I realized I’m not the only one still shopping for eco-friendly back to school supplies!  This year I got off a lot easier than last year – “just $50!,” but I wasn’t stocking up on backpacks or lunch boxes because we’re reusing last year’s, as I blogged here.

soup2nuts3_415

I don’t normally do giveaways – they take time and I’d rather do other things with my time, frankly! But after blogging about “How to Pack a Cheap and Easy Waste Free Lunch”, the “Challenges of Going Green in the Schools” and my son’s Camp Eco-Challenge, I realized that purchasing a “waste-free lunch system” is just one more expense that many would rather avoid.  So when Citizen Pip and Kids Konserve reached out to me, I figured what the heck, let’s give a giveaway and a discount code a go!

So if you are in need of a lead-free, PVC-free, phthalate-free, and BPA-free waste-free lunch box that’s pretty darn cute,  you may be in luck!  Just leave a comment here telling me you’d like to win  Citizen Pip’s waste-free lunch system, and share your  best tip for a healthy lunch treat to pack for the kids. A winner will be randomly selected by midnight Saturday, August 29th and I’ll post the winner’s name here at OrganicMania.

kk-43_moss_thermos-copy

And if that’s not right up your alley,  you can get 15% off the cost of any Kids Konserve waste-free reusable lunch kits  and food-grade stainless steel containers  by using coupon code OrganicMania. (Valid until 9/30/09). Check it out here.

Kellie of Greenhab: The Browns Go Green wrote a great review of both the Kids Konserve and the Citizen Pip systems – so you can figure out which you’d prefer.

Since I haven’t seen either system, here’s the deal:  if you win, promise that you’ll send me an email or leave a comment with your thoughts – your own mini-review!

And if you just want to re-use last year’s box but need more containers, because of course those darn lids always get lost? Guess what? I found the Gerber ones I use on sale today at the Rockville, Maryland Target – four for $4.71! photo6

What are you doing for a healthy and waste-free lunch this year? Let’s make every day waste-free lunch day, not just once a week!  I was shocked by a statistic Kids Konserve shared with me – “the amount of trash produced by one child’s lunch alone creates 67 pounds of landfill waste in a school year!”

Kindra, you are the winner of the Citizen Pip lunch kit! I used random.org to generate a winning number, which was #2 (comment #2). I’ve emailed you separately, please get back in touch with your mailing address and let us know which kit you’d like. You can contact me at organicmania at gmail dot com. Thanks to everyone for participating, and thanks to Citizen Pip for the donation of their “muck free” lunch kit! —Lynn

Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2009

Mean Mommy No More: How Eco-Green Became Really Awesome

August 14th, 2009

Funny how just a few weeks ago I was a “Mean Mommy.” I mean, it’s so unreasonable that I won’t pack Lunchables for my son to take to camp “like all the other mothers do.”

lunchables

Then we switched camps. And I’m in Green Moms Paradise.
ecochallengephoto
An Eco-Challenge for waste free lunch. Can you believe it?

Suddenly, everything I’ve been saying for years is being repeated by really Awesome camp counselors. My son is helping his camp buddies win the Eco-Challenge Waste Free Lunch competition.

With all my lamenting about the challenges of going green in the public schools, I’ve often wondered what it would be like to attend a crunchy school.  Now  I have some sense for what it would be like. Wonderful!

And that competition? Of course Big Boy scored big points for his fellow campers. How could he not with those vintage cloth napkins from the 1970s in his waste-free lunch?

1972-napkinphoto

By the way, I just updated the Green Schools Green Moms Carnival (below) with a late entry from Jennifer Taggert about microban in school lunch boxes.  Check it out!

Have a great weekend!

Can you tell I’m enjoying my cyberbreak? (Even if I am cheating a little…).

Lynn

Green Schools: Green Moms Tell It Like It Is!

August 11th, 2009

With 32 submissions from 28 green women bloggers, I am thrilled to share what may be the most comprehensive listing of environmentally friendly back-to-school tips on the web. From daycare to college to homeschooling, we’ve got you covered! And these tips are from women who’ve been there and done that: the wonderful women of the Green Moms Carnival.  Thanks to all of the contributors for sharing your insights so that together, we can green those schools!

On a side note, Happy Birthday to the Carnival! It’s hard to believe, but we got started a  year ago August when we launched our very first carnival, “Tackling Global Warming.”

Let’s  dive in. The 32 blog posts fall into eight categories:

  1. At the Beginning: Green Childcare;
  2. Healthy Meals and How to Pack a Waste-Free Lunch;
  3. School Supply Lists and Eco-Friendly School Supplies;
  4. The Edible Schoolyard;
  5. Why It’s Worth Fighting to Keep Recess;
  6. Greening Your School: From Green Committees to Green Certification;
  7. Back to School: Homeschooling Edition; and
  8. Tips for Green College Kids.

So sit back, grab your BPA-free water bottle, and enjoy this comprehensive look at Green Schools.

At the Beginning: Green Child Care

  • Mary Hunt of In Women We Trust tells us how the Los Angeles Community College District is setting new standards for green building, which benefits the child care centers in the system. As Mary puts it, “build green, teach green, learn green, live green and bring the next generation along in your footsteps.”

Eating Healthy  – What to Eat and How to Pack a Waste-Free Lunch

  • Of course we all know the most important meal of the day is breakfast. Sommer from Green and Clean Mom shares  some great Healthy Breakfast Ideas
  • Amy from Crunchy Domestic Goddess shares some really nifty tips for Turning Back to School Lunches Green. I especially appreciate the fact that Amy brings up the issue of over packaging, and she even includes links to great recipes!
  • Green Bean from Green Phone Booth shares a wonderful story about an old cookbook, circa 1951, devoted to packing  healthy, interesting, and waste-free lunches. She poses the question: So what have we really learned in 2 generations?
  • Like Green Bean, Mindful Momma writes about a simpler era and then goes on to include some simply wonderful, clever tips for packing a healthy lunch. Check it out!
  • Amy of  Gift of Green passes along some helpful tips for how to pack a waste-free lunch in her post, “Back to School, Back to Green.”

Those Darn School Supply Lists, Plus Eco-Friendly School Supplies: What are They? And  How to Find Them

  • Are you sick and tired of antibacterial soap everywhere, including on your child’s school supply list?  ( I know I am!) Katie from Kitchen Stewardship issues this Bath and Body Works Anti-Antibacterial Soap Letter.  Katie has made it easy to, as she puts it, “vent about the overuse of the toxic triclosan and the crazy marketing Bath and Body Works throws at us, our children, and their school administrators.” On her site you’ll also  find links to information about safe hand-washing, the dangers of antibacterial soaps, and a breakdown of hand sanitizers to prepare you for the back-to-school germaphobia.  (Frankly, I think I’ll pass her letter along to my school administrators in addition to Bath and Body Works. It irks me to no end that we were all but required to buy anti-bacterial cleansers  for the classroom!)
  • Sommer of Green and Clean Mom, in her second submission to the carnival, feels much the same as Katy does about anti-bacterial cleansers, particularly those with triclosan.  In her post, “Triclosan and the Non-Toxic Classroom,” this former teacher offers some tips for dealing with the schools around this issue.
  • Beth Terry of Fake Plastic Fish presents us with a conundrum: which one of these three binder options is actually more environmentally friendly?  As with so much in the green movement, the choices aren’t clear-cut.
  • However, as Beth points out in her second contribution to the carnival, the choice of using PVC or not is actually quite clear-cut. Beth presents a great argument against the use of PVC binders, lunchboxes, and the like, and links to more resources from the Center for Health and Environmental Justice, which has just launched a Parent’s Guide to Safer School Supplies.
  • I swear, everytime I read one of EnviroMom’s postings I feel like packing it in and moving to Portland. This one is no exception,  with Renee writing about a wonderful local organization that consolidates the school supply lists and donates excess to charity. She also shares some of her hits and misses in shopping for eco-friendly items for back-to-school.

Eco-Friendly School Supplies,  Waste-Free Lunch Tips and More: All in One Green Tips for Back to School!

Several of the @GreenMoms shared great round-up posts with tips for green back-to-school that include everything from healthy waste-free lunches to eco-friendly school supplies, to clothing, walking instead of riding, and more! 

  • Just when we’ve figured out what BPA is and what all those plastic # signs mean, we’ve got another strange substance to become familiar with:  Microban.  Read all about it here courtesy of Jennifer Taggert, the SmartMama.
  • Tiffany from Nature Moms gives great tips on Eco Friendly lunch boxes and water bottles,  including reviews of some of her favorites, as well as helpful tips for clothing, backpacks, and other school supplies that are kind to the environment.
  • In “Going Back to School Green,” Leslie from Recycle Your Day shares her memories of how she prepped for back to school – back in the days when recycled paper was gray and cheaper than conventional paper!  Plus, she shares plenty of more-up-to-date tips with us, including reviews of a few favorite products.
  • And if you’re not sure your kid can master the art of returning bottles and containers, Diane of Big Green Purse has a “secret tip” for you, in addition to some great background information on why environmentally-friendly lunch boxes are so important. Check out “Lunch Boxes Should Be Safe and Environmentally Friendly” and learn about some of Diane’s favorite eco-friendly options!
  • If you find that some of these eco-friendly lunch kits simply cost more than  you’re willing to spend, check out “How to Pack a Cheap and Easy Waste-Free Lunch” where I share some of my favorite frugal green tips, from $1.99 for a big pack of recyclable brown bags to el-cheapo reusbale food containers.

School Supplies: End-of-Year Disposal Issues and a Quest for More Sustainable School Supplies

The Edible Schoolyard: Kindergarten Edition

  • Deanna from Crunchy Chicken shares “The Edible Schoolyard,” an encouraging tale of how a kindergarten class started an edible garden at her local elementary school.

Why It’s Worth Fighting to Keep Recess

  • In “Recess Helps Kids Learn, Don’t Take It Away!” Katy Farber of Non-Toxic Kids shares her insights about why it’s important to keep recess a priority in the schools. One would think that the research on the benefits of healthy recess would be well understood by educators, but unfortunately it’s still not a priority in our nation’s schools.

Greening Your School: From Green Committees to LEED Certification,  & Asbestos Abatement

  • Tiffany from Mommy Goes Green shares “My Healthy School” – some great tips for working with your school administration to green your school. 
  • The bloggy world is so crazy – I had to go to BlogHer to meet Jennifer from Puddle Jumping in DC – who just submitted a wonderful post about a  certified green school, right here in Montgomery County, Maryland, where I live! I had no idea! Check out Jennifer’s post, which includes a wonderful video of a 5th grade girl discussing what it’s like to study at a green school.

Back to School: HomeSchooling Edition

  • Of course, it’s dilemmas like the fight for recess that Katy described in her post that are pushing more and more parents to private schools and to homeschooling. Lisa Sharp doesn’t  have kids of her own, but she was homeschooled and she shares some wonderful memories and tips for Green home schooling parents in her post, “Back to School: Home Schooling Edition.”

Tips for Green College Kids

  • We’ve run the gamut from daycare to college. The kids have grown up, but we parents are still concerned with keeping ep them healthy and safe. Karen Hanrahan of Best of Mother Earth shares her tips for helpful herbal remedies for how to Keep  Your College Kid Healthy.
  • Lisa of Condo Blues shares ten tips for college students who want to go green. My favorite? Donate unused clothing, furniture, food, etc. before leaving campus.

About the Green Moms Carnival – We are a group of green women bloggers, united by our desire to protect and preserve Mother Earth. Once a month or so, we share our thoughts on a common theme, so that together our environmental messages are heard by more people than we could possibly ever reach on our own. You can read more about us here and you can subscribe to all our blog posts automatically through Twitter at @GreenMoms.

– Lynn

Green Schools: Five Lessons Learned the Hard Way

August 9th, 2009

Editor’s Note: This post is for the Green Moms Carnival on Green Schools, which will appear here at OrganicMania on Tuesday,   August 11th. There will be great contributions from green women bloggers from all around the country, weighing in on green schools – from nursery school to college!

It seems like just yesterday that I squeezed into a seat at the kid-size cafeteria tables at my son’s new elementary school. I was there to participate in my very first PTA meeting, and while I was interested in many of the things going on at the school, what I really wanted to learn about were the school’s environmental initiatives. I wanted to get involved in the Green Committee.

Imagine my surprise when the PTA leadership didn’t seem to understand what I was talking about. They invited me to become involved with the committee that watered the trees over the summer. Oh, and they  really wanted some help with a children’s garden.

waste-free-photo

But I’m not much of a gardener. I may feel green, but my plants are brown. I wanted to focus on environmental issues like substituting  conventional school cleaning products with more environmentally friendly options;  introducing  waste-free lunches; eliminating the throw-away styrofoam trays used in our lunchroom;   replacing Sally Foster fundraisers with more eco-friendly options; and stopping the Cheap Plastic Crap giveaways used at school fundraisers.  And that was just for starters! Then I could see moving on to including walkable schools in our County and State Carbon Reduction Programs, retrofitting the school with solar or wind power, and more…

I think the other committee members went into overload just listening to my wish list.   Our principal suggested that the new parents hold back and watch and learn what went on at the school instead of jumping in with a million new directions.  So I did what comes unnaturally to this Jersey girl: I shut my mouth.

After the meeting, several other of the incoming parents approached me and said they understood and supported what I was proposing, and would be glad to help. The problem was that no one wanted to lead the effort. No one could seem to find the time.  I agreed to co-chair a committee, but soon found that coordinating with a co-chair and getting the committee off the ground fell by the wayside as I focused more of my energy on work, home, family, other volunteer work,  OrganicMania, and the Green Moms Carnival.

I blogged a bit about my Green Mom Culture Shock during this time and how I was Dealing with the Schools: Coping as  a Green Mom…but then I went all quiet on you. Didn’t say too much about what was going on…

So did we make progress this last school year? Yes, but not nearly as much as I would have liked. I did learn a few lessons, though, which I’m happy to share with other eager parents as they seek to navigate the new world of PTAs and public schools.  What about you? What’s worked for you? Please leave a message and share, because the new school year is about to start up and  we can all learn from each others’ experiences.  What’s worked for you as you’ve sought to green your school?

Lesson #1: Meet People Where They Are

Only months after that first meeting did I learn that the existing gardening committee had plenty of “greenies” involved who would have been happy to take on many of the other issues I proposed.  And had I volunteered first with that committee, proved myself, and learned how things worked at the school, our Green Committee probably would have had more impact.

Lesson #2 Get Support from Area Non-Profits

Through the Green  Schools committee of my town’s sustainable communities initiative, Bethesda Green, I learned that the Audobon Society’s Green Schools Initiative was  trying to reduce waste at my son’s school.   Several of the other committee members were from my son’s school, and we were encouraged us to go back and try again with the Green Committee, or just to do things on our own as we could fit them in.  The woman who led the charge? Probably the busiest one among us – she has triplets!

Lesson #3 Seek out Liked Minded Allies in the School Early On

Through the Green Schools committee, I met a teacher from my son’s school.  She was able to shed some light on mysteries like WHY the class buying lists contained so many plastic items, and how to get that changed for the next school year.

She was also able to explain that there were a bunch of different Green initiatives going on at school that would have more reach and impact if they were coordinated. Coincidentally, I heard the same thing from the PTA president at that time.  Soon we were able to get things a bit better organized, and on much sounder footing for this coming school year.

Having friends “on the inside” of the school really helps!

Lesson #4 Connect with other Local Schools and Learn  What’s Worked There

Some of the other schools here in Bethesda, Maryland  have had far greater participation in their “Waste-Free Wednesday” lunch campaigns than we did with ours. It may just take time for new ideas to take root, but  it would  have been ideal if we could have touched base with the green leaders at our town’s other schools to see how they achieved so much success.  Thanks to our community-wide Green Schools initiative, we’ll be connecting with those other green school leaders soon.

Lesson #5 Propose Well Thought-Out Alternatives

It’s not enough to say, “Get rid of the traditional school fundraising programs and  all of the “stuff” that they push on people!”   When well established fund raising programs are bringing in $20K or so for the PTA, you’ve got to have a plan to replace that money.  There are many new green school fundraising programs emerging, but how much money are schools actually making from these programs?  That’s one question I haven’t yet been able to answer to our PTA’s satisfaction.   (Perhaps a kind reader  will leave a comment here with that information!)

What about you? What’s worked and what hasn’t worked as you’ve sought to “green” your neighborhood schools?  Please leave  comment and share!

Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2009

How to Pack A Cheap and Easy Waste-Free Lunch

August 9th, 2009

There are many  eco-friendly options available for school lunch, but let’s face it: most of them are still pretty pricey. Shelling out  $21 for a Sigg water bottle or $37.95 for a Laptop lunch box adds up to big bucks quickly.

The very popular Sigg bottles range in price from $17.99 to $24.99 at this Bethesda Whole Foods.

The very popular Sigg bottles range in price from $17.99 to $24.99 at this Bethesda Whole Foods.

Here are five super cheap, easy ways you can send your kids back-to-school with an eco-friendly lunch bag.   If you’re fortunate enough to have what you need already, maybe you could take this post and send it to a school list serv or to others  who might find this information helpful.

There are really just five things you need for a waste-free lunch:

1.    Lunch box – or brown bag. While there are great eco-friendly lunch box options out there, most range from $14 on up. You can buy a pack  of 100 brown paper lunch bags for $1.99.    No, it’s not totally waste-free,  but most municipalities recycle paper – so you can toss the bag out with the newspapers to be recycled!     It’s a much more environmentally  friendly option than buying a conventional school lunch bag, which are often made of PVC plastic. Read here to learn why you want to avoid PVC, which is harmful to our health and to the environment.

As seen in a Bethesda Safeway, buy 2 packages for $3.98 and you'll have enough recyclable brown bags for the entire school year.

As seen in a Bethesda Safeway, buy 2 packages for $3.98 and you'll have enough recyclable brown bags for the entire school year.

2.    Water bottles. This is a biggie. Visit nearly any school cafeteria and you’ll see a staggering amount of waste from disposable juice boxes and milk containers.  Yet most stainless or non-PVC water bottles are $10 and up – some as high as $25 or more.  Before I invested in two Sigg Mr. Sharky’s  (pictured below), I used a good ole Honest Tea bottle. Made of durable glass, it was fine for drinks on the go.  I still use one in a pinch!

A durable glass bottle, such as this Honest Tea bottle, can be reused as an on-the-go water bottle.

A durable glass bottle, such as this Honest Tea bottle, can be reused as an on-the-go water bottle.

3.    Cloth napkin. No need to buy new here. Pretty much everyone has a spare dish rag or dish towel lying around the house, or some “good” cloth napkins that are only taken out for “special occasions.” These are perfect for school lunch. So far, my son hasn’t asked why he carries a linen dishcloth with a 1977 calendar on it, but I’m sure that day is coming soon…!

Yes, that's my mother's calendar dish towel from 1977, now doubling as a napkin in my son's lunch box. Do I get a Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Refuse award for this?

Yes, that's my mother's calendar dish towel from 1977, now doubling as a napkin in my son's lunch box. Do I get a Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Refuse award for this?

4.    Food containers. My how things have changed just in the past year. Now you can buy stainless steel containers for school lunch. But again, cost is an issue. If you don’t want to spend  $40 for an all-in-one lunch kit or $16 for a stainless steel food container, you can go the el cheapo route like I did.

Three of these glass Pyrex food storage units sell for just $4.99 at a Bethesda Giant Food store.

Three of these glass Pyrex food storage units sell for just $4.99 at a Bethesda Giant Food store.

Unfortunately there are no more of these nifty $4.99 glass pyrex containers at the Bethesda Giant, because I bought out their entire stock!

And here’s  a shot of Big Boy with his lunch bag, which contains some plastic (gasp) Gerber food containers. I love these.  They’re made in the good old USA, they’re  cheap (under $5 for 4 small dishes) and they’re made of #5 plastic, which does not contain BPA. Still, to be on the safe side (because all plastics can leach) I keep these plastic bowls out of the dishwasher and the microwave   I had to search high and low for these – they seem to sell out as soon as they’re in stock, but you can sometimes find them at Target or Buy Buy Baby.

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He’s also carrying a more traditional “Green Mom”  accoutrement – a Wrap n’ Mat sandwich wrap, which is made of washable cloth and durable, low density polyethylene (LDPE). These sell for   $7.99 on the Internet, but I bought mine locally at My Organic Market.   When I hit the Wrap n’ Mat website as I was writing this post, I learned that they’ve just introduced little snack pouches, which sell for $8.99 each.

5.    Cutlery. This past school year I packed lunches with our regular cutlery, and unfortunately I regret it because some of our silverware never made it home.  This year I’m trying Sporks !

And I leave you with a picture of my boys’ trusty Crocodile Creek lunch bags being cleaned out. Because this frugal green Mom isn’t planning to buy new ones this year!

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This post is for the Green Moms Carnival: Green Schools Edition, which runs tomorrow (Monday, August 10th) right here at OrganicMania.

– Copyright 2009 OrganicMania

You Read it Here First: School Lunch Controversy on TV

April 10th, 2008

This post about school lunch attracted the attention of a TV reporter, who came out to interview OrganicMania about the state of school lunches. You can see the results here. (Just go to the segment filmed on 8 April, 16:05 minute mark.)

At the close, the reporter notes that school officials said they will not introduce organic food because of the expense.

I don’t know of a single parent who approves of the school lunch program. Why won’t school officials consider creative ways to improve school lunch, rather than dismissing suggestions because of cost?

Here are some ideas:

- What about getting “Big Organics” companies to subsidize organic milk? Other companies subsidize their products in an effort to target a growing market, so why not engage the dairies in an attempt to get hormone-free milk in the schools?

- How about charging a subsidy on top of the organic lunch to subsidize the Free and Reduced Price Lunch Program? Parents who disapprove of the nutritional content in school lunch are already paying a premium to make lunch at home. The school system could use its purchasing power to negotiate discounts on higher quality ingredients that would match what parents are making at home. Not only would parents pay less, but they would gladly save themselves the time and trouble of making lunch at home if their children were assured of healthy, nutritious, fresh meals with organic ingredients where they count most (the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” plus milk and carrots would be a great start!)

- What about rallying behind the innovative “Farm to School” program, which connects schools with local farms to deliver farm-fresh food to the public schools?

If you live in Montgomery County, Maryland and would like to learn more about nutrition in the schools, please attend a Montgomery County Council of PTAs meeting on nutrition and physical activity, to be held April 22nd from 7 pm to 8 pm in the auditorium at the Carver Educational Services Center, 850 Hungerford Drive, Rockville. Kathy Lazor, MCPS Director of Food and Nutrition Services, will talk about nutrition issues and MCPS initiatives. (She is the official interviewed in the TV segment).

OrganicMania will report on this meeting, because the issues discussed there will be relevant not only to Montgomery County, but also to parents facing these issues in their local schools.

What do you think of school lunch? Please leave a comment and share!

And for more info, check out these older OrganicMania posts here, here and here and this great post from Expatriate’s Kitchen.

(And speaking of Expat, she’s running a great carnival at Eat.Drink.Better).

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2008

Green Savings Tip for School Lunch

April 2nd, 2008

When it comes to school lunches, finding healthy, organic foods that won’t break the bank and that are packaged sustainably can be quite a chore.

Juice packs are all the rage with kids. But did you ever look at the pile of juice boxes and plastic straws left over after lunch? What a waste of packaging and natural resources! Not to mention the expense of those little boxes! They’re certainly not cheap.

It’s not a good idea to save money by compromising on non-organic juice, particularly if it’s apple juice your child is drinking. Apples are heavily laden with pesticides, and childrens’ bodies are very sensitive to the chemical load of pesticides.

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What to do? You can save money and reduce waste by purchasing a large container of organic apple juice and a re-usable juice box or thermos. Plus, you can dilute the apple juice with water to make it an even healthier treat for your child. Diluting with water also makes that large bottle last longer, making it less expensive. Works for me!

And just to make it even easier for you….here’s a link to a printable coupon for 75 cents off a large bottle of Santa Cruz organic juice. If there’s a Whole Foods near you, check out their house brand of 365 Organics – they’re considerably cheaper than the name brands, although with this Santa Cruz coupon, you’ll need to compare prices at your local store.

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2008