If you logged into Facebook this week, you saw dozens of "first day of school" photos flooding your feed. Adorable kids were showing off their new shoes and cute character backpacks, holding chalkboard signs declaring their new grade status, or stepping onto the school bus for the first time.
Forty percent of those children are packing lunch this year. On average, this means 18 pieces of trash per day (or 3,240 pieces per school year) per family. According to ecolunchboxes.com's Lunch Study, the average family could save $453 a year by switching from disposable plastic and/or pre-packaged lunch items, and using reusable and refillable containers. Switching to non-plastic items has additional health benefits as well -- as even BPA-free plastics can be toxic. Food grade silicone is one exception -- a leading toxicologist has assured me it is inert.
For families looking to make the eco-friendly and kid-safe switch, here are some of the most innovative green products on the market this year:
1. EcoSouLife's Husk Travel Box
If you are and your kids are rocking the bento box lunch trend, Just Travel Box is a brilliant, eco-friendly and non-toxic alternative to plastic containers. This sturdy, compartmented, sealed storage container is made from rice husk fiber. As explained on their website, "Instead of burning and wasting this bi-product, we transform it into re-usable, durable and natural products that will dissolve once buried under the ground." However, until that day, you can use these items over and over again -- even run it through your dishwasher to clean encrusted dirt -- though this can make the surface go from silky smooth to slightly rougher to the touch. Unlike metal versions like Grub2Go or ECOlunchbox, which are both excellent in their own rights, the Husk Travel Box can go in your microwave. An interior divider moves so that you can change section size easily, and they even offer a version with a husk-based spoon that wraps around the container on a piece of fitted elastic. It's a really clever design that makes packing a bento lunch easy.
2. Stasher Silicone Storage Bags
These reusable silicone sandwich bags cut down on waste by replacing throwaway plastic baggies. The seals are strong and close like the press-and-seal plastic ones, but are thicker and more durable. The silicone storage area is roomy enough for a big sandwich, but flat enough that the pieces will not flop apart. These bags can go in the freezer, microwave, and dishwasher without a problem. This allows you to plan ahead, and freeze and thaw on demand. When the meal is over, just pop the bags into the dishwasher. The silicone storage bags come in different shapes for fruits, veggies, cereal, etc.-- all with cute patterns, if you wish. Good for hundreds of uses around the house but especially for school lunches! For a good video demo of the Stasher, check it out on the Grommet.
If you family loves soup, this product is a real find. The stainless steel Hydro Flask features double-wall vacuum insulation. It keeps soup hot for three hours -- even if stored inside a box-style cooler with other food or drink items. This means that if you heat the soup to boiling before your kids leave for school, it will be the perfect temperature for them to enjoy at lunchtime. The containers are nice sizes, shapes and colors, and the seal is strong enough that you don't have to worry about leakage.
4. Eco-friendly Lunch Box
Finally, vinyl is a known toxic material with a number of ugly long-term exposure issues. While you are going green, why not make sure your children's food is surrounded by something safe? Bella Luna offers a sweet collection of eco-friendly lunchboxes featuring a wipeable cotton canvas exterior with a smart protective coating that is a solvent-free biodegradable laminate made from sugarcane. Each lunchbox has an interior mesh pocket that's ideal for holding utensils and ice packs. These eco-beauties are BPA, PVC, and Phthalate-free all with very cute kid-friendly patterns including Animals, Butterflies, Dinosaurs, Sharks and Woodland themes.