Waste Free Lunches

Tonight, as I was packing my daughter’s lunch, I realized that without even thinking about it, I was packing a waste free lunch.  Just by keeping a couple things on hand at all times, it has become second nature.  Most of these things you probably already have, it’s just getting into the habit of using them every day. If you are missing a few things, I’ve provided some of my favorite options.

LUNCHBOX – When I was in school, we used paper bags for our lunch everyday.  I cringe when I think of how many of them we just threw away.  Now, I pack my kid’s lunch in a reusable lunchbox.  There are tons of options like the PlanetBox Stainless Steel lunchbox, old school metal lunchboxes, plastic bento style lunchboxes,  or theKids Konserve insulated lunch sacks made from recycled bottles.  Just make sure that whatever you buy is PVC Free – oftentimes you’ll find that fabric lunchboxes have a PVC lining – check the tags.

REUSABLE BAGS – This is one of the places where you can really cut down on waste, particularly if you are using plastic baggies for sandwiches and snacks.  Lunchskins makes reusable bags both in sandwich and snack sizes.  They are made with a cotton fabric that is coated with a food-safe polyurethane liner.  I currently have 2 but am planning to get several more because I’m always using them!  I can use them for more than just food and I love that I can throw them in the dishwasher.

REUSABLE CONTAINERS – Another way to replace your plastic baggies is to use a reusable container.   It can be as easy as using a plastic container, stainless steel Lunchbots or Kinderville silicone storage jars

UTENSILS – For older children, you can grab a  fork and/or spoon from your silverware drawer.  If you’re concerned they might not make it home, stop by Goodwill and pick up some 10 cent utensils for lunches.  No worries if it accidentally is left at school (dirty. in the locker. never to be seen again.).  For younger children, buy kid-size plastic or metal utensils that are the right size for their mouths.  We use metal utensils from Pottery Barn Kids and have been really happen with them.

CLOTH NAPKIN – Paper napkins may be cheap but they are also wasteful.  We’ve been using cloth napkins for a year and they aren’t any more work – I just throw them in any load of laundry that is being done. 

DRINK BOTTLE -It seems like everyone has jumped on the stainless steel drink bottle bandwagon, but if you haven’t – now is a good time.  You can find them EVERYWHERE – we happen to use KleanKanteen for our kids but you can pick them up anywhere from Starbucks, to the grocery store, to toy stores.

Once you start packing your own waste free lunches, you might inquire about a school wide program. It has been estimated that on average a school-age child using a disposable lunch generates 67 pounds of waste per school year.   That is over 800 pounds of waste over 12 years of school – JUST FOR 1 CHILD!  That equates to 18,760 pounds of lunch waste for one average-size elementary school – PER YEAR!  Over 225,000 pounds of lunch waste over 12 years of school.  For a great resource to help you start a waste free lunch program at school, visit WasteFreeLunches.org.


Eco-Friendly Potty Training

Debate after debate exists about using disposable vs. cloth diapers but I think all parties would agree that the most eco-friendly (and cost effective)  option is to get kids out of diapers as soon as you can.  Fortunately we’re done potty training our first child but we’ll be back there again in a couple years.  I’m surprised there aren’t more eco-friendly potties out yet but I have noticed that one or two plastic potties that are recyclable – a step in the right direction.  Here are the most eco-friendly potty training finds on the web:


Growing Up Green Bamboo Potty Seat – Made with pesticide-free, 100% sustainable bamboo.


becoPotty – Instead of yet anotherpiece of plastic children’s gear, the becoPotty is made with bamboo and rice husks left over from farming.  When you are done potty training, you can bury it in your garden, plant some seeds and let the natural product biodegrade.



Poteez Disposable Potty– Great for parents on the go, this disposable potty is made with 100% compostable, biodegradable cardboard.


Clean and Green Public Potty Protectors– Disposable toilet seat covers made of 100% biodegradable cotton.  Over sized so little hands don’t touch dirty toilets.


Organic Cotton Training Pants and Underwear – Hanna Andersson has both training and classic “unders” in 100% organic cotton for boys and girls.


Vinyl-Free Bath Books

It’s getting easier to find safe, non-toxic bath toys but vinyl-free bath books are few and far between.  I found many books that were labeled ‘non-toxic’ but the packaging didn’t tell me what they were made of.   I scoured the web and here are the few that made the short list.  If you have any to add, please let us know!



Haba Bath Books Mermaid, pirate or frog



Poppy Cat 


Sandra Boynton – several of the popular Sandra Boynton books come in a bath book


 iKids Soft Shapes Foam Books – there are many books in this series


 Everybody Takes a Bath – cloth coloring book for the tub

 Bath Time Buddy Books by Kate Toms – each book is a hand puppet made of wash cloths


Reusable Nursing Pads

While nursing my daughter, over 3 years ago, I burned through disposable nursing pads.  I felt like I was constantly running to the store for another box and at $7-9 per box, I was burning through money, too.

Since then I’ve become more eco conscious and realized that reusable nursing pads would not only be more eco-friendly but more cost conscious, as well.  There are several types of reusable nursing pads – find one that works for you!


Reusable Cloth Nursing Pads – You can find cloth nursing pads made out of cotton, organic cotton, bambooand several other fabrics.  They come in plain jane white or fun and funky colors.  You can even make  your own.  I’m using cotton ones that absorb well and are easy to throw in any load of laundry.  One of things I hated about disposable pads was that they would stick to my damp nipple – making it painful to peel off, particularly in the first couple weeks of nursing.  The cotton pads absorb moisture well so I haven’t experienced this problem. 

Lilypadz– When you’re nursing, you can’t always wear swim suits, sports bras or workout shirts without showing a little bit more than you want to (you know what I’m talking about).   You can also sometimes see cloth nursing pads as they can add a lot of bulk to your bra.  Lilypadz have totally changed all that. They are made of silicone and have a “stickiness” to them so you stick them to your breast creating a tight fit protecting you from leaking.  They are super thin and you can’t see them under your clothing, allowing you to wear tightly fitted clothing, go swimming or go braless. My only recommendation is not to use them the first couple weeks and/or months while your milk supply is stabilizing because if  you are leaking a lot, they won’t keep it in. Every nursing mom needs these and they would make a great gift.

Milkies– I cringe when I leak because breastmilk is like liquid gold. Milkies was created exactly to fix this issue – they save your milk when you letdown.  You put it in your bra on the side you are not nursing on and it collects the milk when you letdown.  I haven’t used them yet but from what I read it can be several ounces.  I can’t even believe that I’m losing ounces every time I nurse.   That means if I’m nursing 6-8 times a day, I could be losing 2 or 3 bottles worth of milk, per day.  These would be particularly helpful during the first several weeks and months of nursing when your milk supply isn’t stabilized.  I wish I had these 3 months ago!  If you’ve used Milkies I’d love to hear about your experience!


Organic Baby Formula

Occasionally, I have needed to supplement nursing with formula and have been researching organic options.  Surprisingly, there are several manufacturers of organic baby formula and it is not necessarily more expensive than conventional formula.

When picking out any formula – organic or conventional, here are some things to consider:

  • can lining – some infant formula cans are known to be lined with metal that contains BPA
  • sweeteners – does it contain corn syrup or sugar?
  • palm olein oil – studies have shown infants absorb less fat and calcium from a formula containing palm olein oil
  • hexane processed DHA/ARA – there is some concern that the processing of DHA/ARA may cause adverse reactions in infants  – see below for edited comments
  • avoid liquid formula in metal cans – the cans are lined with an epoxy containing BPA and have tested to leach BPA

Nature’s One Baby’s Only Organic – This is what I personally used for my babies. Developed to meet Academy of Pediatrician guidelines for nutrition.  Options for all baby needs such as with DHA/ARA or without,  extra protein, soy, lactose sensitive, vegetarian, dairy free, and kosher. It is labeled as a ‘toddler formula’ but that is because the company wants to encourage breastfeeding as it does meet the FDA nutrition requirements for infant formula.   Baby’s Only does not contain any GMO ingredients, brown rice syrup, corn syrup, palm olein oil or hexane processed DHA.  The canisters and lids are uncoated so they are BPA free.   More info about dairy formula with DHA/ARA vs. without. $12-14 per 12.7 oz can or I highly recommend buying a 6 pack making them less than $10 per can.

Similac Organic – Similac Organic is USDA certified organic and contains both DHA and ARA.  It does contain organic sugar and hexane processed DHA but is free of palm olein oil.  Similac has both the traditional can of formula and the SimplePac, a plastic tub made with polypropylene which is BPA Free (although SafeMama reports that Similac couldn’t confirm that ALL parts of the container are BPA free, the powdered formula itself tested BPA free).  $31 per 25.2 oz can.

I’ve confirmed that the following 4 organic infant formulas are all manufactured by PBM products.  According to Joan, a nutritional support specialist with PBM, “Each one is made for a specific retailer and while they are nutritionally comparable, there may be slight differences in there formulations.”  In a separate email, “bisphenol-A (BPA) is a known functional component in the manufacturing process of the current packaging used for PBM infant formula products.”  They added that they are currently researching alternative packaging.

Earth’s Best Organic In soy or dairy, Earth’s Best is USDA certified organic and contains both DHA and ARA.  It does not contain any sweeteners but does contain palm olein oil and hexane processed DHA/ARA. $23 per 23.2 oz can.

Parent’s Choice Organic –  Sold at Wal-Mart, Parent’s Choice is USDA certified organic and contains both DHA and ARA.  It does not contain any sweeteners but does contain palm olein oil. $26 per 23.2 oz can.

Vermont Organics – In dairy or soy, Vermont Organics is USDA certified organic and contains both DHA and ARA. $23 per 23.2 oz can.

Bright Beginnings Organic – Bright Beginnings Organic is USDA certified organic and contains both DHA and ARA.  It does not contain any sweeteners but does contain palm olein oil and hexane processed DHA/ARA.    $27 per 23.4 oz can.

If you use formula several times a week or more regularly, it may be a good idea to buy formula in 6 or 12 packs.  All of these formulas come in bulk and most with some cost savings over purchasing individual cans.

NOTE: All the formulas listed above meet the FDA Nutrition requirements for infant formula.

EDITED 05/18/2010: The government has banned the hexane processed DHA/ARA in organic infant formulas.   As of today, the only organic formula without this type of DHA/ARA is Nature’s One Baby’s Only Organic.

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