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Women's Health Blog

Toxic Thursdays: Get Ready for School

It’s 'Back to School' time! Area stores are chock full of graphite pencils, pens, fresh notepads, bookbags, lunch boxes, and more to get those kids ready for a new school year.

My son will be entering kindergarten this year – gasp! And, I like a lot of moms try to be as prepared as possible for the coming year. I already have the bookbag nailed down – he’s been using the same one for the past two years and it is still in good shape.

For two years, he has packed his lunch (correction: I have packed his lunch for him) and we will likely continue that tradition until he tells me otherwise.

Lunch time can create so much waste, so I like to make sure I have plenty of reusable containers on hand to reduce the plastic entering landfills after one use.

Many convenience items found in the grocery store are plastic on top of plastic and I hate to think that in the school year, every day one of those plastic items enters our already-overflowing landfills. Or worse, ends up in our rivers, streams, bays, or oceans!

Cut down on waste this year by filling your cupboards with bulk items that you can then portion out into reusable containers.

Green your Lunch Routine

Stock up on reusable bags:

I love these reusable bags from Amazon because they come in kid-friendly designs and they are insulated so they last longer. An easy wipe out after each lunch, hang them open over a glass or with a clothespin and they are ready to go again. Link:

For smaller items or snacks, I also use these little reusable bags that come in fun designs. These are not insulated so they work well for dry snacks that won’t make too much of a mess:


Don’t ditch that spork

While single-use silverware may seem like the way to go for little kids who lose everything, try out some fun kid-friendly utensils. I like these sets because the design is Star Wars, which my son loves, and it comes in a little case so hopefully he is less likely to misplace it. And, well, if it does get lost, it isn’t too expensive:

For adults, I prefer a non-plastic item, like these bamboo sets: However, with kiddos, plastic is cheaper and in many cases, it is a necessary evil.


Sandwich containers, etc.

There are so many plastic sandwich containers, bento boxes, ice pack boxes, etc., out there that I hesitate to even recommend any. From my experience, I generally prefer either the stainless steel or glass items as I feel they are more secure and last longer. Plus, being that they aren’t plastic they have less environmental impact.

However, these are kid lunches we are talking about here. And, if your kids are anything like mine, they drop those backpacks pretty regularly. I would hate for a kid to show up to school with a shattered glass sandwich container in his or her bag.

The stainless steel sandwich containers I have tried are often a bit hard for little hands to open, so be wary of that. They can also be a bit heavy and clunky if you are worried about adding more weight to your child’s back.

My solution is to either use a stainless steel sandwich container like this one (they are also a bit pricey):

Or, use the plastic ones and make sure to hand-wash them to get the longest life possible out of them.

I really like the lids that have pop-off sides. I find these are the easiest for my kids to use. Sistema makes a great line that is often available in grocery stores like this:

I will add a quick note here about soup containers. There are many options here, but again, I prefer stainless steel if I can find a good one. Kids don’t eat too much in one sitting, so a smaller soup thermos works well for my son. And, he loves soup, so he would eat it every day if I sent it! Try this one:


Drink containers

I have a long-time battle when it comes to drink containers. I don’t like to use plastic ones, however, many of the glass ones concern me again about breaking when my son is traveling. And, the stainless steel ones often have sharp lips that I worry about him bumping his mouth against. So, we are down to plastic here again.

My only suggestion here is to go with a container that is double walled. This prevents the condensation from building up inside your child’s bag, which can lead to a soggy mess.

I like this bottle by Aladdin the best these days:


When you are readying your children for school this year, think about the items they are using. If it is a single use item, consider ways to green your school routine by replacing it with an item that can be used again and again.

Have a great year!

*You may have noticed the blog name has changed - we have updated this regular blog to be called Be Real. On the Be Real blog you can expect healthy living topics from the front lines of parenting and family life! Enjoy!

Rachel Mavity

Rachel Mavity

Rachel Mavity is the Digital Communications Coordinator with Beebe Healthcare's Marketing and Communications Department. On Toxic Thursdays, she writes about saving the earth and ways to reduce our footprint. She also now blogs over at Be Real on this site.