Green Your Child’s School Supplies

Child in the rain with water bottle

Does your child’s school give you a list of supplies for the first day of school? We can help you choose non-toxic, low-impact school and lunch supplies—and the bag to carry them in.

If you are working to avoid toxics at home, the last thing you want to do it give your child a bag full of toxic supplies to spend the day with at school. We have carefully built up our supply of school essentials with the lowest impact products we can find from ethical companies. Our children use these same products.

Kids Green Lunch Supplies

Our goal is to get good, healthy food to school safely without leaving a wad of garbage to throw away at the end of lunch hour. Waste-free lunch adds up.

Lunchbots Bento Box
Lunchbots Bento Lunch Box

We have a big selection of lunch bags and boxes. One of my favorites is the Lunchbots Bento Lunch Box. I like that it is stainless steel, and I don’t have to send partially plastic containers to school.

Sling Sisters Snack Bags

Reusable snack bags

For snacks and sandwiches, forget the plastic baggies. Sling Sisters reusable, zippered bags can be wiped out at the end of the day or tossed in the wash on cold.

Klean Kanteen Water Bottle
Kids Reusable Water BottleTo keep children from reaching for sugary drinks at school, we need to give them an easy alternative. A small, reusable water bottle is easy to carry around and to refill. The kid-sized bottle has a top that is easy to sip—without being a sippy cup.

Kids Green Classroom Supplies

Recycled Pencils
Recycled Newspaper Pencils

Kids go through a lot of pencils, so you want an option that is low impact without being terribly expensive. We like the Earthzone recycled pencils. They are tree-free, made with recycled newspaper. You can see the newsprint change as you sharpen the pencil. This will be a kid talking point as they figure out exactly how a newspaper was used to make a pencil.

Non-toxic Glue
Non-toxic school glue

Glue is one of those supplies that sneaks in some nasty plastic. It gets on the kids’ fingers; the fingers go in the mouth. You know how it goes. No worries with this glue. This is a safe, odorless, water-based adhesive that holds fast once dry but can easily be removed with water.

Natural Hand Sanitizer
Mint natural hand sanitizer

What do you do to clean up from all of those germy activities? Send your child to the restroom to use the synthetic hand sanitizer with Triclosan and Benzalkonium Chloride? No! This mixture of essential oils and natural materials gives your child a natural way to clean hands. It smells really nice, too.
Backpack

Dabbawalla Backpacks
Cute kids backpack Dabbawalla

To carry everything, you need a backpack that is easy to clean, because you know it is going to get dirty and sticky every single day. Dabbawalla backpacks and lunch bags are a favorite every year. Kids and parents love these cute bags. Dabbawalla backpacks can be machine washed. The material is insulated as well, so they will keep the cold lunch colder longer and the hot lunch hotter longer. Durable as well as adorable.

Reusable Lunch Bag Supplies

Mimi the Sardine Reusable Lunch Bag for Kids

Have you packed that first school lunch yet? Many schools now require a waste-free lunch. At bynature.ca we carry a variety of reusable supplies you can choose to replace the throwaway lunch bags and make your child’s lunch waste-free.


Reusable Lunch Bags & Boxes

Laptop Lunch bento boxes

Start with the bag or lunch box itself.

Replace paper bags with a bento box for cut up lunch in the tidy little boxes of the Laptop Lunches Bento System or freeform lunch of any shape in a colorful Mimi the Sardine bag?


Reusable Sandwich Containers

Stainless Steel sandwich container

Next, containers for the food. If you chose the Bento Box already, congratulations! You already have the box and the containers.

Replace baggies with Planet Wise Sandwich Bag with a window or put the sandwich in a stainless steel Lunchbot Uno.


Reusable Water Bottle

Clean Canteen reusable bottle

Then, the drink.

Replace a juice box or a canned drink with a stainless steel Klean Kanteen or a glass, flip-top bottle from Lifefactory?


Reusable Utensils

Reusable Bamboo Utensils

Finally, what utensils will your child use?

Replace plastic utensils with lightweight, reusable bamboo To-Go Ware or just send finger foods.

More on School Lunch and School Supplies

Baby Steps to Waste-free School Lunch Products

Child with Dabbawalla Monkey Lunch Bag

Every year we circle back around to reducing waste as our children go back to school. Waste from school lunch is visible and preventable, so we keep coming back to improve and come closer to that ideal of waste-free school lunch.

This year, look at your child’s school lunch bag to ask if anything is being thrown away. If it is, what reusable alternative can you find?

Take one step. You don’t need to look for perfection. Just look for this year’s baby step.


The Lunch Bag or Box

A single-use paper or plastic bag guarantees that your child will have a 100% NON-reusable school lunch. If you haven’t decided on a reusable lunch bag or box yet, start there.

Which lunch bag or box to choose depends on a child’s age. We have some adorable lunch bags that might be too cute for cautious older children, but we also have a variety of plain containers that won’t give anything away.

Dabbawalla Lunch Bags
Dabbawalla Lunch Bag Inside

Younger children will love Dabbawalla Lunch Bags because of the cute and bright designs, such as animal faces. These bags are insulated to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Best of all, they are fully machine washable. You will still need to pack the food in containers inside the bag, though.

Goodbyn Lunch Boxes
Goodbyn Lunch Box with food

With Goodbyn Lunch Boxes, the lunch box is also the food container. There is no need to have separate small container to include just enough of each food—and you won’t find yourself asking, “Where is your sandwich bag?” or “What happened to the glass container with the apples?” Your child won’t accidentally throw away your new, reusable containers. This lunch box simplifies lunch.

GreenSmart Lunch Bags
Green Smart Sifaka lunch bag

For an older child, the GreenSmart lunch bag is plain enough, but still stylish and easy to carry. The neoprene (or neogreene) material is insulating and machine washable. Just zip food containers into the two separate compartments.


The Food Containers

If you already have the lunch bag or box, work on food containers as your next step. Zippered sandwich bags are very easy to use.

An important step to reducing lunch waste is reducing portion size. Only include just enough fruit or crackers. Having small containers, each with a surprise snack can make lunch fun for kids. I like the Kinderville Little Bites Jars for small (3.5oz) portions.


The Lunch Accessories

Once you have the reusable food containers taken care of, make sure that utensils and napkins are reusable as well. At lot of lunches are just finger foods that don’t require utensils, but this can change as our children get older. We have stainless steel children’s cutlery and bamboo utensils (including chopsticks) in their own travel pack. We also have children’s napkins, but you might be just as happy including utensils and napkins from your family set—or from a secondary family set. Make sure to sit down and discuss what needs to come back in the lunch box, though, so your family set doesn’t shrink over time.

This year, just evaluate your child’s lunch and decide one step you can take to reduce waste.

How Does Waste-free Lunch Add Up?

Young girl eating from a luch box

Back to school again, and many parents are considering what to do about lunch. If you need a reason to make this the year that you switch to reusable lunch boxes, reduction of solid waste should be reason enough.


Reduce Solid Waste from School Lunch

If every elementary age child in Canada were to use reusable lunch boxes, we could prevent 185.6 million pounds* of waste. That’s about 67lbs per child per school year, which is about the weight of the average child in grade 3. If it’s difficult to wrap your mind around what 92,795 tons means, think of it as 7,000-24,000 African elephants, depending on their size. It’s a lot of waste, and it goes into landfill unnecessarily.

That waste includes both packaging waste and food waste.

  • To reduce packaging waste, don’t buy prepared foods. Prepare your own foods in reusable containers. Provide reusable napkins and utensils.
  • To reduce food waste, pack smaller portions of foods your child likes, and vary the food so it doesn’t get boring.

There is another very important change that schools can make to reduce food waste. Put recess before lunch. School plate waste studies show a dramatic reduction in food and drink waste when children play before they eat.

*185,590,000 = 67lbs per child per year x 2.77 million elementary age children in Canada.

Image © Anke Van Wyk | Dreamstime.com

Packing Your Waste-free Lunch Box

Goodbyn Reusable Lunch Boxes

If you are preparing to pack a reusable lunch box because your child’s school requires waste-free lunch boxes or just because a litterless lunch is the responsible thing to do, you need to know the range of your options. At the Kids’ division of bynature.ca we’ve stocked up reusable school lunch products for you.


Reusable Lunch Boxes and Bags


Systems

Laptop Lunches
Laptop Lunch bento box alien

Laptop Lunches is a bento box system that comes with a 90-page user guide. So many parents are using this system, that they have uploaded 8,600+ photos of bento box lunches to a Flickr group. Includes four reusable containers with lids, stainless steel fork and spoon, and a reusable water bottle.

Goodbyn Lunch Box
Goodbyn lunch box

This cute, two-piece lunch box fits into a backpack or can be carried by the handle. Easy to open even for young children. Food is separated into compartments without separate containers. Includes a drink bottle. Just wash the whole lunch box at the end of the day. Comes with a bunch of stickers to encourage a child to customize—these include food allergy stickers. You know they are going to put stickers all over it anyway!

To-Go Ware 2-tier tiffin
To-Go Ware stainless steel tiffin

The To-Go Ware tiffin is a lunch box system from India. This reusable lunch box can carry cold or hot food. You can use just one tier for a snack or both tiers for a full meal. Easy to carry by the handle or put in a backpack.


Boxes and Bags

SoYoung Mother Lunch Box
SoYoung Mother linen lunch box

SoYoung Mother lunch boxes are linen outside with an insulated inner lining. An extra pocket on the outside can carry a napkin, flatware, or notes to the teacher. Carry by the handle or messenger style with a long strap.

Dabbawalla Lunch Bag
Lunch bag monkey

The Dabbawalla lunch bag is made from a neoprene-like fabric that is machine washable. The fabric is insulated, so it helps maintain food temperature. The fabric has earned the rigorous Oeko-Tex 100 standard of safety in textiles, an ecological certification process that tests for over 100 harmful substances.

Mimi the Sardine Lunchbugs and Lunch Sacks
Mimi the Sardine Lunch Bug

It’s the great prints that attract children and parents to Mimi the Sardine. Their lunch bags come in two sizes: Lunch Bugs for younger children and Lunch Sacks for older children and adults. The Bugs have zippered closures and soft handles, while the Sacks have a fold-over Velcro closure and a heavy-duty handle. Both can be wiped clean or machine washed and tumbled dry on low.


Reusable Snack Bags and Sandwich Bags

Kanga Sac Reusable Snack Bags

Kanga Sac sandwich bags
Kanga Sac reusable bags come in two sizes: sandwich bags are 7″ x 7″ and snack bags are 7″ x 4″. Zipper closure is easy to use for any child. Washable alternative to plastic baggies.

Itzy Ritzy Reusable Snack Bags
Itzy Ritzy blue striped reusable sandwich bag

Itzy Ritzy bags have great cotton prints on the outside with a waterproof coated polyester on the inside. FDA-approved as food safe. 7″ x 7″ for sandwiches.


Reusable Drink Bottles

Kids’ SIGG bottles
SIGG bottles for children

SIGG child-sized aluminum bottles are the easy way to carry a drink for one meal. They all have the new ecoCare lining and flip-style lids.

Klean Kanteen reusable drink bottle
Klean Kanteen aluminum water bottles
For a child who drinks more during the day, a Klean Kanteen water bottle will be more appropriate. Comes in 18oz, 27oz, and 40oz sizes. You can also buy a sports cap separately.


Accessories

Fabkins
Fabkins reusable napkins for kids

Reusable napkins come in several colors with designs that kids love.

Stainless Steel Straws
Reusable Stainless Steel straws

If your child doesn’t want to drink straight from a water bottle, you can still avoid tossing away plastic straws after every drink. Try stainless steel straws. Come in two lengths: long straws are 9.5″ and short straws are 6.95″. Washable, reusable, and keeps plastic out of your child’s mouth.


Resources

  • Waste-free Lunch – Guide for reducing lunch waste both on a personal and on a school-wide scale. Includes research and success stories.
  • Green My Lunchbox Campaign – Manufacturers of litterless lunch products offer a discount. Their goal is to encourage 15,000 families to commit to packing waste-free lunches in order to eliminate an estimated 1 million pounds of waste from landfill.