The Fresh Sandwich Problem

Reusable sandwich bags

With all of the focus on cloth diapers recently, I’ve been thinking about other reusable options. For a couple of weeks, I’m going to cover some of those easy, reusable products that anyone can introduce to their family.

Reusable Sandwich Bags and Wraps

Every eco parent who makes a sandwich every morning for their child has wondered how to keep that sandwich fresh without a zip-top plastic bag that gets thrown in the garbage at school. For some parents, a reusable bag is enough. I have picked these up many times and wanted to love them, but I just don’t. I don’t want to wrap my child’s food in plastic, even if it is reusable plastic. I realize that we don’t all share the same aversions to particular solutions to the fresh sandwich problem, so I’ve tried to cover every solution I can think of, asking the pros and cons of each.

I came up with characteristics of sandwich wraps and bags in these areas:

  • transport to school (waterproof, plastic next to food, can smash, can leak);
  • useful while eating (doubles as placement);
  • transportation back home (heavy, bulky/not flat);
  • care (single-use, wash & reuse, washing machine or dishwasher); and
  • material (plastic, polyester, cotton, glass, metal).

For potential solutions, I thought of:

  • the no-zip, single-use plastic bag and the zip-top plastic bag, both of which can be rinsed and reused a couple of times, but are still meant to be thrown away;
  • lightweight paper bag, which might last for a couple of days if the sandwiches are dry;
  • waxed paper, though it is coated in petroleum-derived wax, or parchment or baking paper, which is available with or without a petroleum-derived coating;
  • cotton bag with a drawstring or a cotton cloth (a napkin) just wrapped around the sandwich;
  • waterproof sandwich wrap that can double as a placemat;
  • waterproof sandwich bag with hook & loop or zipper;
  • glass container with a lid; and
  • metal container with a lid.
 waterproofplastic touches foodsmashleakplacematheavybulkysingle-usewashmachine washmaterial
no-zip plastic bagyyyyyplastic
zip-top plastic bagyyyyyplastic
paper bagyyypaper
waxed paperyyyyypaper + plastic
parchment paperyyypaper
cotton bagyyyycotton
cotton clothyyyyycotton
wrapyyyyyycotton or poly + plastic
bag w/ hook & loopyyyyycotton or poly + plastic
bag w/ zipyyyyycotton or poly + plastic
glassyyyyyglass + plastic

I don’t want this to be a list of products you should buy. I don’t think you should buy a lot of these. We at carry a lot of reusable food storage products, and we look for high quality in everything we stock. I hope that by comparing the characteristics of each solution, you will be able to figure out which fits best with your expectations.

Wean Glass Sandwich container

I love the resurgence of reusable sandwich wraps and other sandwich containers. There is such a variety of styles and prints made of fabric. It’s also really easy to make your own sandwich wraps.

DIY Caution!

If you make your own sandwich wrap, don’t use iron-on vinyl. That is not food safe. I don’t love the idea of using polyurethane laminate (PUL) next to food, but a lot of PUL has been tested for phthalates banned in the U.S. children’s product safety law, CPSIA, since this is a material used commonly in diaper covers. Still, it contains non-banned plastic softeners, and I can’t wrap my mind around the reason anyone would wrap plastic around food. If you are going to make your own bags or wraps, at least get “sandwiched PUL” (which doesn’t have anything to do with the sandwiches made out of bread until you make your wrap). In this type of PUL, the plastic coating is hidden between two layers of fabric, usually cotton or polyester. That way, you get your waterproof layer without it touching the food.

I hope this helps you think through what works for you in keeping sandwiches safe for a few hours from the time your child leaves home until lunchtime.

Lunch Bots Uno Sandwich container

Adding reusable products to your family’s regular routines is easy. I will share a few more ideas next week.

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Diaper Record in Orillia

Great Cloth Diaper Change

What a great day we had last Saturday at the Great Cloth Diaper Change in Orillia. We had 42 parents gather together from all parts of Simcoe County, Muskoka, and even some coming up from the Greater Toronto Area, all to celebrate cloth diapers. We had participants from Washago, Victoria Harbour, Orillia, Barrie, Muskoka (Gravenhurst), Midland, Angus, Oshawa, Wasaga Beach, as well as Peterborough and Toronto. We couldn’t have had a more diverse crowd, and it was so much fun seeing all the cloth diapered babies in the room!

Kelly Clune, from Orillia’s Waste Management Committee, was there as our official witness. She was incredibly supportive and impressed with the parents that attended. She’s been advocating cloth diapers for many years and was genuinely thrilled to be a part of our event.

The hit of the morning was definitely Kate of First Songs of Muskoka entertaining everyone with her music performance.

Kate of First Songs of Muskoka

Thank you to everyone who participated. We’ve been very excited to see photographs posted from around the world in the past couple of days, so we want to be sure to share favorites from our event. See more photographs on our Facebook page.

If you missed the event, you can read about it on the Packet & Times or see us on CTV News Barrie (start at about 9′ 20″).

Once we get word from Guinness World Records (R) about the results of the record attempt, we will be sure to post about it.

Babies at the Great Cloth Diaper Change
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Cloth Diapers Helped Me Embrace Simplicity

Baby's hand in mother's hand

Real Diaper Week
Great Cloth Diaper Change

The big day is here! All week, we’ve been posting about cloth diapers to celebrate Real Diaper Week. Each day, Great Cloth Diaper Change organizers suggested a topic for cloth diaper education.

Today, I just want to share how cloth diapering has simplified my life.

My youngest is about to turn twelve years old. Before he was born, I caught the cloth diaper bug. I loved the most outrageous, the most beautiful, and the newest cloth diapers. I had made very simple contour diapers for his older sister, but I went all out for my son.

The funny thing is, after pushing the boundaries to see how amazing and colorful I could make cloth diapers for my children, I realized it wasn’t necessary. I realized that I preferred the simple flat diapers I used with my daughter—flannel on one side and terry on the other. I preferred an old t-shirt or a towel to the fitted diapers that filled my drawers.

I kept using all of those diapers until they were threadbare, but I reached for my flat diapers first. I’ve heard a lot of experienced cloth diapering parents say similar things. When I’ve talked to parents at festivals and fairs about cloth diapering, I always ask, “What kind of diapers do you use?” so I know where to start the conversation. Of the cloth diapering parents, at least half say, “Prefolds.”

And, yet, I hear people talk about “modern diapers” as if cloth diapers are different now than they were 20 years ago or 40 years ago. There are certainly more choices, but they still do the same job—and most parents still use simple cloth diapers at least some of the time. There is no magic in the idea of “modern” other than the shiny thing it represents to attract attention.

The cool, the hip, the new attracts parents to cloth diapers, but I don’t think it keeps them using cloth diapers. Diapering is really a very simple job: catch the wet and the mess so life with baby can focus on something other than elimination. Diapers that do the job without fuss keep parents using cloth diapers.

I went the long way around, but I have arrived at a preference for the simplest cloth diapers. If I had it all to do over again, I would use terry nappies or flat birdseye diapers with wool covers. Nothing else. No huge stash, big brands, or fancy variations. No special instructions or big deals, just one of the tools a parent uses for a baby.

Cloth diapers helped me embrace simplicity in my life.

Now, head out to your nearest Great Cloth Diaper Change and celebrate the resurgence of this simple tool.

Image © Riderofthestorm |

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Traveling with Cloth Diapers

Baby packing a suitcase

Real Diaper Week
Real Simple. Real Diapers.

Sometimes, it is easier to face an unfamiliar situation with confidence just knowing that others have been there before and have done just fine. Traveling with cloth diapers may sound intimidating—unless you have done it. Once you hear the stories of other parents who have used cloth diapers while on vacation or in other travel situations, you will realize that it just takes a little bit of extra preparation, then it takes very little fuss while you are away. The key is organization.

I’ve done it. I travelled overseas with two in cloth diapers. I didn’t worry too much about it. I didn’t wonder if I could. I just packed all of my best in-law-ready diapers and got on a plane with two small children. And, it worked just fine. I washed diapers first thing every morning, which was a lot more often than usual for us. Daily washing was perfect because I always knew which day to wash, since it was everyday, and I didn’t have to pack a whole suitcase of diapers. I had 12 diapers for a baby and for a toddler wearing only nighttime diapers. I had towels and t-shirts for backup (though I didn’t use them). I’ve also cloth diapered my children when travelling by car, with a 5-gallon bucket in the trunk swishing the diapers around as we went along. When I travelling with babies, I just looked at each situation and asked how best to fit cloth diapers into the trip.

Whether you are going camping, flying, driving, and heading off to a conference, you can take your cloth diapers with you. One of my favorite resources from the Real Diaper Association is their collection of parents’ tips for using diapers while travelling. I love this because it isn’t someone expertly distilling the lowest common denominator from all available information. These tips are from real parents talking about how they made it work for them.

If you are planning travel, make a plan to take diapers with you. Look at the resources you will have available, make a plan, and set off on your cloth diaper adventure.

Image © Sergiy Nykonenko |

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Work with Your Daycare for Cloth Diapers

Baby playing in daycare

Real Diaper Week.
Real Simple. Real Diapers.

When you are sold on the benefits of cloth diapers, you want your baby to use them full time. One common point of resistance is daycare. Many daycare providers happily accept cloth diapers. Others will accept cloth diapers with some guidance on how to use cloth diapers in a daycare setting. The problem comes when your potential daycare provider says either “We don’t accept cloth diapers” or “Cloth diapers are against regulations.”

Create Familiarity with Cloth Diapers

If the daycare center doesn’t accept or just resists cloth diapers, you might still be able to help them become familiar enough with your baby’s diapers that they change their minds and welcome cloth diapers. Real Diaper Association recommends that open a dialogue. Remember, you are setting the tone for your child’s time in the daycare. It helps to be positive and cooperative.

Be positive
Be patient
Be flexible
Be open to a test
Be supportive

See full recommendations: “Tips for Using Cloth Diapers in Daycare: Opening a Dialogue”

Often, the daycare providers aren’t familiar with cloth diapers and only assume that they will be difficult to work with or take extra time. By showing them in a friendly way that you baby’s cloth diapers are easy to use, you might be able to overcome resistance.

Examine Policy

If the resistance is based either on an explicit policy or perception that all regulations prohibit cloth diapers, you might be able to shift their perceptions and help them develop a new policy. Know provincial or state regulations before you start the conversation, and understand that few providers have specific policies about diapers.

If they are worried about sanitation, make sure you understand the information distributed by Real Diaper Association showing “there is no significant difference in the amount of fecal contamination in daycare centers which use cloth diapers verses those which use disposable diapers.”

If, after working with the daycare provider, they still decide not to accept your baby’s diapers, you might want to consider other options. If you can show that cloth diapers are clean and easy, but they don’t want to be flexible to meet your needs, it is possible that they will take a similar approach when you or your child have other needs to be met. Check the list of daycare providers that accept cloth diapers, and be sure to submit a listing if you find more.

Best of luck working with your daycare provider to keep your baby in cloth diapers. Your positive example can be a model for the teachers and for the other parents. Those positive models spread.

Real Diaper Association is a nonprofit charity that trains grassroots cloth diaper educators. They are the organizers of Real Diaper Week and of the Great Cloth Diaper Change this Saturday. To celebrate Real Diaper Week, we are posting about cloth diapers all week. Parents at 262 Great Cloth Diaper Change events around the world will change their babies’ cloth diapers on Saturday at the same time in order to break the world record for the most simultaneous diaper changes. and will be co-hosting a fun cloth diaper event in Orillia for up 50 babies and their parents.

Real Diaper Week

Image © Sebastian Czapnik |

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