Archive | reusables

All The Cool Kids Pack Waste-Free Lunches: Wild Mint Shop {Review and Giveaway}

 

To Go Ware Bamboo Utensils {TheGreeningOfWestford.com}

This post is sponsored by Green Sisterhood  but, as always, the opinions are my own.

 

I have been packing waste-free lunches since my children started school.  When they were young, they took whatever reusable items I used without question.  At around age 10, however, that started to change.  I’m starting to run into the “cool factor”.  Some of these items somehow aren’t cool anymore.  So far, water bottles and the lunch bag itself are fine.  Reusable snack bags and eating utensils, not so much.  When my 12 year old grabbed the bamboo reusable utensils I received for review from Wild Mint Shop and asked if she could use it, I knew I had a winner.  We passed the “cool” test!

Now, I’m not usually one for being trendy or giving in to such things.  Why can’t she just grab a metal spoon or fork from the drawer?  Sure, she could, but will she?  Probably not.  She’s 12.  Is this really a battle I want to fight?  Heck no.  In the end, as long as she’s not using a plastic disposable utensil and understands why she shouldn’t, I’m happy.  So if it means getting utensils made from sustainable bamboo in an awesome little case, why not!

 

Why Pack Waste-Free Lunches

There are so many reasons to pack a waste free lunch.  Wild Mint’s Lunch Savers tips and tricks guide sums it up fantastically – “Saving Your Money, Your Health and the Environment”.  If I were to write my own waste-free lunch guide, this would be it.  If you’ve read my blog at all, you know that I am an engineer and I need facts and solutions.  This guide totally fits the bill!

Here are just a few facts from the guide:

  • By Wild Mint’s calculations and extensive chart, you could save over $400 per year per child by choosing reusable vs. disposable lunch packaging.
  • Many disposable packaging contains harmful chemicals which can leach into your food.  These chemicals can cause harm over time.
  • Packaged items often contain other undesirable ingredients like preservatives, and extra fat, sodium and sugar.
  • A school age child’s disposable lunch accounts for an estimated 67 pounds of trash per school year.
  • Plastic and Styrofoam do not break down over time and can stay in the environment for hundreds to thousands of years.

 

The guide goes on to point out what to look for in reusables and provides options on the site.  “At Wild Mint, we are passionate about helping families live healthier, safer, and more environmentally friendly lives.  On our website, www.WildMintShop.com, we offer a one-stop shopping destination where people can find only the best and safest products, information on toxic chemicals, healthy living tips, recipes, and more.”

 

How To Start

Just do it!  Pick one item or go all out.  Wild Mint’s How to Pack a Healthy, Non Toxic and “Green” Lunch for Children guide is a great place to start.  Most children in my area use reusable water bottles and reusable lunch bags so that’s always an easy place to start.  For me, I think the reusable bottle is a “no-brainer”.  If you are still buying prepackaged drinks, STOP!  Get a bottle and fill it.  You will save the cost of the bottle in no time.  We use ours daily for school, sports, and outings of all kinds. 

If your children are older, get their input. As I mentioned, I have already seen a small revolt against our reusable snack bags.  My kids tell me that the ones we have are too “little kiddish” looking.  So this year I will be letting them pick out their own designs.  My girls have each found patterns they love on Wild Mint Shop.

 

Add More Reusables

ToGoWare

If you have the basics covered, think about adding a few other items to complete your waste-free lunch.  Adding reusable napkins, utensils and even straws can save your children time as well.  If lunch at school is anything like it is here, children have about 20 minutes.  Lunch rooms are crowded and it can take a few minutes to navigate your way to the plastic utensils and napkins.

 

Lunch

 

 

We have been using the to go ware bamboo flatware everywhere we go and even at home.  They have easily become a useful addition to our reusables.  The knife easily cut through the tomato and mozzarella salad.  I really appreciate the fact that the utensils are made of a sustainable material like bamboo and the case is made from recycled PET plastic.

 

Which reusables are your favorite?

 

 

Savings

The Greening Of Westford readers will receive 10% off any orders from Wild Mint Shop until September 4, 2014 using the code “WildMint”.

 

Giveaway

Wild Mint Shop is also giving you a chance to win an e-gift certificate worth $120.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

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Single-Use Society

{The Greening Of Westford} Single-use society


Paper towels, napkins, paper plates, wipes.  How many single use items do you use in a day?  

Reduce Footprints issued this challenge:

For the next two weeks refuse to use (or buy) paper towels. Yep, 14 days … no paper towels. And … to make things just a bit more interesting … let’s include paper plates and single-use utensils, cups, etc.
Or …

If you never use paper towels or single-use utensils, please share how you avoid them. We’d like to know how you handle “messy” messes (like pet “accidents”, cooking oil splatters & spills, etc.) … and what you use instead of single-use products for picnics, entertaining, etc. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to come up with tips and ideas to help us all live without these products and reduce waste.

 
We are more in the second half of this challenge.  I haven’t bought paper napkins in years.  Our paper towel use is much less. I still buy them, but we rarely use them.  Same for paper plates, although currently I am on vacation and we are using them a lot :(.
 
How did we do it?
 
Several years ago, I started reducing our use of paper towels and napkins.  Luckily for me, my children were young and didn’t notice.  My husband is very supportive and a “go with the flow” kind of guy.  I think the key is to make sure the reusable ones are as convenient as possible.
 
Paper napkins  It was surprisingly easy to ditch these!  I first started out by placing a basket with the paper napkins on our kitchen table.  Instead of setting a napkin at each place automatically, if you needed a napkin you took one from the basket.  More often than not, not ALL of us needed a napkin at every meal.  So, for now we were at least reducing our use!
 
Next I replaced the paper napkins with cloth ones.  I dug out a few cloth napkins we had received as a wedding present.  My mom found  some old ones that belonged to my grandmother.  I found a few more at a yard sale.  The kids just naturally reach for the cloth ones.  It is funny to see their friends looking for a napkin.  They sort of hesitate when my children hand them the cloth napkin.  
 
I have since built our supply through sales, yard sales and cutting up old tie dye T-shirts. My children think the T-shirts are hysterical.  “Mom, you always say don’t use your shirt as a napkin, but this shirt IS a napkin!”   I cut these a little smaller and they are great for tossing in their school lunch bags.
 
Paper Towels
 
A little more difficult, but we reduced a lot.  I still have a roll on the counter, but we go through it very slowly.  I just made sure to make reaching for the reusable ones convenient.
 
I cut up several old T-shirts and towels to use for wiping up tables and counters. I LOVE the towels!  They are nice an thick.  These came from very old towels that really could not be used as bath towels by anyone anymore.   I bought a towel rack that hangs on the cabinet door below the sink so I can hang this cloth there.  It gets replaced daily.
 
For the most part, my children see me using the cloths and they reach for them too.  It is great to be getting them into this habit now.  
 
Paper plates, plastic utensils
 
I still use paper plates on occasion for kids’ birthdays and such.  Like I mentioned above, we are on vacation right now.  Who wants to do dishes for 9 at every meal on vacation?!  not me.  So we are using paper quite a bit.  But we have progressed.  No plastic utensils.
 
It’s a process. 
 
 
It seems that more and more products are coming in single-use “convenience” packs.  Sunscreen, bug spray, bottles of water.  I remember listening to a morning talk show about 8 years ago talking about new trends.  That year’s trend – single use items.  “You will be seeing more and more single use items.”  That stuck in my mind.  “Why would manufacturers be doing this?”  The “green” movement was gaining momentum, why weren’t they on board with that.  We are a fast paced society, convenience and speed are king.  I get that to a point.  Manufacturers are out to make money.  If these products weren’t selling, they wouldn’t be making them.  
 
I also notice that single-use items are ingrained in our society.  They are everywhere – the individual ketchup packets and snack bags, Styrofoam trays used for school lunches, plastic grocery bags.  I don’t get the looks at the grocery store when I bring my reusable bags, but every once in a while I get a surprised look at other stores.  Or when I refuse a bag for ONE item, I get the “Are you sure?”  There is almost a status symbol associated with single use items.  How do we do this for reusables?
 
Personally, I know there is a cost to this convenience and I can’t go back.  Of course, I think I also started from a different place.  My mom rarely had paper towels around when we were growing up (she still doesn’t), or plastic sandwich bags and other single use items.  I can only hope that I can do the same for my children and hopefully a few others who read this blog.
 
[Top photo used under Creative Commons license, by John Ott/flickr]

6

No Sew Reusable Swiffer Pads

Long ago I bought a Swiffer Wet Jet.  I absolutely loved it!  It was great for quickly cleaning up small spills.  With kids and a dog, that makes life very easy. 
 
As my green journey continued though, I became less and less in love with the disposable cleaning pads that go along with the Swiffer.  I changed them less frequently and used the Swiffer less and less.
 
There has to be a way to make a reusable pad.  I do not sew!  But my mom does.  So I started prototyping so I could tell her what to sew.
 
I have seen really cute ones that you slip onto the Swiffer head.  I thought those might come loose as I was scrubbing, so I thought Velcro might help keep it in place.  Well, this did the trick, without any sewing!
 

What you will need:

 
Self-Stick Hook and Loop (Velcro with a sticky backing)
 
Microfiber cloth 

What to do:

 
 
 
Step 1:  Take the “hook” part (the stiffer side) of the hook and loop and stick it on the Swiffer head.  
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Step 2: I took a microfiber cloth and wrapped it around the head.  
 
 
 
Step 3:  The final product looks like this.
 
 
 
I started testing it out and the cloth stuck!  It doesn’t look as pretty as the ones you can buy on Etsy, but it works!  I just remove the cloth and wash it. 
I did leave one of my last disposable pads on the Swiffer for extra cushioning.  I use this mostly on hardwood floors with very little water, so the disposable pad does not get very wet.  I think I’ve had the same one for quite a while.  I’m sure there are other things I could use if needed.
 
I never bought the replacement cleaning solution.  I just use a spray bottle with a mixture of vinegar and water.  I squirt the floor then mop.  If you like the cleaning solution dispenser on the Swiffer, there are plenty of DIY solutions for that out there too.
 

What other disposables have you ditched?



This post is being shared at Frugal Days Sustainable WaysFrugal FridaysTeach Me Tuesdays and Simple Lives Thursday.

16

My Reusable Bags Are In My Car… Again!

Reduce Footprints is currently doing daily challenges.  Here is yesterday’s:

Reduce the number of plastic bags you use by getting a fabric or reusable bag for shopping. Although plastic bags use 70% less plastic than they did 20 years ago, most are still made from polyethylene, a non-degradable plastic. If you live near a brewery, you can obtain 15-20 gallon durable, synthetic grain bags which breweries usually throw away. These can either be used as garbage bags or rinsed out and re-used to take trash to the dump.
I think one of the biggest issues with reusable bags is forgetting them!  It took me almost a full year to remember to bring them into the store every time.  I am so glad I kept at it.  
Benefits To Using Reusable Bags

Plastic bags are not healthy for the environment.  The problem – plastic never goes away! If it ends up in a landfill, it can take up to 1,000 years to degrade. Even then, it actually photo degrades which releases toxins into the soil, air, and water. Lots of plastic makes it way to the oceans (heard of the Pacific Garbage Patch). In the oceans, plastic bags can strangle animals or they mistake plastic bits for food. Not such a healthy meal.

Save Money.   Many stores give discounts – Target, Whole Foods, and Stop and Shop give you 5 cents per bag. Roche Brothers give 5 cents for their bags to Children’s Hospital.   Make sure to ask at Target, they often forget.

Easier to carry.  My 5 reusable bags are usually enough to hold groceries for my family of 5 for a week.  It is so much easier to carry in 5 sturdy bags from the car than the 10 floppy, wiggling all over the place, twisting around your fingers plastic ones.

    How To Remember

    Location, Location, Location.  Put the bags where you will see them.  Mine are right next to me in my car.  Maybe a convenient place for you is with your keys.

      Convenience.  A few years ago, I won this great Esse CarryAll Tote for my reusable bags.  All of the grocery bags and produce bags fit nice and neat inside and make it so easy to carry.  You don’t need to spend  a lot of money on something like this if you don’t want to.  Use another tote bag to store your reusables.  Think about buying ones that fold up compactly so they aren’t floating around your car.  Another idea is to use a carabiner clip like this to hold your bags together.  You can then clip the bags to your grocery cart.

      Esse CarryAll Tote
      Carabiner Clipped bag



      Always Have One.  I have a  compact reusable bag in my purse at all times.  Carry them in the car, purse, backpack, briefcase, whatever.


      Shop At Stores That Encourage Reusables.  When I first started bringing my reusables, my grocery store was giving 5 cents per bag.  It wasn’t a lot of money, but it was enough of a trigger for me to remember.  Now they have signs all over the parking lot “Did you remember your reusable bags?”

      Notes.  Place a note in the car, on your shopping list or as you leave your house.  Got Bags?

      There’s An App For That! As I was writing this post, I thought there must be someone out there writing an app for this.  And there is!   The Grab Your Bags app is coming soon for the iPhone according to their website.  I didn’t see it on iTunes though.  

      Just Keep At It!  Like I said, it took me almost a full year.  Just keep trying.  It will become second nature.  I never leave my car now without thinking – do I need a bag?

        There are other ways to reduce one-time bag use.
        Produce Bags
        1. Don’t take a bag.  You don’t always NEED a bag. Throw that lemon straight into your shopping cart. Carry your one or 2 items out of the store in your hands or another bag you are already carrying.
        2. Use reusable produce bags.  Many online and retail stores are now carrying produce bags. I purchased mesh draw-string bags at a dollar store at 4 for $1. Or reuse the same produce bag a few times.
        3. Reusable bags are good for more than just the grocery store.   Keep a compact one in your purse. Bring your reusable bags to the Mall, Target, any store!
        Did you remember your bags?


        Disclosure: I did not receive any compensation from Esse for this post.  The opinions expressed in this post are my very own.

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