Thursday, August 27, 2009

Building a Better Lunchbox

67 pounds of trash.

That’s how much the average child creates in waste every year with a disposable lunch. (Source:

This trying-to-be-green momma wanted to start the school year off in a kinder way for the environment. So, instead of stocking up on all the plastic baggies, single serving snacks and bottled waters, I did some homework on building a better lunch box. I hope my ideas will inspire you to make a little change, or at least whittle down a few of those 67 pounds of trash.

Building a Greener Lunchbox Ideas:

  • Amp Up the Lunchbox — find a reusable lunchbox that rocks. If your kids love it, they will use it and not lose it. My son loves gaming and computers, so I got him the “Laptop Lunchbox” -- a mini laptop style case with cool reusable containers inside. ( Find out what your child loves and see if you can match your lunchbox to suit their passions. A great source to peruse some clever options is
  • Size Matters — Find a drink container with a realistic amount of liquid for your child. Last year, I bought a large size reusable water bottle, but realized I was wasting most of it since my child only drank a small portion. Reusable water bottles now come in a variety of sizes to accommodate your needs. My favorite new water bottle is from Camelbak. It has a fun pop up valve that is super easy to clean and a perfect portion.
  • Make Your Own Single Serving Snacks — Buying the single portion snacks is certainly a timesaver, but when you calculate the cost of how much you are spending and the additional trash, it’s not really worth it. I decided to get creative in making my own snacks for the week — I had my child pick out bulks items he likes such as yogurt raisins, peanuts, gummy bears, graham crackers, animal crackers and pretzel sticks. Then we mix and match to make our own snack combination. This was more fun, better for the environment and usually healthier in the end.
  • Little Things Add Up: It’s easy to forget about small things like napkins, utensils, sandwich wraps — but with a little thought, switching over to greener versions is a snap. Consider using a cloth napkins, reusable utensils and cloth sandwich wraps -- all of these make a big difference when creating trash in the lunchroom. For ideas on recyclable materials for lunchboxes, check out or use resources you already have at home.
Lastly, brainstorm with your kids on ways that they can help cut down on trash. Kids understand and want to make a difference -- this is a great opportunity to pass along a valuable life lesson of taking care of the fabulous resources we have been given. Not only are you eliminating trash, but you are showing them what a good steward of Mother Earth looks like. And that is a lesson any momma (or daddy) could be proud of.

For more information and ideas, check out

Monday, August 17, 2009

The End of the Morning Crazies

School is here, cue the deep sigh. Yes I love that back to school feeling with the fresh crayons, brand new notebooks and shiny shoes. But with those 48 crayons and the built-in sharpener comes an amazing level of everyday stress that simply doesn’t exist in July.

My sentences now begin and end with “hurry up” in the mean mommy voice. Getting out the door with everything required for a full day sometimes feels like performing laproscopic surgery with a pair of chopsticks.

I was recently perusing magazines and found one really slick publication that featured a story about “the unhurried child.” Wow, that would be so nice. Despite my best attempts to be organized, have backpacks ready to go and clothes laid out in those neat Lillian Vernon day- of-the-week cubbies, my school mornings feel like one big adrenaline latte.

As I was noticing my heart palpitations knocking on my chest before it was even 7:19 a.m., I thought there has got to be a better way. The insanity of being so rushed and stressed before you even start your car engine is simply not right.

How we start our days with our family is so important – it sets the tone and feel for what follows whether we like it or not. Mornings will never be perfect, but there have to be some ways to make them feel a bit better. Below are a few thoughts that I came up with to add a nicer hum to my morning.

This is not the list of “perfect ways to make life perfect.” I don’t have it all figured out, I’m working it out just like you are. But here are a few of my ideas to improve the day – test them for yourself or create your own.

Wake Up Earlier.

I know this seems pretty “duh” but adding a bit more “wakey wakey eggs and bakey” time to my son’s day is really what he needed. He likes to do one thing, play a bit, do another thing, play a bit. So now that I know this, I added in a bit more time for the wake up margin in the process.

Find a Carpool to Share the Commute.

I realize not everyone commutes to school – so if your child gets on a bus, count yourself blessed. Carpooling requires a bit of work and more planning. For me, this was the thing that absolutely drove me crazy – being totally stressed out in ridiculous traffic all the way to school. But finding someone to share the driving can be a beautiful thing. Other creative ideas include “Friday Daddy Pickup” or “Grandparent Day Pickup.” Consider a play date pickup exchange as it makes sense – anything to reduce the amount of time you have to zoom to and fro to school in your car. If you feel selfish about asking for this, tell people it’s because you want to save the planet.

Do a Couple Things the Night Before.

I am much more together when I’m not freaking out in the morning. Stringing together a couple small items to prepare your day seems like a no-brainer, but often we forget to do them. A couple ideas: check your child’s backpack for all the books they need. Pack the lunch the night before. Make sure homework is complete. Have your child take a bath and lay out clothes for the next day. Have them wear their clothes for school to bed (just kidding, I just wanted to see if you were paying attention.) But seriously, a couple little things put together make a huge difference in your morning.

Go Easy on the Caffeine.

Somehow I always think drinking a couple cups of coffee will assist me with the madness. But when I find that my head is thumping to the tune of Radio Disney, I realize maybe caffeine is adding more fuel to the insanity. My reward for successfully getting through the morning is sitting down at my desk to a nice cup of coffee. Caffeine has now become my treat after my child is off to school and the calming moment to set up my day.

Don’t Forget About Yourself.

Sometimes I get so obsessed about what my son needs for his day, I forget about my own needs. Then the reason I become “psycho mommy” is because I am rushing around for all the things I need for my day. Take a few moments the night before to consider what you need for an excellent day. A workout bag, a lunch packed, movies to return placed in your car – whatever you may need for your day, think about getting ready the night before or in the time before your child wakes up.

Remember The Forgets.

Everyone forgets stuff. But if there are things that you consistently forget, try to stock your car with these items. Snacks, breakfast bars, water bottles, running clothes, your journal, a magazine to read in carpool – whatever the items that you usually wished you had remembered can be a lifesaver. I always forget to eat breakfast – so my glovebox is filled with all sorts of snacks.

Create Rewards to Celebrate.

Everyone likes a treat. Consider little special rewards to celebrate smooth mornings. It can be a small thing like having a special breakfast at McDonald’s for being on time all week. Another idea is a little note in the lunch box or backpack thanking them for helping get the day started in a great way. A special activity together after school lets your child know how much you appreciate their help to be prepared for the day. We all love to be celebrated and it doesn’t require much additional effort.

Ready For Launch

I like to call the time getting ready for school and my day as “Launch Mode.” It has an official and scientific sound about it and it makes me feel important. Do yourself a favor and find what tools and strategies for your family you can design to make a successful launch. They have all the power to make your days a true blast.