Lunch Boxes Should be Safe & Environmentally Friendly

   As if we parents didn't have enough to worry about! Not even the kids' lunch boxes are safe!! What do you need to know — and what's my secret tip for getting kids to actually reuse a safe, environmentally friendly lunch box like the one pictured here?

What You Need to Know: Research commissioned by the Center for Environmental Health in Oakland, California showed that the lining in some kids' lunch boxes contained high levels of lead. Lead can harm children even in minute amounts because it hinders brain development and can cause a variety of behavior and other developmental disorders. Children may be exposed to the lead in lunch boxes if they eat food that's been exposed to the box directly or if they handle the boxes and then put their hands in their mouths.

Because you can't tell by appearance whether a vinyl lunch box may contain lead, CEH advises parents to avoid buying vinyl lunch boxes altogether. You can test any vinyl lunch boxes you already own using a hand-held lead testing kit. If your hardware store doesn't carry one, you can find one from LeadCheck. Better yet, pack your kids' lunch in a safer alternative:

Alternatives: sells organic and regular cotton bags, "Lunchbugs" cloth lunch bags,

World of Good offers a hand woven reed lunchbox and is committed to fair trade.

•Mimi the Sardine sports fun, vinyl-free water-proof lunchbags (like the one pictured above) online and in Whole Foods stores in the Northwest and Southwest.

•Progressive Kid offers EarthPak bags made from two, "upcycled" two-liter plastic bottles.

Laptop Lunches makes a bento box sectioned off to hold fruit, cookies, a sandwich and drink.

Pack food in reusable containers, too:

Pristine Planet offers a variety of reusable stainless steel jars with lids.

Thermos sells stainless steel containers for hot or cold food.

Sigg offers more than a dozen stainless steel reusable drink bottles in designs ranging from cool to cute.

Wrap – N – Mat reusable sandwich wrappers remove the need for plastic or paper throw-away wrapping.

Get more great ideas from


What's my secret tip to get kids to bring home lunch boxes, drink bottles, and refillable containers  instead of "accidentally" throwing them in the trash?

Put a deposit on them! Let your kids earn a nickel, dime or quarter every time they return their lunch containers for refill. At the end of the month, they can use the money they've earned for a special (eco)something just for them, or to make a donation to a cause they care about.

Here are more environmentally-friendly back-to-school ideas that won't break the bank. You can tame the back-to-school shopping beast here, too.

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13 Responses to Lunch Boxes Should be Safe & Environmentally Friendly

  1. mother earth aka karen hanrahan July 31, 2009 at 5:19 am #

    I absolutely love this list of resources and the idea of putting a return deposit on your kids lunch kits is brilliant!!

  2. Lynn from July 31, 2009 at 8:51 am #

    Diane, what a great list of resources! Look forward to checking them out.
    I take this is your submission for the next Green Moms Carnival? Gotta add that in the post! :)
    I have to say, I’ve been lucky with the issue of bottles and recyclables. The schools now all have recycling bins and the kids are really good about separating out bottles, even at places like birthday parties.
    By the way, I love that cute bag you featured in the post!

  3. Diane MacEachern July 31, 2009 at 10:41 am #

    Glad you liked the list. I’ll put in the Green Moms Carnival link as soon as it goes up! Thanks.

  4. Beth Terry, aka Fake Plastic Fish July 31, 2009 at 5:19 pm #

    I love this comprehensive list. Interesting that we both decided to focus on PVC. I forgot to mention the lead issue in mine.
    Just tweeted your post:

  5. Jennifer Taggart, TheSmartMama August 3, 2009 at 2:20 pm #

    Great post Diane with lots of important resources. On the wrap-n-mats, however, some of them (not necessarily that trademark name but similar products) are made from polyvinyl chloride, and can have lead and phthalates as well. Always check fabric and stay clear of PVC.
    Jennifer Taggart

  6. Green Bean August 11, 2009 at 8:53 pm #

    Love the deposit idea. I think that would work nicely here. :)

  7. Patrice August 11, 2009 at 11:33 pm #

    Great advice for this green mom!
    I found a great lunch pack made from recycled wet suits

  8. Lisa August 15, 2009 at 9:34 am #

    I love your tip!! When I was in public school (until 3rd grade and then homeschooled) I always remembered my lunch box but I knew a lot of kids that didn’t. Sure this would have helped them!

  9. Julia August 21, 2009 at 9:09 am #

    I came across your blog entry about school lunches and thought that you may be interested in knowing about these Waste Free Lunch Kits.
    They include a stainless beverage bottle, a thermos for hot meals, a neoprene washable lunch bag and an optional set of stainless food containers.
    They come in a variety of configurations as well.
    Here’s the link:

  10. evergreen grrrl August 30, 2009 at 6:36 am #

    I really hate to be a buzz-kill, but I am always looking for a bargain. I looked up the waste free lunch kit and found that it was $45 in full. I found the reuseable bag (that appropriately matched my SIGG bottle) for $9 under BYO (bring your own) in Wal-mart the other day. I had to buy it since I didn’t need all the other supplies. They even had the thermoses and water bottles to by seperately. I loved that! I didn’t have to waste money or more resources by buying things I already had!

  11. Ara November 22, 2009 at 6:43 am #

    For an additional resources to a similar food stacking container ideas, you can also check Happy Tiffin The site provides stainless steel container that were manufactured in India in a high quality stainless steel material. It’s also 100% BPA free, safe to use, handy and portable.

  12. party bags May 27, 2011 at 4:22 am #

    This list of resources and the idea of putting a return deposit on your kids lunch kits is brilliant!! I would surely do this kind of lunch packing for my kids.

  13. Diane MacEachern May 31, 2011 at 6:29 am #

    If you try the deposit idea, let us know how it works out!

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