Back to school season can be a bit of a challenge for parents who care about sustainability. It’s a time when the three Rs—reduce, reuse, recycle — often take a backseat to convenience.
But with a little ingenuity, parents can find easy-to-use alternatives that match their Earth-friendly values. Just ask Kirsten Quigley, mother of four and creator of LunchSkins reusable snack and sandwich bags. Back in 2008, Kirsten was organizing a green auction at her kids’ school when she came across some striking statistics:
• According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, .
• Somewhere between , posing a threat to ecosystems and marine life.
“I realized that I was part of the problem,” Kirsten remembers. “As mindful as I thought I was, I was still packing at least twenty lunches a week.” At the time, that meant Kirsten’s family was going through 20+ single-use plastic sandwich bags a week.
“I looked around for better alternatives to the traditional plastic baggie, and I couldn’t really find something that was user-friendly, durable, easy-to-use and easy-to-clean.” Kirsten, who studied Human Biology, International Health and the Environment at Stanford, put her research skills to work and discovered that bakeries and restaurants use a special pastry cloth made from quick-drying, food-safe fabric. She ordered a bolt of fabric, and soon LunchSkins was born.
“My aunt actually sewed the first prototypes that got us started,” Kirsten recalls.
Now, 7 years later, resuable LunchSkins are available in Whole Foods Market stores across the country, and Kirsten estimates that they’ve replaced 1 billion single-use plastic bags. (Each dishwasher-safe bag can be reused approximately 500 times.)
If you’re looking to adopt reusable baggies for back-to-school, Kirsten suggests making a mindful connection to another reusable that’s probably already part of your routine. “Every time you fill up your reusable water bottle, think about how you’re packing your lunch or snack.”
In the mood to make a less wasteful lunch? Here are a couple more tips to help you get started:
• Ditch paper napkins in favor of reusable cloth. You can use napkins you already have or hit the thrift store for fun colors and patterns.
• Send ’em back to school with Wild Kratts Lunch Totes featuring animals from the PBS series Wild Kratts. Each reusable tote boasts an outer layer made from 100% recycled plastic.