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by Aliana Marino, ECOBAGS Customer Service Rep

Parents generally want the same things when it comes to their kids’ lunches: meals that are safe and nutritious, to fuel whatever creative, intellectual or physical activities life hands their children on any given day. And we’d all like lunch to come without any of those unplanned extras like germs or toxic chemicals! For many of us, it’s also important to prepare lunches in a way that respects the planet.

So if safe, germ free and planet friendly are the goals. How do we get there? Here are some tips on how to accomplish all 3 of these goals next time you pack it up.

Start out by reading iLunchbox.com’s Guide to Food Safety for packed lunches. This guide gives great tips on packing, storing and cleaning your kids’ lunch containers for optimum safety.

Next, take a moment to think about the containers you equip your kids with. Check for the following:

Easy to Clean

You’ll want to find containers that are either easy to wipe clean or machine washable. Lunchbags and boxes made of recycled PET are a great way to be environmentally friendly because they incorporate recycled materials but they’re also a cinch to clean with a disinfectant wipe or spray. Recycled or organic cotton cloth lunchbags are another great eco-friendly option for those who do frequent laundry (like myself) and like the ease of letting the washing machine do the sanitizing work.

Sandwich and snack bags come in a variety of options too. The classic ziptop plastic bag can be washed and re-used with the help of inventions like the Bag-E-Wash, but for a more natural approach, try cloth sacks that can be tossed in the washing machine alongside your canvas lunchbag.

Reusable utensil sets are the new, hip, gotta-have lunch item, available in a variety of fun colors, styles and materials. They’re a great way to cut down on waste and easy to wash clean once brought back home. Some schools may not allow metal utensils to be brought in, so bamboo is a practical, hygienic and fully biodegradable alternative!

Safety of the Material

When it comes to containers, bottles, bags and lunchboxes you’ll want to make sure that they’re not only easy to clean but also free of the following “icky” substances, found to be harmful to children and adults alike:

• Lead

• BPA

• Phthalates

Most compliant containers will list if they’re free of these three but if not, try double-checking with the store or, even better, the manufacturer.

Extra Bonuses

Cloth options allow your kids to create their own works of art and then carry them to school each day! Use simple cloth fabric markers and help your children customize lunch bags, sandwich & tote bags. And with the everlasting problem of kids forgetting or throwing away their reusable containers, customization can be a great thing; would your baby Picasso discard his own art? Heck no!

So if you’re still wondering how to avoid the “ick” in lunch bags and other reusables, here’s the summary:

1) Buy washable lunch totes & sandwich bags or wipe them out with non-toxic antibacterial soap

2) Wash frequently!

Let us know if you have any other suggestions, too.