Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Eco Lunch Boxes: Steel & Wool

z steel lunch boxes
There were many preparations for my children returning to school today. My number one priority was to green up their lunchboxes... an investment in their health, as well as the environment's. We've always used cloth napkins, steel water bottles, and re-usable containers. This year I was determined to get away from plastic and move towards stainless steel exclusively. I discovered two great solutions for my very different children and am happy to share a bit about each one. My five year old daughter has serious ideas about her food... keeping each item separate is key. She also loves sorting and little compartments. When I saw the Planet Box  and their easy all-in-one design, I knew we'd hit the jack pot! It's all she's talked about for weeks! She was pleased with its simple steel look, but it has a bonus of some exciting magnets sets to choose from. The rainbows and unicorns were an obvious hit. Children can be very impressionable. If all of their friends have lunch boxes/backpacks with the latest media craze plastered on them it's so nice to have an alternative that is still "super cool"! We also got their carrier to make the whole system simple and straightforward for our youngest.
zplanet box
Our growing son (turning 12 in a few weeks) needed a larger container for his huge appetite. He was already familiar with the tiffin, from other kids at school, and it's sold at our co-op. There are several different sizes, all are modeled after the the traditional metal lunch boxes in India. We bought the 2 tiered one seen in the top photo. My one concern was how to create an insulated carrier. I pondered it up until yesterday. I was almost resigned to making a cloth carrier like the ones advertised with it, but along with another big price tag was the problem of an ice pack. It would have made a drippy mess by the end of each day in that thin cotton bag. What would be leak proof without using plastic or vinyl? I must admit that my inspiration came from their wool soakers my children wore over the diapers when they were babies. Wool would insulate and keep the moisture in. So simple, why hadn't I thought of it until the day before school? So yesterday we went through my stash of recycled/ felted sweaters. Nothing seemed quite hip enough for my guy. Then we remembered the vintage wool army blanket. It met his approval instantly. I had hesitated cutting into it before, but now I was happy to get the scissors. Ironically, my medium sized round bucket is the exact size for a tiffin. Go figure.
So I used my own pattern, with a few modifications to make it have a drawstring and shoulder strap. It has two layers of wool and one layer of batting. I finished right after midnight last night and am pleased. So is he, thankfully! If I had thought of it sooner I would have used some interesting strapping and hardware from old military bags,  but my last minute sewing lent itself to what I had on hand: the blanket. The closure uses "software" in the form of a slide cord the drawstring.
z wool lunch tote
If you're looking for an alternative to vinyl insulated lunchboxes, wool blankets are your answer!

z last day 049
I'll leave you with this photo, circa 1974 San Francisco (Precita Park is to my right). My first day of Kindergarten.
z first day of kindergarten
Clothing:
Hand painted  70's style Winnie the Pooh t-shirt (a favorite)
bell bottom jeans
red salt water sandals
Lunch box: 
Metal (the only choice back then!) anyone remember Korg on Saturday mornings?!

Happy last day of August!
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41 comments:

  1. I love those lunch options, to bad they won't ship them to Costa Rica.

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  2. Love these lunch boxes, getting rid of plastic is always a good thing...and that photo of you, well you were stylish even then! xox Corrine

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  3. Thanks friends!
    Corrine- I don't know if I'd call my five year old self stylish... maybe just typical city kid in the 70's.

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  4. The Tiffin tote looks So cool! I'm sure your son loves it! (is the icepack just sitting in the bottom?)

    Can't wait to hear how the planetbox works out day to day. For instance, how well do the foods stay separated when it's turned on its side?

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  5. Betz- the ice pack is on the bottom. Thought about making a pocket for it, but the midnight hour made me change my mind. Seems to work really well.
    The Planet Box compartments are sealed from one another. NO slippage. For more liquid things, like yogurt, there is a "little dipper" which keeps everything contained. We did a test run-through!

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  6. solid....remember ...in the 70s we said solid to anything that is now sweeeeeet! i love the wool blanket idea...terrific and your fashion sense...groovy chick...

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  7. Betz I had the same question! I wanted to get the PlanetBox for my Kindergarten kid but was hesitant. Maybe this would make a good gift!

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  8. I *love* it! We have one more week until school starts. MUST MAKE LUNCH BOXES!

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  9. They are cute... but to spend THAT much on a lunch "box" that a kid will most likely forget in the lunchroom or on the bus, or some other random spot at some point in the year... is is little wasteful in my opinion.

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  10. Fine. Just BE that cool. Jealous here. My lack of sewing know-how makes me want to hide under the bed sometimes. :)

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  11. The Japanese do this even one better. They have what are called Bento boxes with all these compartments, they even have things to make food look fun and pretty. Its all to get kids to eat healthy food. Check out this site http://en.bentoandco.com/ The sire has many styles and accessories. Lunch never seemed so fun.

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  12. love the lunch boxes and how they can be decorated with magnets! Your idea for the wool bag is awesome!

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  13. I love the wool bag idea! We found reusable ice packs at the dollar store.

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  14. You always have such great solutions! ...and what a great photo of little you with your lunch box! Brought back memories, not of the t.v. show (must've missed that one) but of the era!

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  15. Okay, those lunchboxes are awesome! I love the planet box, thanks for highlighting them! The wool bag is great too. Cool ideas.

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  16. Awesome, that planet box! I think I want one. For me. Hmmm....

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  17. This is so interesting for me to learn that steel tiffin (as they are known here) boxes and carriers are known in another country. Sadly plastic has become very popular here(I live in Delhi), and thanks to the merchandising for kids we are increasingly moving away from the traditional containers here in India, at least in urban areas. Plastic boxes with cartoon characters are popular return gifts at birthday parties. I just wanted to let you know that really neat insulated bags (but usually plastic ones) are available for tiffin carriers here and they are very popular among office goers rather than kids -- it usually has a shoulder strap and it is convenient for them to carry separately with their briefcase or whatever. I have a nine year old son and he does not need to take too much food to school because he has lunch at home. He would find a standard two tiered tiffin carrier very inconvenient. But I'm really happy that a few days ago I made him a jute lunch sack with seed pod printing on one side and completely handstitched (wonders never cease since I'm one of those who can't stitch a button straight). Nice article -- I like your writing style. - Namitha

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  18. Great post. And beautiful photo of yourself, open eyes, open spirit! I love the handpainted T-Shirt!

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  19. Great post. And beautiful photo of yourself, open eyes, open spirit! I love the handpainted T-Shirt!

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  20. Thank you for introducing me to that lunch box! It is perfect for my guy, we use a whole smattering of random stainless containers and it is a mess in his lunch bag. I like the simplicity of that one. So cool. And that photo of you is beautiful!

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  21. You are so brilliant! I just bought this set
    http://www.uncommongoods.com/item/item.jsp?itemId=18014&utm_medium=shopping+sites&utm_source=froogle&utm_campaign=18014

    and the carrier doesn't even close at the top. Rats! I think you could sell these. Bravo!

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  22. Last year when I was contemplating new lunch bags for the kids, I didn't have any felted wool in my stash. Instead, I made them in cotton lined with polar fleece. I love that I can through them in the wash whenever necessary and I don't have to worry about bacteria getting caught in cracked vinyl or plastic.

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  23. your army blanket carrier is too cool!
    any kid would be jealous...and I want one too
    :)

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  24. That is one handsome carrier! Well done! I love your bell bottoms.

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  25. After years of loyal service, my beloved Laptop Lunches bento finally died this week, so you couldn't have posted this at a better time! I already have the tiffin, but I absolutely love the flatter container box.

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  26. Hello,
    Even in France we had the same beautiful trousers ! Vive the 70's

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  27. Thanks for all of your wonderful feedback. I'm excited to report that after an entire day in the 90's my son's ice pack was still very COLD! The contents of the Planet box continues to stay in each compartment and everyone is super happy!

    @Namitha- I'm so grateful to you for sharing your insight on how steel tiffins are used today in India. It saddened me to hear that the plastic cartoon lunch bags are becoming popular in Delhi!

    @Kindredmamma- they sell those very carriers w/ the tiffin we bought, and I was worried the contents would slip out, let along the insulation factor. Plus, I have to put in a little extra steel container for snack time. that boy eats a lot! Our new bag fits it all!

    @Erika Jean- I understand that the expense of stainless steel (especially the Planet Box) make these lunch boxes not an option for everyone. However, everything I promote on maya*made has been given careful consideration.

    Our family enjoys only investing our money into things we feel really good about. We rarely spend frivolously. So in turn,we make a lot of our own clothes, toys, and entertainment.

    Our children didn't get a single NEW item of clothing for school this year (all were thrifted or sewn by me). The two of them appreciated these lunchboxes as some children might a big birthday present. When I showed my son your comment about losing a lunchbox, he was puzzled and questioned: how would we lose our lunchboxes?
    Obviously there are a handful of children that may lose their boxes, and then this would certainly not be a good solution for their family. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, which gave me a chance to jot down my own.

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  28. Oh good Lord ~ not only are you brilliant but adorable in the 70's xo

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  29. I love these. I too have a tiffin that i got in India. and really love it.

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  30. Another Korg fan here!! I always thought I was the only one! ;)

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  31. Hi again. I forgot to mention that in the city of Mumbai, dabbawalas (literally box carriers) are famous for their precision in carrying thousands of tiffin carriers with home cooked food across the city to people at offices. This is because many people set off very early from home, and the food is sent on later. It boggles the mind. You could read about it online.

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  32. I love the idea of the stainless steel, but what about the weight? We have Kleen Kanteens, but even I don't like to carry them any distance. I walk my daughter to school and usually end up carrying her backpack. I wouldn't want to carry the stainless and I sure wouldn't want that extra weight on her petite 6-year-old back.

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  33. I love that old army blanket tiffin carrier - I always had a weakness for army green. That probably explains how I ended up with my husband...

    My kids only have a small school lunch - they pick playing over eating, so they eat most of their lunch when they get home. They haven't lost a lunch box yet, mind...

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  34. So much street cred, I'm not surprised he's pleased! I'm making a mental note to think wool blankets.

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  35. I LOVE the planet box...will definitely be getting one for my 4yo. She currently has a giant vintage metal lunch box like the ones factory workers used to carry...we blinged it up a bit with sparkly stickers...gets a lot of smiles, but is a bit clunky to carry. Thanks for the great tip!

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  36. I love your blog. Just had to post and say that I live blocks from Precita Park. (25th and Folsom, right by Garfield Park) When my kids were little, I took them to Precita Park every day.

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  37. Wow. I absolutely adore that Planet box. I was so tired of 1)paying for disgusting school lunches and 2)looking for little tiny containers to fit inside her lunchbox every day, I bought my 1st grader a Goodbyn. I love it because it forces me to fill many compartments (I eventually notice if every compartment is filled with starch...) but I hate it because it is plastic. If only I had seen these. Maybe next year. Did you know in some schools metal lunchboxes are banned? How awful is that!

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  38. I love your felted bags... and felt is very insulating. I've been considering using felt in our ECOlunchbags as a natural insulator (not synthetic, plastic, yucky), so please share with us how the felt works in terms of keeping food cool/hot. I couldn't help but notice that one of your readers suggested Bento Boxes as something to try next... yes, indeed but try to steer clear of plastic. We have a neat ECOlunchbox called the Three-in-One you might want to check out... very unique. www.ecolunchboxes.com/product Thanks again for sharing.

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