Interview with Bestowed Essentials

One of our newest brands, Bestowed Essentials, comes with a a wonderful story. Callee, a self proclaimed hippie, began her soap-making journey in 2016, after she found a handmade soap that helped her with her own acne struggle and wanted to research more! Since then, she’s not only created a beautiful line of skin and body care (with plastic-free packaging, woot woot!), but she’s also become a role model in the world of zero waste. Learn more about Callee’s story in our interview below, and catch a never-before-seen exclusive scoop about the future of Bestowed Essentials!

What inspired you to start making soaps?

I was first inspired to make soap after I tried a bar of handmade soap from a gift shop in New Orleans, LA and found that it helped clear the acne I’d been struggling with for over a decade. This led to me doing research into natural ingredients, and I was horrified to learn how many toxic + dangerous chemicals were in my everyday skincare routine. Once I got the hang of soapmaking, it became a really enjoyable hobby for me, and I soon had way more soap than I’d ever be able to use so I started selling it on Etsy and at the local farmer’s market. From there, my product line, and the business itself, has grown into what now enables me to travel the country and spread my passion for ethical + eco-friendly living.

You’ve put a lot of intention into your packaging! What’s been the biggest struggle in seeking out sustainable packaging for your beauty products, and what’s been your biggest accomplishment in that?

The biggest struggle in finding sustainable packaging has been seeing through greenwashing. It’s not enough for me that a material “can be” recycled, I also want it to already be made from post-consumer recycled materials itself. There have been some compromises that I’ve had to make, unfortunately, when it came down to choosing packaging made here in the US with only some recycled content, versus importing higher recycled content materials from overseas with a higher carbon footprint. My biggest accomplishment in regards to my packaging has been reaching 100% plastic-free packaging, for both products + shipping.

Some people worry that natural ingredients might not be as effective as chemical ones. What’s your experience?

Everyone’s experience will be different, because everyone’s body is different. In my personal experience, I have found much success with using natural skincare products, as well as eating natural, unprocessed foods, because what we put IN our bodies matters just as much as what we put ON it. I’ve had acne for nearly 15 years, and after having tried every drugstore brand, multiple topical prescriptions, and birth control pills, what worked best for me has been natural ingredients.

What’s your favorite item in the Bestowed Essentials collection?

Oh that’s such a difficult question to answer! My business is my life, I’ve put my blood, sweat and tears into it. But the product that brings me the most delight to create are my Face Toners, because I love to see the sunlight shine through the glass containers, they remind me of liquid gold. Plus, they’ve been lifesavers for my skin when traveling rapidly through different climates! My can’t-live-without item is my Charcoal + Mint Tooth Powder, though. I could theoretically give up my skincare routine, but oral hygiene is so vital to your overall wellness.

You have a strong zero-waste focus in your brand. What got you started into living zero waste?

The zero waste movement only became a part of my life recently, at the end of 2017. Ever a documentary lover, I came across A Plastic Ocean on Netflix, and it literally changed my life overnight. I made an immediate vow to myself to significantly reduce the amount of plastic that I use, which led me to Googling “how to live zero waste“, and absorbing everything I found online.

As I began documenting my unique zero waste journey while living + traveling the US in a van on Instagram, I not only discovered a wonderful community of people who motivate me, but I found myself being seen as a role model for others who were inspired by my lifestyle. It has become such a passion of mine, that I now run a blog, podcast + FB group to help others live an ethical + eco-friendly life.

What advice would you give to someone just getting started in zero waste?

Remember: progress over perfection! We live in a linear economy, not a circular economy, so it’s impossible to actually be “zero” waste. It’s all about doing the best you can, when you can. Small steps DO make a big difference.

What’s something that somebody might not know about the soap making process?

Soapmaking is both a science + an art. If you’re interested in trying it, do so! And try real soapmaking too; not fake melt + pour kits. Lye isn’t something to be afraid of if you handle it responsibly! But soapmaking can get addicting, and you’ll probably wind up with way more than you can ever use, haha.

What are you most excited about in the world of sustainability?

I’m excited that more and more people are becoming aware of what a massive crisis plastic pollution is! I hope that once enough consumers make their voices heard, that large industries will change their business practices, because the rate at which we’re currently going is not sustainable whatsoever.

What’s your favorite quote?

There are so many quotes that inspire me daily. “Dreams don’t work unless you do.” “Whether you believe you can or you can’t, you’re right.” “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if only you remember to turn on the light.”

What does the future look like for Bestowed Essentials?

Okay, I haven’t shared this with anyone yet, but frankly, Bestowed Essentials has been rapidly outgrowing my van, so early next year, I will be spending a few months in South Dakota to set up a warehouse and hire my first full-time employee to take over production for me. It was a hard decision, especially as a perfectionist, feeling like no one can do it as well as I can, or love it as much as I do, but I realized that I am holding back the potential of Bestowed Essentials, and this is the right decision to make for both the business, and myself, so that I can focus more energy on helping people live an ethical + eco-friendly life!

Shop Bestowed Essentials here!

Interview with Plastic Free Mermaids

Ryan

Alright well, welcome! I am Ryan, founder of EarthHero and joining me today from Plastic Free Mermaids is Keyla and Kimberly. Really excited to talk with you guys and find out a little bit more about what is going on at Plastic Free Mermaids. So thanks for joining us, I guess to get started, I am curious if you guys can tell me a little bit more about yourselves and … I understand you’re sisters… and kind of how you got involved in ocean conservation, and just a little bit about what motivated you to lead you to this exciting path that you’re on.

Kimberly

Yea, so we’re actually native south Floridians so we were born and raised in south Florida and we grew up on the beach, we’re like ten minutes away from the beach in school so we always go there after school. I also work on a beach, we always spend time on the beach, and Keyla can tell you more about how it influenced our education.

Keyla

Yeah we went to Marine Magnet high school and middle school where they taught everything about the ocean, with the typography and habitat, animals and the technology side, you’ve seen r.o.v’s, underwater vehicles… Some of the things they would do is like a project, in middle school it’s something Kimberly and I got involved with. It’s with Philippe Cousteau’s ‘plant a fish’ program where we planted mangroves all over the beach in middle school.

Kimberly

Yeah and at a young age we’ve always been advocates so, we support each other right? So one of our stories, how we started, was we were on the beach and we saw people burying live sand dollars; they’re a type of sea urchin and… these are live animals. So we tried to come up to them and tell them that what they’re doing is wrong and they wouldn’t want to be buried just like these animals wouldn’t want to be. And Keyla can tell you one of her stories…

Keyla

When I was like four years old, men were fishing fish out of the sea and just allowing them to like, suffocate, without putting them in a cooler or anything. So like, I had to go up and talk to them and say how cruel [what] it was they were doing. But I didn’t understand anything at four years old. So like, Kimberly and I were brought up to this stuff at a very young age.

Ryan

So basically you were inspired by what you saw happening in your own backyard.

Keyla

Yea.

Ryan

And after seeing that, was there an ‘aha’ moment, it sounds like with the sand dollars, or was there an accumulation of those types of observations that lead you to raise your hand and say, ‘I need to get involved. I want to get involved’?

Kimberly

Right, exactly. So since we’re sisters we’re always together so we support each other in our advocation. We thought, oh the power is in numbers and we can do something about this. So that’s why we wanted to join the ocean community, the ocean conservation community and since we’re born into it, we’re bred into it, we thought the best avenue was ocean conservation.

Ryan

Ok so, you had this idea, this motivation, this desire to get involved, how did you figure out… what path exactly to express yourself? You know, you could’ve started a blog, you could’ve maybe started a business… with help from mentors or family… something online, maybe made a product… Obviously you guys have chosen to go the path of being an activist, an ambassador for this type of thing. Did you kind of pause there, in terms of how to express yourself in this arena? How did you sort of decide to go down this activist path?

Keyla

So Kimberly and I, we went to different summits throughout middle school and high school, and we went to this particular summit called the ocean conservation summit and we met with a whole bunch of scientists, people who do technology with the ocean and other students our ages at that time and we learned about different topics such as: coral bleaching, shark fishing and a group of students, such as when I was a freshman in high school we decided to create a group to bring awareness. What we focused on, we started doing things through education. So we’d go to different classroom and be like, ‘hey this is shark finning’. Our high school also does shark tagging where we partner up with universities such as University of Miami or Nova Southeastern University, and they teach us how to… It’s kind of like you’re fishing for sharks but you’re doing scientific stuff with them Like putting water in their eyes to see if they contain membrane, taking DNA samples, blood samples, clean clips, to see what they’re eating, where they’re traveling to, but you’re having that face-to-face encounter with the sharks and you see how gentle they are. So that’s kind of what we were trying to do but like what got us into plastic pollution is like, we love shark finning, like talking about it, but we weren’t go gung-ho about it, so our mom showed us a video called ‘bag it’. What we saw was insane about the amount of plastic and that’s what we were geared towards. So what we started doing was we started educating about it. Through education is how our activism came about and how our organization started.

Ryan

So tell me about that. What is it exactly that you guys do? What are the goals, what is success to you guys?

Keyla

So the Plastic Free Mermaids is an environmental organization that spreads awareness about plastic pollution through education, outreaches, clean ups and political advocacy, and we also mentor how to live a plastic-free lifestyle as well as illustrate how plastic affects ourselves as well as our environment.

Ryan

How do you get that message out into the community?

Kimberly

So we have pillars in the plastic-free lifestyle and one of them is activism. When we do call to action youtube videos, we do legislative initiatives within our community. We also have a global pillar, so it’s where we do networks and collaborations, we do them with the Bahamas plastic movement. We also have community pride so we do local cleanups, summits, we participate in local summits like the youth ocean conservation summit in Sarasota and local events. We have art, so we create murals, we upcycle any type of plastic we see, and then education like my sister said. We do outreaches, dissections, and alternatives to lifestyles of using plastic.

Ryan

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in this process?

Keyla

Some of the most difficult things is like, getting the numbers for the cleanups. ‘Cause like, I know waking up early to do a cleanup isn’t the most exciting thing to do, so we partner up with organizations that have fun stuff to do. We partner up with the Surfrider foundation in Briar county, which is the county we’re from, and we do paddle-boarding cleanups with the students that come on board with us. We also do snorkeling cleanups with Debris Free Oceans at National Parks, where they take us on a boat and we pick up around the island, and then they take us snorkeling and we’re able to see the effects of plastic on the reef. It’s a couple minutes away on boat ride and some of the students have never actually been snorkeling before, let alone been on a boat. So it’s nice to give them a new insight on the oceans, because it is their backyard. So the hardest thing is actually getting people to do those cleanups and once they participate in it they actually enjoy it. The other one is having them go ahead and talk with us to the city mayors, the people when we travel up to Washington D.C. or New York, to get them there and get them involved. We continue supporting awareness but it’s just the number of people who actually want to get involved like hands on.

Ryan

And how about, in terms of… I guess the opposite question would be, what are some of the rewarding parts of what you’ve done and what you’re doing?

Kimberly

So… some of the more rewarding parts is when someone will come up to us at an event and they say ‘oh my gosh I saw you from last event’, so for example it was at Water Matters Day in Briar county, and they said ‘Oh my gosh, I remember seeing you at our last event, you actually educated me so much about the negative effects of plastic that I was inspired to eliminate at least one single use plastic from my life.’ And so, it was really awe-inspiring because like, wow, we actually made a difference. So now that we see them re-occurring in our life and coming back more to learn about how they can reduce their plastic consumption but also make a difference and how they can encourage others to do the same was probably the most rewarding experience of the Plastic Free Mermaids.

Keyla

And also with our political activism what we do is we go ahead and we talk to the city mayors… Kimberly can talk about it because she was just there recently but with the city of Hollywood, they passed an ordinance I’m pretty sure, right?

Kimberly

Yea so, Hollywood right now, Deerfield beach and Miami, they just started the drafting of the straw ordinances, trying to get them eliminated from our broad walks and our local beaches. And then Miami just passed a foam free… like a hashtag foam free, so basically they don’t want us using any plastic or styrofoam on our beaches. The initiatives are going a long way, it took us a while at first, it’s been like four years, to try and get these initiatives started, and it’s a little intimidating for some of our local young activists to go up there and educate our mayors but it was so inspiring and now that they’re actually doing something about it, it really makes a difference. So now we’re coming to the root of the problem and we’re solving it.

Ryan

I was gonna ask, my next question was, you know there’s the policy side of things, you know obviously it’s huge wins when you get bans on certain plastics or certain products, then it becomes a much easier thing to enforce, and you can book that win because it’s become a law of some sort. But how do you see businesses intersecting between people and policy? Has that come up? And when I say businesses, you know there’s businesses like EarthHero that exist to try and help all of this as well, there’s lots of other businesses that are apart of the movement, but my own view, there’s the consumer, there’s business and there’s government. So in your path and getting your message across and really impacting change, have you considered that at all? Or has it really not come up so much?

Kimberly

So when we partnered with the Surf Better Foundation our initial thought was that: how are we going to tie in government, restaurants and consumers? So at first we realized that with consumer products it’s not that big of a deal. People don’t need a straw in every drink, some people are indifferent to it. With restaurants they just want the cheapest product. Sorry, it’s a bit loud. So they’re like, ‘ok, how can we make it cost effective? Cause we support your movement but we want it to be cost effective.’ So then with the government it helps if there’s an established ordinance, so then it kind of forces the restaurants to buy into these inexpensive products but that are environmentally friendly and for Florida especially it’s difficult because they’re right on the shore line, so they really need to do these things. So we’re educating them but it really is just cost effectiveness so we show them alternatives that are cheaper than what a plastic product would be in long term distance, you know, it’s not in short term.

Ryan

It’s… it’s interesting. I totally admire what you’re doing considering how young you are! When I was in high school, I was playing baseball. And you’re out there changing the world. So that’s… it’s really admirable.

Keyla

Thank you.

Ryan

So, transitioning from a traditional way of shopping and living, obviously a lot of plastic in our lives… for people that are sort of just getting started on the path and they see these stories trending, the straw free. The straw right? It’s like the symbol of the movement and it’s ok. Obviously we’re going to have to do a lot more than just stop using straws… But a lot of people ask me that as well, ‘I want to be apart of this but where do I start? What are the first things I can do that will have the most impact?’

Keyla

Ok so, we have a program… it’s like a program, it’s kind of an initiative called the plastic free lifestyle.

Kimberly

We started the plastic free lifestyle, so we created this initiative to help people begin a starting foundation of how to get involved.

Keyla

We have the plastic free lifestyle as an initiative for them to start living a plastic free lifestyle and how to start it off. So we started doing with this lifestyle is they pick any plastic product they use the most, so like the water bottle, utensils, primarily single use plastic, and then they pick a time frame, could be week, could be a month, as like a trial run and then they see how they are able to live without that plastic product for that particular time and then once they reach that end goal of that time frame they add on more time and continue adding time until they no longer need to use it anymore. And then after they feel like, ‘I don’t need to use plastic straws anymore’ we add on plastic bags or plastic utensils and it just kind of adds up progressively throughout the years on completely eliminating plastic from your lives and from that they actually accumulate with products like some of the products you have on your website and products we’ve seen from going to summits. I know Kimberly has some products that she uses that she carries on an everyday basis but I carry bamboo utensils that I got from a summit and straws that we’ve got and donated to us from Klean Kanteen. I know Kimberly has a foldable metal spork that she carries in her pocket as well.

Ryan

I’m curious also, because this is another thing that comes up: plastic free versus zero waste. How does that enter your conversations that you’re having? Are people trying to do one or the other or both?

Kimberly

They go together. Being plastic free kind of helps you live a zero waste lifestyle. So, for us, we buy products for example, we have this reusable ziplock bag that we got donated to us during a summit and so instead of using ziplock bags we use that. Or a cloth bag that we carry in our car, or forks. We bring our own tupperware sometimes to restaurants, it’s very rare. But we sometimes bring our own tupperware for takeout products like, ‘can you put this inside this instead?’ So also eating at home helps with the zero-waste lifestyle and with not using plastic. So you just have to be really conscious all the time to really try to eliminate bot but they go hand-in-hand together if you really care about the environment.

Keyla

And once you like, become conscious of it, after a while it becomes second nature that it’s a no-brainer of living a zero-waste lifestyle and a plastic free since they do, like Kimberly said they go hand-in-hand.

Ryan

And I guess, kind of a third category that enters this conversation is, sort of sustainable products, right? For example, clothing. There’s a lot of conversation around traditional cotton versus organic cotton, things like that. And I know this sort of goes a bit beyond what you guys are doing potentially, but I’m just curious in your personal lives, anytime you go to buy anything do you have that sort of inner dialogue with yourselves? How is that progressing in your personal journeys?

Keyla

I say I do have inner dialogue, I’m pretty sure Kimberly does as well and so does our family. When it comes to clothing we are learning more about the different types of, like you said, organic sustainable cotton, actually some of our clothing contains plastic materials, so we’re learning more about that. But when it comes to like, other products, it’s a no-brainer to us. We don’t really use plastic. We stay away from it. But, when it comes to clothing and shoes and sneakers and things that we’re not really used to, it’s a lot harder. I can say for me at least, to get accustomed to that.

Ryan

Yeah it’s interesting because you don’t think necessarily of plastics when it comes to that stuff but like, nylon, polyester, really at the end of the day it’s amazing how much plastic gets ejected into some many products in disguise.

Keyla

Yes, no, completely. Traveling to these summits we see students… I say students but they’re my age! People our ages tackling different products like you said, polyester and then… ah I forgot the name of it. Like the little, little bit of plastic that comes from when you wash your clothes? There’s plastic that comes off of it and it gets filtered through the water system because they’re so small, and fish confuse them as eggs. So like, that gets into the system so going to these summits brought awareness to that type of stuff.

Ryan

It’s amazing. I absolutely love what you’re doing. Down in Florida too it’s very, very relevant I’m sure. Just surrounded by so much ocean line and shore line. I guess… my only other question that really comes to mind is, where do you see this all going? Where do you see the movement five years from now? Ten years from now? Or maybe next year? I’m just curious how do you frame this up in your head as you continue to do what you do and promote the messages you’re promoting. If you were to live a full life, and looking back at that point, what do you think we’ll accomplish? Between now and the future?

Keyla

In the next five years? I say not in the next five years but like, the next twenty years as a whole, we’re gonna have a complete change in our legislative system across the entire United States as a whole on banning plastic as an entire thing based on how everything is projected. Especially with what Kimberly and I are doing and all our other friends over the world especially in the United States and the different states that we have. We’re definitely going to make a legislation change for the entire United States as a country-wide ban on plastic. I’m not exactly sure what kind of plastic yet but based on how everything is going it may be straws, it may be bags. I know Florida right now is tackling a lot with  bags, because we cannot ban plastic bags because of different legislation, like laws that have been passed for that.

Kimberly

And also there’s a lot of like, scientific movement in a sense so we’re finding different alternatives on ways to not use plastic. So, for example we 3D print in our school and we use poly filaments… and there’s now becoming different alternatives and I know one student created bananas because they have the same texture and durability as plastic. So we’re not only starting to see a legislative movement and a consumer movement but also a scientific movement. So all of those together in the next twenty years like my sister said will really contribute to living plastic free. And then for our organization I really see us making more of a foundation on our non-profits, spreading more awareness and really getting more people to understand. 

Ryan

Well, it’s been really, really fun hanging with you both today. Is there any parting shots that you want to leave people with, or anything our shared communities could do to support you and anything else you want to add?

Keyla

We have social media, so they can definitely follow us on Instagram and Facebook on @PlasticFreeMermaids. We have a website: PlasticFreeMermaids where they can definitely see us and what we’re doing and what we’re up to. I guess the message is just to keep doing what everyone’s doing on their individual lives, eliminating plastic because it will definitely make a huge impact and to continue spreading the word like everyone’s doing right now. And to encourage other people! That’s very important. To continue encouraging others, not to make them feel bad about what they’re doing in different initiatives they’re doing with plastic or any other type of environmental issue they’re trying to eliminate or solve.

Ryan

Awesome. Kimberly, anything you want to add?

Kimberly

I would just say if you really want to move towards a plastic-free lifestyle, I think really understanding the basis of plastic, so: knowing how it affects you, why you want to do this, and then finding easy ways. Like what I do, like what my sister said is I bring a fork in my pocket everywhere I go. It’s just such an easy way to limit my plastic-use consumption and make the alternatives easy and convenient, just like plastic is. Like Keyla said, definitely have courage because it’s sometimes discouraging going up against city commissioners and you want to make a difference but you feel like it’s too much of a challenge. So never feel discouraged and follow our social media if you’d like to hangout with us and do cleanups!

Ryan

Awesome. Well, Keyla, Kimberly, thanks again for joining us today. Plastic Free Mermaids, check them out and again, just really awesome the work that you’re doing. Just keep, keep on keeping on and really excited to follow you and see how you evolve.

Keyla

Thank you so much!

Ryan

You bet.

How To Pack a Non-Toxic School Lunch

It’s lunchtime at school and the timeless competition of who has the best lunch that day begins. Some kids are repping their grandma’s homemade chocolate chip cookies, others flaunt their coveted Lunchables. But one aspect that is often overlooked in the lunch hall is how that lunch is packed.

Long gone are the days of the brown paper bag lunches filled with Ziploc snack bags! It’s time to outfit your kid with the hottest merch in the market right now–like reusable silicone bags, bamboo utensils, insulated lunch bags, and beeswax wrap. Not only does it reduce the amount of waste your family produces, but kids all across the cafeteria will be saying, “What is that colorful container? I want one! *fist bump*”. Read on to learn how to pack a plastic free lunch that is easy for your little one to love!

What you’ll learn:

  • Find out which reusable lunch-time products are best for your family, from products for babies to packing your own office lunch!
  • Better understand the importance of a plastic and toxic free lunch

How To Pack a Non-Toxic (and Plastic Free!) Lunch

There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about changing what goes into school lunches to be healthier for kids. But what about what you’re packing that lunch in? Plastic containers, Ziploc baggies, single-use Saran wrap, and other common lunchtime necessities can not only leach chemicals into the food they’re keeping fresh, but also add up to a ton of non-recyclable waste after 12+ years in school–not to mention the money you spend always replenishing those stocks! Lucky for you, and your family, there’s a healthier way to snack sustainably (at any age!).

Snacking Small: Babies + Preschoolers

For the first few years of your little ones life, they’ll come just about everywhere with you. But, most (almost all) restaurants or establishments won’t have the feeding spoons, baby bottles, and accessories you’ll need for a freakout-free meal. If you can find what you’re looking for out and about, it can often be single-use plastic–which we all know is the worst. By prepping your diaper bag, or “mommy” bag, with non-toxic snacking supplies, any booster chair can become a plastic-free dining experience.

Klean Kanteen | EarthHero | Back to School Lunch

Stainless Steel Baby Bottle

The very first nursing bottle was invented from 1841–entirely from glass. As time passed, plastic baby bottles became the norm thanks to their durable, unbreakable nature. But plastic bottles, like most hard plastics, contain polycarbonates and the chemical bisphenol A (aka BPA), that can leach into the contents of your little one’s bottle. Research has shown that BPA and polycarbonate plastic can lead to changes in the brain and reproductive system, and other major health impacts–leading to organizations like the FDA banning additives like BPA (but not polycarbonates!) in baby bottles and sippy cups.

While we’re making steps in the right direction when it comes to plastic baby bottles, we prefer to stay safe and use non-toxic stainless steel. Klean Kanteen’s Slow-Flow Baby Bottle features a chemical-free medical grade silicone nipple, with a slow-flow to encourage natural-paced and relaxed feedings. The 5oz, or larger 9oz, bottle has a contoured and tapered shape for little hands, and won’t break even if they drop it. But our favorite feature is the peace of mind from knowing your little one isn’t sipping toxins in their milk!

bambu | Bamboo Feeding Spoons | EarthHero | Non Toxic Lunch Supplies

Bamboo Feeding Spoons

You’ll find we love bamboo as a natural alternative to tons of plastic products–and our Bamboo Baby Feeding Spoons are no exception! The handle is sized for parents to easily grip and maneuver, while the spoon is sized for delicate baby mouths. Perfect for ages 6 months and older, bambu even got these feeding spoons tested and approved under US Code SFR Title 16, which is a complicated way of saying they’re really, truly phthalate, PVC, and BPA-free, and made without glues or lacquers. Then, when your little one grows up and is ready for their next set of reusable bamboo utensils, simply toss these feeding spoons in the compost bin and let them biodegrade! But… if you’re set on the plastic look and feel, opt for a plant-based plastic feeding spoon, like this one!

Green Sprouts | EarthHero | Non Toxic Back to School

Organic Cotton Burp Cloths & Bibs

“Here comes the airplane”… is said a lot at the table with toddlers… but how often does the “airplane” land safely in the hanger, without leaving a trail of mashed peas and potatoes behind? Almost never. We like easy clean ups, which is why we love the organic cotton bibs from Green Sprouts. The ultra-soft organic cotton is non-toxic, grown without pesticides, is colored with azo-free dyes–and gets softer with every wash. The four absorbent fabric layers manage spills of any size, with an adjustable snap closure to take your baby through the first year of mealtimes.

Want to bring even more fun to the table? Try out the Frog Baby Bib, or Monkey Baby Bib from Under the Nile, both made from GOTS and USDA Certified Organic Egyptian Cotton on a Fairtrade Certified farm. Whatever your style is, all our burp cloths and bibs are machine washable for no-fuss cleanups.

Green Sprouts Snack Cups | EarthHero | Non Toxic Back to School Lunch

Plant-Based Plastic Snack Cups

Snacking on-the-go with a baby or toddler can be as difficult as herding cats. You’ll almost always need to have several options for snacking for their changing mood and appetites, which can lead to a purse full of toxic plastics pouches or heavy glass baby food jars. Don’t turn your purse into a pantry–just bring perfectly portioned snacks in these plant-based plastic Snack Cups by Green Sprouts. They’re as lightweight and durable as typical plastic products, but are made from a BPA/BPS, melamine, and PVC-free plant-based plastic that’s dishwasher safe and 100% non-toxic. They’re stackable, snackable, and totally adorable.

Brain Food: Elementary + Middle Schoolers

Recent data shows that while 30.6 million US students eat school lunches every year, only 6% of school lunches meet the nutritional requirements established by the US Department of Agriculture. Beyond that, many of these school-provided lunches come on styrofoam trays, with single-use plastic cups, and disposable plastic utensils. By packing a lunch for your kid to bring to school, you can ensure they’re getting a balanced meal–all in plastic-free packaging. Ditch the brown paper bag and set them up for success with these modern snacking reusables!

 

rPETe Snack BagsChico Bag Snack Time Bags | EarthHero | Non Toxic Lunch

Single use plastic bags… where do we begin. They don’t seal all that well, rip easily, and can spill snacks at any time. Plus, they can never ever be recycled, and are usually used just once before heading to the trash. ChicoBag reduces waste from day one with their rPETe Snack Bags, using recycled water bottles to make the fabric for these reusable baggies. This colorful three pack allows you to pack your kiddo multiple things to munch on, all in a lightweight and easy-travel pouch. They’re resealable, reusable, washable, and overall awesome for any dry snacks or sandwiches!

Apple Park EarthHero Back to School Lunch Pack

Animal Lunch Pack

Not only do plastic or paper lunch bags break, leaving your food on the floor, but they’re designed to be used only once–leading to hundreds of trashed bags by the end of the school year. By switching to a reusable lunch box you can reduce this waste, and keep their lunch colder and fresher for longer. Apple Park’s adorable Animal Lunch Packs come in a fun variety of animals from bunnies to foxes, and are insulated for hours of fresh food. Made from recycled water bottles, their packs are naturally water-resistant, dishwasher/machine washing safe, and long-lasting. When they’re ready for a more mature pack, donate this durable pack to a local school or charity, and upgrade to this lunch tote!

Chico Bag EarthHero Bamboo Utensil Set

Kids Bamboo Utensil Set

Fork, spoon, knife, you’re ready to go! This bamboo utensil set from To-Go Ware contains all the mealtime essentials, wrapped up in a travel case made from recycled plastic water bottles. The stain resistant and dishwasher safe organic bamboo utensils will last your kid for years until they’re ready to upgrade to a full size utensil set, and are lightweight enough to be tucked into any lunch pack or kit. In a variety of fun colors for every personality, your kids will never have to use the disposables at the cafeteria again!

Next Steps: High School + College Students

You’re almost across the 12 year finish line, heading to college and beyond. But that doesn’t mean that lunch time goes away… it just means you’re likely multitasking during your lunch break. Our high school and college suggestions are designed around a busy lifestyle–introducing compostable disposable options, and on-the-go sizes. Whether you’re cramming in the library or enjoying intramurals on the college field, you’ll never go hungry with these essentials.

ZipTuck Resealable BagsEarthHero - ZipTuck Reusable Gallon Snack Bag 5

Have a 5 minute lunch break and need something to snack on? Want to save the rest of your avocado for tomorrow mornings avocado toast? Running to your yoga class with granola in tow?

It’s no secret that we’re not into single-use plastic, but we know that those resealable bags are just SO convenient! Full Circle Home has got you covered with their ZipTuck reusable snack bags. They’re not only reusable and perfect for on-the-go, but they also come in some cute designs to “fancy” up your snack!

U Konserve EarthHero Back to School Lunch

Insulated Lunch Bag

At this age, being able to fit your lunch bag inside your crowded backpack becomes less and less feasible. U Konserve solved this problem in their reinvented lunch bag, featuring an adjustable shoulder strap so you can tote your lunch alongside your books, without anything being crushed. Made from recycled plastic water bottles, this bag is naturally insulated, keeping food and drinks cold for 5-8 hours with an ice pack. Plus, it features an interior pocket for storing the sandwich bags and utensil sets we’ve been raving over above!

Khala Cloths Vegan Reusable Sandwich Wrap EarthHero

Vegan Reusable Sandwich Wrap

Seran wrap, step aside. Plastic wrap, please go! We have a new wrap in our lives: Khala Cloth’s Plant-Based & Vegan Wraps! A cotton and hemp fabric blend is treated with consciously-sourced soy wax, jojoba, and coconut oil to create a vegan wrap that can be molded and shaped with the warmth of your hands. We love the sandwich wraps for our lunch kits because they include an adorable tie to keep your sandwich in place on the run. Plus, they’re vegan, so experimenting with veganism during college is a breeze.

Bambu Spork and Cork Set

Spork and Cork Set

High school and college can be a super busy time, rushing from class to after-school sports to homework study groups. When it’s time to stop and snack, you don’t want to be dealing with a full set of utensils, when all you need is the essentials–a spoon and a fork. The Spork and Cork Set by bambu is the perfect tool for on the go, made of 50% spoon and 50% fork for 100% fun. The naturally stain-resistant and anti-microbial organic bamboo wood spork is finished with a food-safe oil finish, and comes with a beautiful (and washable!) cork fabric sleeve to keep your spork clean in your backpack or purse. And, like all our lunch time essentials, this set is totally phthalate, PVC, and BPA-free.

Post Grad: Educators + Professionals

You’ve made it through school–whether it took 12 years or 25 years. For the teachers out there, you found your way back into the classroom, and into the world of a packed lunch once again. But, most professions nowadays are encouraging home-packed lunches, thanks to their reduced cost, healthy ingredients, and reduced plastic waste. Whether you’re working the 9-5 or living life on your own schedule, these are our favorite “grown-up” ways to lunch sustainably.

stasher-bags-lunch-pack

Stasher Bags

See ya plastic baggies… hello Stasher Bags! Whether you want to warm up leftovers in the microwave for lunch or just somewhere to keep your homemade energy bars fresh, Stasher Bags have your back. These silicone-made bags are designed to be as reusable as possible so they are safe to put in the dishwasher! And if that isn’t good enough, they can also be used in the freezer, oven, or even sous vide.

Divided Stainless Steel Container

You have limited space in your work bag (and your work fridge), and no desire to have a bland or boring lunch. Enter U Konserve’s Divided Stainless Steel Food Container: a reusable, bento-style lunchbox that separates your snacks into four different sectors. Keep a salad on one side, a sandwich on the other in this non-toxic, BPA-free, and lead-free food storage box. The leak resistant lid, and recyclable stainless steel are both machine washable as well, reducing the amount of time you spend cleaning and prepping for your next meal.

U Konserve Ice Pack EarthHero Non Toxic Lunch

Recycled Plastic Ice Pack

If you’re gone at work or school all day, you need plenty of fresh food throughout the day, maybe packing two lunches or a lunch and a dinner. While an insulated lunch tote will get the job done, we’re loving the Recycled Plastic Ice Packs from U Konserve for all of our fresh food needs. The machine washable and moisture resistant cover is made from recycled plastic water bottles, with an interior gel from non-toxic sodium polymers. You can feel good adding this to any lunch pack, as its been tested by CPSIA-accredited independent labs to be free of BPAs, phthalates, and leads.

 

Canvas Lunch SackUnited by Blue Lunch Pack EarthHero

You’re an adult. And we think your lunch bag should reflect that. This reusable lunch bag from United by Blue is made from 100% water-resistant organic waxed canvas in beautiful navy, tan, and olive with a stylish roll-top buckle front closure. The 8 liter bag is roomy enough for all your food throughout the day, and can be easily cleaned with soap and water! Details like vegetable tanned leather and solid brass hardware add modern sophistication you love to an everyday essential you didn’t know you needed.

A Lunch Kit for Everyone

Our mission is to make it easy for you to have a non-toxic lunch or meal… at any age, profession, life situation, diet, what-have-you. While some of our products are best served for certain age groups (though we won’t judge you if you want a bunny lunch pack) we decided to make some all-purpose lunch kits you can buy in just one click. Whether you’re meal prepping, packing a lunch for someone else, or bringing your own lunch to work, you’ll find these kits have everything you need.

Waste-Free Lunch Kit

Zero Waste Lunch Kit

Sustainable Guru Pack

Bonus points: Get your sustainable school supplies here, and check out how to reduce your food waste overall here!

 

Sustainable Back to School Supplies

The beginning of the school year is a hectic time for parents and students alike. Between school lunches, carpools, playdates, and more, it’s easy to get lost in the chaos. And for many parents this often means purchasing whatever school supplies are easy at the store – which are usually plastic, and single-use, items that cannot be recycled after they’re used up. From pens to pencils, backpacks to notebooks, switching to ethical school supplies can make a huge difference.. And teach your child about sustainability! Read on to learn more about how to make this school year a lot less wasteful.

What You’ll Learn:

  • Why sustainable school supplies make such a positive impact compared to conventional supplies
  • Several options for every age of student
  • Brands and products to explore for going back to school sustainably

Sustainable Back to School Supplies

Each August, parents and students alike receive one equally exciting and nerve wracking piece of mail: the annual school supply list. This simple piece of paper has some seriously unsustainable requests–encouraging every student and teacher to buy totally new pens, pencils, notebooks, folders, and cleaning supplies each and every year. While this may not seem impactful, when you multiply it by the 50.7 million students that attended public elementary and secondary school last year… and factor in the teachers, college, homeschooled, and private school students… that’s hundreds of thousands of pounds of school supplies, most of which will be used for just one year before being thrown away.

But school doesn’t have to be unsustainable. From school supplies to backpacks and notebooks, and even that first day of school outfit, we’ve got everything you need to go back to school smarter. Want to learn how to pack a zero waste lunch? Check that out, here

Starting sustainably: Babies + Preschoolers

We believe one of the greatest lessons you can teach a child is how to live consciously, sustainably, and ethically. And what better time to start teaching than when they’re learning how to learn! Now, you’re probably thinking… what kind of school supplies can a baby or toddler use? The answer is: atypical ones. There’s tons of ways to encourage motor skills and growth in your little one without needing to know the ABC’s and 123’s! By starting early, you’re setting them up for success during the 12+ years to come.

Green Toys | nontoxic kids toys | EarthHero | Sustainable Back to School Supplies

Shape Sorter

It might not be rocket science, but working with simple shapes is one of the best ways to encourage hand-eye coordination, motor skills, and colors and shape recognition that’s needed for future learning! Each uniquely colorful shape slides into the various cut-outs along the top and bottom, which can be opened with a simple twist for hours of playtime. Sized for small hands (and small mouths!), your little one can get a headstart on the basics of learning, before they even leave for school. The best part? This Shape Sorter by Green Toys is made with 100% recycled plastic, made without BPAs, PVCs, or phthalates–and totally FDA Food Contact approved, so you can have all the fun, with none of the added chemicals.

BioBuddi Learning Blocks | Sustainable Back to School | EarthHero

Biobased Learning Blocks

Your classic LEGOs meet plant-based plastics meets learning letters in this innovative building block. Created from the minds of Netherland toy company, BiOBUDDi, these bioplastic building blocks (and stickers!) are made from sugarcane resin–not non-renewable resources. Colorful shapes, letters, and animals stimulates creativity and imagination in your little one, while the process of using the building blocks develops good spatial awareness and hand-eye coordination. Plus, they’re a heck-of-a lotta’ fun. We may or may not have tried them ourselves. 

Green Kids Club Books | EarthHero | Sustainable Back to school

Green Kids Club Books

In just a few short years, your baby will be headed to elementary school, where they’ll begin to learn to read on their own. But, studies show that it’s never too early to start reading to your little one–soothing them with the sound of your voice, and exposing them to new words, tones, and inflections! We love Green Kids Club books because they do all of that, while diving into important (and fun!) environmental lessons, all printed on Chain of Custody Certified Sustainably Harvested paper. From learning about our coral reefs to tackling sea ice loss, these books are perfect to start educating your little one, from day one.

Out and about: Elementary + Middle Schoolers

Learning to read, write, and count is a huge part of any young person’s life–and being armed with the tools for success is essential. From the right pens, pencils, highlighters, and craft supplies, to a backpack to hold it all, we’re breaking down our favorite sustainably made school supplies for elementary and middle schoolers below!

Whittier Backpack | United by Blue | EarthHero | Sustainable Back to school

Whittier Kids Backpack

Fact: In the United States, 79 million students and teachers carry backpacks. Of that 79 million, most haul over 10-22% of their body weight. In human terms: Ouch. United by Blue knows that your little one shouldn’t be weighed down, so they created the Whittier Backpack with padded straps for added comfort. Made from 100% Repreve recycled polyester, with a durable water repellent finish to resist moisture and stains, this bag is perfectly sized for smaller students. It’s adjustable straps reduce straining and pressure on the spine, with an exterior zipper pocket for quickly grabbing pens or pencils.

Onyx and Green | EarthHero | Sustainable Back to school supplies

Taking Notes Pack

From book reports, to school projects, to big exams, taking notes is going to be a big part of any time at elementary to middle school. This kit has everything they’ll need: two 50-packs of index cards from sustainably harvested bamboo paper, four assorted color highlighters, and two bamboo gel pens. The highlighters are great for studying and keeping organized, and they’re packaged in recycled plastic!

 

Recycled Newspaper Colored Pencils

Who doesn’t love coloring? Trick question–everyone loves coloring. But have you ever seen a colored pencil that’s been almost all the way used? Neither have we. This is because, for whatever reason, colored pencils seem to vanish into thin air when they get halfway used. And with most classic pencils being made from raw wood, this leads to a ton of waste, and deforestation to create the pencils. That’s why Onyx and Green decided to use recycled newspaper–not trees, to make their 24 pack of assorted color pencils. From crafting to color-coding notes these sustainably made pencils are the essential school supply for any family.

 

Crafting Kit

Your kid has a tri-fold poster board project due tomorrow at 8am… and a very blank canvas. Don’t panic: just pull out your craft kit! This curated kit contains a 24 pack of recycled newspaper colored pencils (read why we love these above!), two recycled PET plastic permanent markers for labeling + outlining, plus liquid glue and scissors for cutting and pasting graphics–aka everything you’ll need for an A+ project. The liquid glue is made from plants, not… whatever normal glue is made of (does anyone know?), while the scissors use the power of recycled plastics.

Fun fact: Tired of dried out permanent markers? Take some rubbing alcohol into a small dish, soak the tip of the marker until ink begins to leak out, then put the cap back on for 15 minutes and leave it alone. This is perfect for the recycled plastic markers in our kit, or any permanent marker out there.

Off to the real world: High School + College Students

High school and college are some of the best years of any young person’s life–but can also be some of the most disorganized. From running from class to class, prepping college essays, getting ready for dorm life, and navigating what the heck you want to major in, sometimes there’s not always time to shop for school supplies (we totally understand!) That’s why we’ve narrowed it down to just the essentials–all wrapped up in a upcycled, waterproof backpack that’s as tough as their first college exam.

Onyx and Green | EarthHero | Sustainable back to school supplies

College Starter Kit

Notebook? Check. Pens and pencils? Check. Instant ramen noodles? Check. Any high school or college student is gonna need the essentials: two bamboo ballpoint pens, one 3 subject sugarcane paper notebook, and four assorted color gel highlighters from recycled plastic. During the 8 years (or more) spent in high school and college, you’re going to need a ton of notebook paper–which is why we love sustainably harvested sugarcane paper, made from sugarcane pulp, instead of resource intensive trees.

Tree Free Recycled Paper Notebook | Sustainable Back to School Supplies | EarthHero.com

Recycled Paper Journal Planner

Staying organized is the key to success… but if you use a traditional paper planner every single year, it can lead to a ton of paper waste. That’s why we love recycled planners, made from a 100% recycled paper interior, printed with solar power, and made with wind power from tree-free greeting’s local American factory. This journal contains 160 smooth, easy-to-write pages–so keeping track of classes, tests, and other important dates is a breeze.

Maderacraft Black Walnut laptop case | EarthHero | Sustainable Back to School Supplies

Black Walnut Laptop Case

One of the biggest changes from high-school to college is being able to bring your own laptop for note taking, research, and playing solitaire when the professor is turned away (duh). But with running from class to class, your laptop is at high-risk. Start with a good laptop bag, then reinforce with this beautiful Walnut Laptop Skin. Made from sustainably harvested, FSC Certified walnut wood, every purchase of this durable case donates to planting trees in Brazil!

Alchemy Goods | EarthHero | Sustainable Back to School Supplies

Alchemy Goods Backpack

Now that you have our college and high school essentials, you’re gonna need a bag to put it all in–one that can take you from the classroom to a study party and beyond. Our go-to is Alchemy Goods, because they’re made from one of the most durable, college-kid-proof materials out there–bike tires. Made from 74% recycled and upcycled materials, this commuter bag has a padded 13” laptop compartment for on the go, plus padded straps for maximum comfort. Our favorite part? It’s unlike any other backpack we’ve ever seen before, making you turn heads wherever you wander.

The heroes: Educators + Professionals

You’ve walked across that stage, collected the diploma, and set off for your post-education life. But, whether you come back to the world of education, or dive headfirst into the world of business, you’re still going to need school supplies. They’re just called office supplies now. Check out some of our favorite office, and life, supplies below!

Cork Agenda and Pen Set | earthhero | Sustainable Back to School SuppliesCork Agenda & Pen Set

Perfect for planning class lessons, or jotting down the week’s to-dos, this set comes with a mini cork agenda made from sustainable stone paper, plus a two pack of bamboo ballpoint pens. Cork, a beautiful renewable resource, adds a touch of sophistication to the agenda, revealing smooth and easy-to-write stone paper on the interior.

Maderacraft | Bamboo Monitor Stand | EarthHero | Sustainable Back to school shopping

Maderacraft Monitor Stand

If you work a 9-5, or spend a lot of time in front of the computer, you know how straining it can be on your eyes, wrists, and even your neck and spine. This is because your monitor should be positioned directly in front of you, with the center of the screen at eye level. Most monitors are a lot lower than this, which is why we love Maderacraft’s bamboo wood Monitor Stand! Made from FSC Certified bamboo wood, this stand adds a touch of class, sophistication, and (most importantly) organization to any desk setup. Plus, bamboo wood is one of the most durable materials out there, so you won’t have to worry about your computer crash landing.

Sustainable Back to School Supplies | Onyx and Green | EarthHero.com

Office Essentials Pack

We call this the office essentials pack, but it’s perfect for classrooms, craft-rooms, and offices alike. It comes with a pack of 30 bamboo push pins, a ½ size bamboo stapler, plus naturally anti-microbial and plant-based corn plastic scissors to finish it off. Classic push pins use tiny pieces of non-recyclable plastic pieces, so we opted for bamboo ones that look great, and are made way more sustainably. This is also a great first step towards a zero waste office–so be sure to use your sustainable supplies to educate your co-workers!

Lakeland Laptop Bag

If you’ve ever had a bad laptop bag, you know just how important is it to have something durable, protective, and easy to carry around. The alternative is a broken laptop, and no one wants that. Almost every backpack has a laptop compartment now, but we love the Lakeland Laptop Bag by United by Blue for toting our supplies around. The two exterior pockets are awesome for grabbing your phone and headphones on the run, with a padded interior sleeve to keep your computer cozy. In a place with weird weather? This bag features a weather resistant flat to keep your laptop dry. Pro tip: this is also good for when you violently drop your coffee onto your bag (yes, this is from experience).

Our sustainable school supplies are made with better materials, and less intensive resources, but still need a little extra care at the end of their life to be recycled properly. Through our partner, TerraCycle, you can recycle all your school and office supplies with the Zero Waste Office + School Supplies Box! Or, checkout free take-back programs for other supplies, like Crayola’s ColorCycle Program!