Plastic Free Travel Essentials

Fact: 9.1 BILLION Tons of plastic has been produced since plastic was introduced to us in the 1950s. This number is so staggering that the amount of plastic produced in one year is roughly the same as the entire weight of humanity. And this number is only increasing, day after day, piece by piece.

Now you may be thinking… “But what about the Seattle straw ban? What about the plastic bag tax? What about Starbucks going straw-free?” – and we totally hear you! There are a ton of amazing company and city-led initiatives popping up across the US and globally, but these bans or taxes often only address a portion of the real plastic problem. What is the real problem, you ask? Our single-use mindset!

It’s amazing that major companies are finally taking responsibility for their waste, but consumers must also be willing to take action. In practice, this means not just waiting for Starbucks to permanently ban plastic straws, but proactively bringing your own reusables as well. And while there are tons of ways to live a more sustainable life, in this blog, we’re sharing some of our favorite plastic-free, zero waste essentials for on-the-go. Whether you’re just on your daily commute to work, or a world traveler, you can make a more mindful impact on the planet with these 5 reusables!

Final Straw EarthHero Plastic Free Essentials

Collapsible & Reusable Travel Straw

There is no shortage of materials and styles of reusable straws out there, all offering a solution to the single-use straw crisis. They all have their own benefits and drawbacks, but when it comes to a true “travel” straw…. There’s simply no competition. The FinalStraw takes the cake because it’s collapsible into its own carrying case (which can be clipped to your keychain!) and contains its own straw brush and drying rack so you can easily clean it in an airport bathroom–not that we recommend that, though.

It’s made from stainless steel, so it’s practically unbreakable, but still comes in a bunch of cool colors so you can customize your look. Whether you just need a straw for your to-go iced coffee on the way to the office, or plan on backpacking the world, this little straw set is a huge game changer when it comes to kicking single-use straws to the curb. Not sold on this straw? Figure out which reusable straw is best for you here!

Stasher Bags EarthHero Plastic Free Travel

Leak-Proof Silicone Bag

We talk a lot about plastic grocery bags when addressing the single-use plastic issue, but rarely address the silent killer–plastic Ziploc and snack bags! From packing snacks for the road, to keeping your toiletries from spilling into the rest of your suitcase, Ziploc bags are used often and without abandon when it comes to life on-the-go. An easy way to cut this waste out is with a Stasher Bag!

Made from extremely durable silicone, these bags won’t break or rip, and are 100% leak-proof (you can put water in the bag, then seal it and flip it upside down…then shake it. Trust us, we’ve tried it!) They can be put in the freezer and microwave for meal prepping and storage, but are also a great solution for toiletries, makeup, and other potentially spillable travel gear. Basically, this bag does everything, making it our #1 travel buddy.

ECOlunchbox EarthHero Plastic Free Travel

Stainless Steel Snack Container

A great way to save money when traveling is to pack your own meals! But, without reusables, this could lead to a lot of single-use packaging and waste being left behind on your journey. The good news is… we have a solution for that too! Containers like these are easy to travel with because they’re made from durable stainless steel, come in a variety of nest-able sizes for easy storage, and have a leak-resistant silicone lid to keep everything secure. Simply put a sandwich in one, a salad in the other, stick them in a bag and head out! Plus, they’re oven safe, so you can reheat your food without having to transfer it to another container. 

EarthWell Reusable Bottles EarthHero Plastic Free Travel

Reusable Water Bottle & Coffee Mug

Did you know that 1 million plastic bottles are bought every minute around the world? And less than half of those bottles will make it to the recycling center… which means that our landfills are being rapidly filled by water bottles that are used for 30 minutes… and last 300 years. By setting yourself up with a reusable water bottle (and/or coffee cup, if that’s your thing!) you can not only reduce the amount of trash produced overall, but you’ll get some personal benefits like saving money and drinking more water in general (we hope!) Whether you prefer a beautiful glass bottle, something stainless steel, or just want to make your coffee mug a 2-in-1 water bottle as well, there’s no shortage of solutions for this single-use problem. Whatever way you sip, just do it sustainably.

United by Blue EarthHero Plastic Free Travel

Carry-all Bag(s)

Now this may seem pretty obvious for a plastic free travel blog… but you’re going to need a travel bag (or two, or three!) Most travelers assume that they just need their suitcase and they’re good… but this often leads to them collecting single-use travel bags on the way. The three bags we know you’ll need for any awesome adventure are these: a backpack, a grocery tote, and a lunch/produce bag!

By having 3 varying sizes of travel bags, you can ensure you’ll never end up without what you need. The backpack, of course, is perfect for toting all of your larger “everyday” travel items, such as a laptop, notebook, camera–and all the reusables we mentioned above. Also inside this backpack will be the other two bags, tucked nicely away until you need them.

The grocery tote is a necessity so that you can go shopping, either for food or just for fun, on your trip without having to cave to single-use shopping bags. Roughly 100 billion single-use plastic shopping bags are used by Americans alone each year, and although most people know that these bags are bad for the planet, when you forget your reusables it can be hard to say no. By keeping a grocery tote like this one around, you’ll always have a place to store extra stuff–without just shoving more things into that backpack.

The final bag you’re going to need is a lunch bag or a produce bag! They can be used pretty interchangeably depending on your needs, and store neatly alongside the rest of the reusables in your backpack. This is where you will keep those reusable containers that are pre-packed with food, that loose banana or apple you grabbed on-the-go, or anything else that wouldn’t do well loose inside a backpack. That way, if you’re traveling and are ready to break for a snack, you don’t have to dig through your entire backpack–all you have to do is remove your lunch bag and you’re set. Learn more about packing a plastic free school lunch here!

Five plastic free essentials…. One massive impact. By simply preparing yourself with products like these, then making a conscious decision to bring them with you when traveling anywhere, you can drastically reduce the amount of waste you leave in trash cans on your travels. Once you’ve mastered these sustainable swaps, you can expand your zero waste initiative to your home, kitchen, laundry room, and beyond! Plus, check out 16 more of our favorite zero waste essentials for everyday here!

Which reusable straw is best for you?

Single-use plastic straws–they’re used for 30 minutes, but stick around for over half a century in our landfills and waterways. They can’t be recycled, they won’t biodegrade, and often end up polluting ocean habitats and damaging the environment! So why do millions of people each day choose to keep sucking on straws?

The truth is: straws can have some serious perks–from protecting your teeth from the sugars in drinks, to sippin’ drinks easily on the go, and they’re a great option for children or those with disabilities. But there is a better way than single-use! Reusable straws are an amazing way to reduce your impact on the millions of plastic straws that go into our landfills each week, while still enjoying all of the perks you love.

From long-lasting stainless steel to bendy silicone, read on to learn about our favorite reusable straws, and find out which one is best for your lifestyle!

Stainless Steel Straws

Over the last few months, fast-food restaurants and even entire cities have pledged to ban plastic straws, moving towards compostable alternatives or even modifying their products to not require straws (we see you Starbucks!) But, if you’re anything like us, ditching straws altogether just doesn’t work–especially when you’re on-the-go.

That’s why we love reusable stainless steel straws as one alternative, because they’re made from such a durable material that they can really go anywhere and everywhere with you without breaking–just toss it in your bag worry-free. Plus, stainless steel as a material is naturally non-toxic, rust-proof, and dishwasher safe, so cleaning and maintaining your straws is extremely easy.

Because stainless steel is, well, metal, we recommend that you only use this type of reusable straw on cold or room temperature drinks–not hot coffee or anything that could heat up the straw (ouch!) Another good thing to note about 100% stainless steel straws is that they’re not ideal for young children, or those with disabilities, as the mouthpiece is not as forgiving.

Pros: extremely durable, easy to clean, naturally rust-proof & non-toxic, lasts for years, comes in short and long lengths, recyclable, comes in bulk, looks great alongside classic silverware!

Cons: not suitable for hot drinks, or young children & those with disabilities!

Natural Bamboo Straws

There’s a lotta’ types of reusable straws.. but don’t get it bamboozled… bamboo straws are an amazing alternative as well! Usually known for being the fastest growing plant on the planet, bamboo is also naturally mold-resistant, anti-bacterial, and is as durable as steel. They will last for years with proper care, but when your bamboo straws do finally reach the end of their life, they can be commercially composted–so they don’t end up in the landfill.

In terms of usage, bamboo straws are easily cleaned with soapy water and a straw cleaning brush, and are naturally BPA-free, made without animal byproducts, and grown from bamboo that use pesticides or fertilizers. And although bamboo is a strong wood, it’s gentle and giving enough to be a great option for everyone–children, those with disabilities, you name it.

Pros: compostable & biodegradable after years of use, gentle enough for kids, good for hot and cold drinks, comes in short and long lengths, naturally mold-resistant & anti-bacterial, comes from renewable materials!

Cons: slightly ‘wooden’ mouthfeel, should not be left soaking in drinks for 12+ hours, most straw sets will have slightly different diameters because they come from whole stalks of bamboo, harder to clean!

Durable Glass Straws

Sip with class, thanks to glass! Reusable glass straws are one of the prettiest alternatives to single-use plastic straws, and there’s so many unique types! From short (8”) to long (10”), to smoothie width and regular width, bent and straight, and a variety of colors, there’s no shortage of ways to rock a glass straw.

Did you know that glass is 100% recyclable, and can be recycled endlessly without losing quality or purity? This makes it an extremely sustainable alternative to single-use straws–which can’t be recycled even once. Plus, glass won’t impart flavors based on what liquids it has come in contact with, so you can go from sipping a cup of iced coffee to a glass of wine without having to deep clean the straw.

Pros: easy to clean as the straw is see-through, dishwasher safe, lifetime guarantee, colorful, comes in smoothie width and classic width!

Cons: break or shatter slightly easier than other options!

Flexible Silicone Straws

While some of the other reusable straws might have bent tips, they don’t truly hit the mark for a flexible “bendy” straw that mimics the single-use plastic alternative. And for straw-chewers and little ones everywhere that was a huge issue.

That’s where silicone comes in–a plastic-free, non-toxic material that bends easily, but doesn’t break. Silicone has a high heat capacity, which means that it doesn’t change temperature easily, so it can go in your piping hot coffee, or in a cup of ice cold water. For the little ones in your life, the silicone straws can be easily cut down with a pair of scissors to create different lengths–but don’t worry, they won’t easily break or rip on their own!

Pros: flexible with a wide bent tip for easy sipping, doesn’t change temperature & can be used with hot and cold drinks, dishwasher safe, can be cut down to create “mini” straws, great for straw-chewers and won’t break!

Cons: harder to recycle at the end of life, and entire straw is flimsier than rigid stainless steel or glass.

Steel + Silicone Tip Straws

You deserve the best of both worlds: a bendy straw tip and a durable straw base. This straw does just that thanks to its flexible silicone tip attached to a high-quality steel base. When you want a pop of fun color, just keep the silicone mouthpiece on, or simply pop it off for a classic stainless steel look.

Pros: recyclable at the end of its life, nearly unbreakable, flexible bendy-straw tip, good for kids, straw-chewers, and those with disabilities, pairs with Klean Kanteen brand pints & tumblers, and made from non-toxic materials!

Cons: preferred hand-wash, and stainless steel cannot be used with hot drinks!

Compostable Straws

Alright, alright…. This technically isn’t a reusable straw, but it is another great alternative to single-use plastic straws. We totally understand that single-use straws are sometimes unavoidable, especially at large events like weddings, bars, festivals, you name it. By switching to single-use compostable paper over plastic, you can divert a huge amount of waste headed to the landfill, while still providing the single-use straws your event needed.

Most paper straws, like these, can compost in roughly 6 months to a year (compared to the 500 years plastic takes), and are made with chemical-free, food-grade inks, so they contain none of the yucky toxins that plastic straws do. Plus, they come in a variety of fun colors, making them the perfect partner for your sustainable party!

Pros: compostable & biodegradable, unique and memorable experience, fine for straw-chewers, kids, and those with disabilities!

Cons: not suitable for hot drinks, not reusable, each straw can only be used for a short period of time!

Now that you have the tools you need to decide what straw is right for you, it’s time for the most important part: using it! When you go to restaurants, coffee shops, or businesses, make sure you proudly say “No straw, please! I have my own!” When you bring your own straw, others will notice, and hopefully spur a change in their own life towards less single-use items. Don’t think you can switch to reusable? It’s easier than you think! All you need is your go-to straw, a carrying case, and of course a straw brush, and you’re ready to start changing the world.

Comment your favorite reusable straw below!

 

Zero Waste Laundry Hacks

Laundry: everyone does it… but not everyone does it right.

Yep–believe it or not, there is a wrong way to do laundry! While washing and drying your clothes makes your life cleaner, the impact of modern laundry methods is actually making the planet dirtier. By switching to more sustainable options, you can save yourself money, energy, time–and a whole lotta’ waste. Checkout our favorite zero waste laundry products below!

The Cora Ball

Coming in at the top of the zero waste laundry list is a revolutionary new tool that can actually reduce the amount of microplastics leaving your washer!

Hold up–what!?

Yep, you heard us. The truth is, each and every time you wash synthetic clothes, blankets, or sheets, you are unknowingly contributing to a serious pollution problem facing our planet right now: microfibers. These microfibers, made out of plastic and chemical-covered non-plastics, come off of our clothes in the washing machine, and then go out with the drain water. It’s estimated that one fleece jacket can shed up to 250,000 pieces per garment per wash–but you’d usually never see them! And even though the fibers are “micro”-sized, they’re making a massive impact.

zero-waste-laundry-cora-ball-microfiber-laundry-ball-1

Microfibers (and microplastics!) are so small that they are nearly invisible–which means that collecting and removing them from our waterways is pretty tough. They will never biodegrade, and usually bond with other chemical pollutants they bump into (think: pesticides and flame retardants). Once in the ocean, they’re easily ingested by plankton and other bottom feeders, which are then consumed by larger species, sending the toxins further up the food chain. And who is at the very end of the food chain? Us!

zero-waste-laundry-biomagnification-and-bioaccumulation
Bioaccumulation and biomagnification. (Image ©WWF)

This is where biomagnification comes in. To put it simply, biomagnification means that the higher up the food chain these microplastics travel, the higher the concentration of toxins in the bodies of larger animals… with those larger animals being humans in this case.

Take a seafood dinner for instance. At some point, that Pacific Cod that you’re enjoying consumed a shrimp, that consumed plankton, that consumed some of the invisible microplastics floating about. Thanks to biomagnification, you now have the highest concentration of those microfibers (and all of the toxins that they’ve absorbed) inside you compared to any other species in the food chain. Simply put, we’re eating our clothes–and so is the rest of the ocean.

We all contribute to this problem, and we are all impacted by this problem. So where do we go from here?

That’s where Cora Ball comes in.zero-waste-laundry-cora-ball-microfiber-laundry-ball-1

This little funky looking ball, made of 100% recycled plastic, catches these fibers while they’re still in your washing drum before they can do serious damage. To use it, all you have to do is toss it in with your clothes, and wait. It’s that easy. After a few washes, you’ll begin to see fibers collecting in the spindles. Periodically, you can just pull them from the ball and throw those fibers away, where they can be contained and be sent directly to a landfill, rather than into our oceans.

And it really works. Studies at the University of Toronto have shown that the Cora Ball can catch as much as 26% of fibers in your washing machine. While this may not seem like much, if 10% of households used a Cora Ball, it would keep the equivalent of 30 million plastic water bottles from washing into our waterways each year!


zero-waste-laundry-organic-liquid-laundry-detergentOrganic Liquid Laundry Detergent

How much laundry detergent do you use per wash? For some, the amount of detergent used is based off how “dirty” the items are, or by squinting at the detergent cap trying to figure out where the line is. Either way, when it comes to detergent, it’s far too easy to use too much–creating excessive suds that can actually redeposit dirt onto our clothing.

Yikes.

The real issue here is that most laundry detergents aren’t very powerful, and people instead rely on quantity instead of quality, which in turn leaves chemicals in their clothes. Instead of pouring chemicals into the wash, or tossing in plastic-wrapped “pods” that contribute to microplastic pollution, we suggest you simply go nuts. Go Eco Nuts, that is!

Eco Nuts uses the power of soap berries (Sapindus Sapindoideae) that grow naturally in Nepal to create their ultra-concentrated liquid laundry detergent. These berry shells contain a cleaning agent called saponin, that works by breaking the surface tension of water to penetrate the fibers of your clothes–lifting stains from the fabric, and leaving the dirt suspended in the water (instead of going back into your clothes!)

As if getting cleaner clothes wasn’t awesome enough, this liquid detergent comes in a recyclable aluminum bottle, and contains no dyes, animal byproducts, fragrances, fillers, dioxane, phosphate, or nut-allergens, and is certified cruelty-free, aaand certified USDA organic–which means your clothes stay clean, and the planet does too.

zero-waste-laundry-eco-nuts-soap-berriesSoap Nuts

Now that we’ve learned about the awesome powers of soap berries (also called soap nuts) when it comes to liquid detergents, lets see what they can do on their own! Another awesome zero waste way to do laundry is with just the berries themselves–they release the same saponin into the washer to penetrate through grit & grime, and can even be composted at the end of their life.

To use, all you have to do is put 4-5 soap berries into the provided cloth bag, and toss them in the washer. After up to 10 washes, just remove them from the bag, compost the used berries, and refill the bag with new Eco Nuts! Just like the liquid detergent, they contain none of the added chemicals as typical detergents that ruin your clothes, are nut-allergy safe, and leave clothes clean and soft. Plus, they are priced to cost from 8 to 10 cents a laundry load, which feels great on your wallet.

Trying to choose between Eco Nuts detergent and the berries? We recommend the detergent if you have hard water, an HE (frontloading) machine, or like to wash primarily on cold. Eco Nuts soap nuts will get the job done in these scenarios, but the liquid is specially formulated for HE machines!

 

 

zero-waste-laundry-eco-nuts-dryer-ballsReusable Dryer Balls

Now that we’ve tackling washing your clothes… it’s time to dry them. Seems simple, right? Just throw your clothes in, maybe a dryer sheet or 4, and press the start button?

Wrong.

Chemical-laden dryer sheets are not only wasteful, but they can actually ruin your clothes, and waste a lotta’ money. Dryer sheets often contain artificial fragrances and chemicals like benzyl acetate, ethanol, chloroform (uhh…), and many others. While these chemicals do a great job at coating fabric to make it feel silky soft, it’s not so kind to our bodies, causing irritation, respiratory issues, and headaches. Plus, they’re not contained to your dryer–these chemicals can release into the air of your home through your dryer vent!

Health effects aside, dryer sheets aren’t even the most effective way to dry your clothes! They are single-use, so they have to be purchased over and over. Plus, they aren’t as good at drying clothes as say… dryer balls, which means that you may have to run your machine for longer, and spend more money on energy bills.

This is because dryer balls work by lifting, fluffing, and separating laundry in the drum so that your clothes dry faster, more evenly, and with less energy–with some studies reporting 15-25% shorter dryer times. They collect lint like a pro, unlike flimsy dryer sheets, and can be infused with natural essential oils for a fresh laundry scent.


As if you needed one last reason to permanently make the switch to reusable dryer balls… they also fight fires. Not like, hunky firefighter with his Dalmatian pup style firefighter, but they truly can keep your home safer. Each year, about 14,630 home fires are caused by clothes dryers, ⅓ of which come from having too much lint in your dryer vent. And remember those nasty chemicals that come off of dryer sheets? They can create an unseen chemical buildup on your lint screen and dryer vent, which furthers the risk of fire.

Dryer balls combat both of these issues by keeping your lint screen chemical-free, but also reducing the amount of lint that gets there to begin with! To use, just toss your dryer balls in the drum, throw your clothes in, and wah-lah! Enjoy dry, fluffy clothes without burning down the house.

zero-waste-laundry-bestowed-essentials-natural-laundry-stain-stick-1Natural Stain Remover Stick

Now that you’ve done all this research to learn how to make your usual laundry routine a little more sustainable, we’ve got one last swap for you. Trade that plastic stain stick out for a natural alternative!

We’ve all been there… white shirt, red soup, total mess. No time to change or do laundry, but the stain must go away. Instead of reaching for your plastic Tide Pen, go for package free, natural alternative from Bestowed Essentials! Made from vegan ingredients free from bleach, sulfates, and other additives, this concentrated stain stick gets the job done without damaging or wearing through your clothes. Using only natural ingredients, the only thing it’ll leave behind is fresh clothes and a lightweight scent.

zero-waste-laundry-bestowed-essentials-natural-laundry-stain-stickTo use, flip the piece of clothing inside out to better tackle the stain. Wet the laundry stick, rub it into the stain, and rinse. For tough spots, grab an old bamboo toothbrush and gently scrub the formula into the stain. It cleans clothes with ease and, of course, comes in zero waste packaging.

 

From tackling microplastics in the washing machine, to saving money & reducing waste with reusable dryer balls, we’re changing the way you look at laundry one product at a time. What are your plastic-free go-tos?

How-To: Compost

Fact: food scraps and other organic waste currently makes up 30% of what we throw away every year, where it will sit in our landfills unable to decompose properly–but there is a better way to toss organic waste. Composting is becoming a major trend in environmentalism, with restaurants, some grocery stores, even very special office spaces participating! So what’s the deal with composting, and how can it make a massive impact on our planet’s waste situation? Read on to learn why it’s changing the planet for the better–and how you can get involved.

 

Why should I compost?

Whether you’re trying to have the most nutritious soil on the block, or if you’re just looking for another way to lower your carbon footprint, composting your leftover food and organics is the move. While it’s true that food will eventually biodegrade in our landfills, there are some seriously nasty side effects that come with it.

When organic materials break down in a landfill, they do so “anerobically”, or without oxygen. When compost is unable to break down naturally, it actually leads to the release of a very harmful greenhouse gas: methane. Believe it or not, methane has heat trapping capabilities that are 23 to 71x times that of carbon dioxide (yikes!)–and is linked to global climate impacts, as it traps heat in our atmosphere. By diverting organic waste from our landfills, and into commercial or home composting piles, we can greatly reduce the amount of methane gas emissions that come from landfills, which can directly (and positively) impact the levels of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.

Here’s what composting can do for you!

  • You get to take your trash out less! Keeping food waste out of your trash can mean fewer trips to the curb! If you pay for garbage pick up, composting could decrease how much “trash” needs to picked up by the garbage truck (and that equals more money in your pocket).
  • No more smelly trashcans. Keep compost in a designated bin, such as this snazzy, stainless steel one or this recycled plastic one! Both of these bins have aeration holes which help neutralize unwanted scents, too! *More tips for smell-free composting below!
  • Into gardening? While store-bought fertilizers can be pricy, your leftover food is chock full of nutrients (and it’s free!) Try out a backyard compost to create your own nutrient rich, chemical-free soil.

Backyard Composting vs. Commercial Composting

So you’ve decided to start composting, and stop throwing food in the garbage. You. are. AWESOME. But, depending on where you live, there might be different rules or regulations for what can be commercially composted–or there might not be any city-wide compost at all, which is a great reason to start your own backyard compost.

Commercial Composting: The breakdown

Commercial composting is a great option if you want to divert your organic waste but don’t have the time or space to maintain your own outdoor compost pile. This method often means decomposition happens more quickly AND ensures that bioplastics (think corn-based cups and plates) definitely break down.

It’s important to find out which foods and materials are acceptable to compost in your city. This differs from facility to facility but it’s good to steer clear of adding things like pet waste, liquids, dirt or rocks. 

There are typically three techniques used in commercial composting:

Windrow: This open-air process is primarily used for yard and gardenwaste and involves five foot high piles (“windrows”) that get regularly turned. Turning encourages decomposition and helps ensure that every layer has a chance in the warm center of the pile, where all the good bacteria hangs out.

In-vessel: This is an enclosed space setup which means it can process all forms of organic waste, from meat and other food scraps, to manure and bio-plastics (with no bad smells!).  This system allows for optimal control of temperature, moisture, and airflow regulation and also means compost is ready within a few months. In-vessel composting is able to reach incredibly high-temps (over140 degrees) and this helps kill off harmful bacterias!

Aerated-static pile: This system is optimal for large generators of homogeneous organic waste, so it is likely the option found in cities and towns with a commercial compost facility. The aeration process employs bulking agents like wood chips and shredded newspaper and also a network of pipes that periodically blow air into the pile. Food waste, paper products, and bioplastics are traditionally what goes into these piles and compost production is fast, typically only taking a few months.

DIY: Backyard composting

Creating your own home & backyard compost is great, especially if you’re trying to save money on soil fertilizer. It also means you have greater control over what goes in. If you’re into gardening, you can really tailor your compost to the nutritional needs of your own soil and garden. For example, if an organic garden is important to you, make sure the compost is comprised of all things organic, too!

Here’s how to start your backyard compost:

  • Step 1: Begin by finding a shady spot on your land. Close proximity to a water source can be helpful, as moistening any dry compost additions can help the microbial processes. The ideal size of your pile or bin is 1 cubic yard, as that will allow enough space to hold in heat without keeping our air.
  • Step 2: For the best compost, you’ll want to combine two parts “brown” (dry leaves and twigs, for example) with one part “green” (grass clippings and your food scraps). This recipe results in a perfect blend of nitrogen and carbon.
  • Step 3: Chop up your large veggies or big sticks, to help them decompose more quickly!
  • Step 4: Turning over the compost regularly will help air and moisture move throughout the pile and will help break up any clumps of organic material.
  • Step 5: Depending on outside temperature, your nutrient dense, natural fertilizer will be ready within in 2-5 weeks and will only continue to gain potency as time goes on!

Countertop compost bins: What to look for

So, you’ve chosen your compost method–great! Now make it a little easier on yourself and choose the perfect countertop compost bin to store your scraps between they head to the compost pile or curbside bin. But there are so many options! Here are some pros and cons of our favorites:

  • This bin attaches to the edge of the counter so that sweeping food scraps away is a snap, plus silicone is an excellent alternative to plastic. It also fits neatly into the door of your freezer, which is an excellent storage location for compost–frozen food doesn’t smell!
  • This 1 gallon bin is great for countertops and is made from molded bamboo, so it looks beautiful on your kitchen counter! Use charcoal filters in the lid to keep odors in.
  • Need a little more room? This 1.8 gallon stainless steel bin is super easy to clean, and adds a classy look to any kitchen! The lid holds a charcoal filter as well, so it’s a great odor-reducer as well!
  • Looking for more functionality, less fancy? This 1.5 gallon bin comes with a release button that pops the top open, making it easy to open and close quickly. Plus, it has a bar that holds your compost bag in place, so you’ll never have to worry about losing the corner of your bag under an old banana peel!

Tips for Success

  • Worried about the smell? Keep your bin in the freezer. This is a particularly useful tip during those hot and humid summer months when it seems like even your fresh food is excited to decompose.
  • Add a slice of lemon to neutralize any bad smells. That detoxifying morning lemon water now has another purpose!
  • Keep charcoal filters near the bin. This is especially helpful if you have a larger bin because these filters seriously stretch the time between when the compost needs to be taken out. We like these!
  • How will my family know what to compost? Coffee grounds are basically compost gold, but chicken bones? Not so much. Here’s a simple guide we really like. Gardening? Check this out for the best DIY compost fertilizer! Also read our tips on how to reduce your food waste in general.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot

If composting is out of the picture for you right now, either due to location, space, or time, there are other ways you can get on board. Choosing compostable items such as bags and dishware means less plastic gets used and discarded. While we love reusable choices whenever possible, compostable plates and utensils definitely come in handy during travel or on a picnic. However, Earth Hero’s beware! Not all biodegradable dishware is created equal! Some require extremely high temperatures in order to break down completely, and not all commercial compost facilities are able to reach this high heat. These bowls, plates, and utensils are great options because they can all break down in backyard soil!

Composting Starter Essentials

Whether you’re looking for recycled plastic, bamboo, silicone, or stainless steel, EarthHero has a bin for you! These are all small enough to hang out on your kitchen counter or even in your freezer and have aeration holes to promote decomposition and keep smells at bay.

Line your compost bin or trash can with compostable bags and help keep one less plastic bag out of the landfill. Even your dog can be zero-waste with these compostable dog-waste bags! Since pet-waste can contain parasites, it’s best to be sure it never ends up in any actual compost piles.

Don’t just stop composting there, bring composting into every aspect of your life with compostable products like fun straws, hemp pot holders, and food wraps. Even these amazing body products come in compostable packaging!

Now that you’ve learned a bit about composting, share some of your favorite tips, tricks, and ideas in the comments below, or on our Earth heroes Facebook Page!

 

Interview with ECOlunchbox

An interview with the founder of ECOlunchbox & Blue Water Bento, Sandra Ann Harris

We’re delighted to share with you an interview we did recently with Sandra Ann Harris, the founder and CEO of ECOlunchbox and Blue Water Bento! Her company, which is based in Lafayette, Calif., is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this year, so we wanted to learn more about this mission-based company that has sold hundreds of thousands of plastic-free lunchboxes worldwide! Their community is averting the use and disposal of 10’s of millions of pieces of plastic trash annually, according to ECOlunchbox’s recent environmental impact study. Read on to take a sneak peek into the mind of this eco-preneur!

EarthHero | ECOlunchbox

What inspired you to start ECOlunchbox?

We protect what we love, right? For me, the impetus to start ECOlunchbox stemmed from my love of my kids and our oceans. It really struck me when my kids were in pre-school and I was packing lunches regularly for the first time in a long time, how much plastic waste was being generated at lunchtime. It was really shocking to see the garbage cans at the pre-school where my kids were going in the early 2000s literally overflowing with pre-packaged waste from cheese sticks, yogurt squeezes, juice sacks and boxes, etc. At that time Klean Kanteen stainless water bottles were on the market, but there were not plastic-free food containers available for purchase. I looked high and low. I didn’t intend to start a company myself. I was a former journalist and humanitarian aid worker. Consumer products weren’t my thing, but when I realized there was  such a huge hole in the marketplace I decided to fill it by starting ECOlunchbox as a first-to-market-brand specializing in plastic-free food containers that are healthy for people and the planet.

What’s your favorite item in the ECOlunchbox collection?

Oh my gosh, that’s like asking me to pick between my kids. (Laughing!) This is a tough question. I love each and every of my ECOlunchboxes and especially our Seal Cup Trio, which is part of our Blue Water Bento line we launched on Kickstarter back in 2015. I love our Seal Cup Trio and rely on it every single day because it’s leakproof and the three containers can pack compactly with me where ever I go, nesting inside each other. The Seal Cup Large features an orange lid with a sea urchin design. The Seal Cup Medium has a blue lid embossed with a pattern reminiscent of ocean waves on a beach. And the little Seal Cup Small is teal with a nubby shell design. We also have a Mini, XL and Jumbo size that coordinate to make a set of six nesting containers. The Jumbo, which holds 6 cups food, is amazingly useful for veggie grain bowls, which I totally love. I feel so happy every time I use these containers and think about how much I love our oceans and how I’m reducing my dependence on plastic every time I use one of our Blue Water Bento containers.

You put a lot of work into having truly sustainable product and shipping materials. Tell us a little about the materials you’ve chosen for your non-toxic lunchboxes!

Thank you so much for acknowledging us. The heartbeat of what we’re up to is showing the world that it is possible to make choices to reduce dependence on plastics. When I started the business 10 years ago, people, even family members and friends, thought my concerns about plastics when it comes to threatening human and planetary health, were a bit far fetched. But as a former investigative journalist, my research showed that while there may be medical uses and other specific instances when plastic is still the best material available for the job, that’s not true when it comes to food containers.

I see absolutely no reason why people would choose to continue to use plastic food containers, which are known to cause issues with human health due to the prevalence of BPA in all plastics, including BPA-free plastics, when ECOlunchboxes exist. Seriously, in my opinion, we offer a no compromises product that is non-toxic, unbreakable, leak-proof, and dishwasher safe, including the silicone lids, which are safe to be washed even in commercial dishwasher as high heat.

For me the whole point of ECOlunchbox is to innovate and bring to market food containers that check all the boxes. Are we perfect, no, but we are mindful of our choices. As you mentioned, we have also continued to eliminate plastic from any of our packaging and stick to a minimalist approach when it comes to the paper bands and stickers we use on our products for shelf displays. From the beginning, we’ve said no to plastic. Our commitment to remain plastic-free gives us such joy and we love sharing about why we feel so strongly about keeping plastics out of our products. Thank you for this opportunity to tell our story!

What do you think the biggest barrier facing sustainability is today?

Evolving the collective mindset is the biggest challenge facing sustainability. People are usually resistant to change. They’ve gotten used to the throw-away, single-use culture and they can’t envision changing their ways. Last year my husband, who is from Vietnam, and I took our kids to visit villages in northern Vietnam where the Hmong live. We trekked with a local guide, staying with her family in a thatched hut with a mud floor, through communities that were littered with plastic bottles, candy wrappers and other non-biodegradable debris. The young woman guiding us was 32-years-old and she could remember as a child a time when plastic bottles didn’t exist in her community. When she worked in the rice fields she made herself a bottle using a hatchet out of a bamboo stalk. She even made a bamboo bottle with us so we could have this retro experience with her. She could remember a time without plastic in her own lifetime and she was committed to raising awareness in her village that it was time to turn back the clock on modernity and re-embrace the traditions of her parents, grandparents and ancestors. I found our visit very inspiring and it stirred up memories of visiting my grandparents in Palo Alto, California in the 1970s and noticing their refrigerator was filled with glass containers with glass lids for food storage and they were re-using, re-purposing and up-cycling everything possible. No matter whether our roots lie in the East or the West, we can benefit from the wisdom of the pre-plastic generations.

What is silicone, and why did you choose to use it in many of the ECOlunchbox products? How is silicone different from plastic?

This is a great question. I think a lot of people are on a steep learning curve when it comes to silicone, especially since it looks similar to plastic. It took me about three years to research silicone and decide to move forward with our no-leak Blue Water Bento containers. For starters, plastic is a petroleum-based material. Our high-quality, food-grade silicone is made from silica found in sand.

When it comes to offering a highly durable and reusable food container that doesn’t leak and doesn’t contain the estrogen-mimicking chemicals commonly found in plastics, we believe that silicone is currently the best answer. It would be awesome if it were biodegradable, but sadly, like plastic, silicone must be recycled at end of life. This isn’t ideal, but for now it’s the safest, most non-toxic material we have found for our lids.

When it comes to the environment, silicone is highly durable and more ocean friendly than plastic. If one of our silicone lids were to get lost in the ocean, for example, it’s not going to break down into little particles and get ingested by marine life. It resists degradation in sun and sea. We have a lot more info about this question on our website for those who are keenly interested in learning more about silicone.

EarthHero | ECOlunchbox

What’s one thing someone might not know about your products?

I take so much inspiration from Tomales Bay in the Pt. Reyes Peninsula. See if you can guess what the embossed pattern is on our 3-in-1 Splash Box and Mini Splash Pod, which we introduced in 2018. Every time I use this fabulous powerhouse of a lunchbox, I smile recollecting so many good times kayaking, hiking and camping on Tomales Bay, which is filled with eel grass and seaweed.

The eel grass, which is a critical food for marine life at the bottom of the food pyramid in Tomales Bay’s ecosystem, is featured in the embossed celadon green lid of the upstair level of the 3-in-1 Splash Box modular container. The seaweed is celebrated in the dark green motif on the Mini Splash Pod tucked inside the upstairs of this two-level container. Sailors, kayakers, surfers and other ocean lovers notice these details about our products and smile for the love of Big Blue! Jacques Cousteau once said, “We only protect what we love, we only love what we understand, and we only understand what we are taught.” What do you love?

**Want to get your own plastic-free products? Take 15% off ALL ECOlunchbox products with code: ECOlunchbox!**

 

 

16 Zero Waste Essentials

In the past 50 years, humans as a whole have consumed more resources than in all of our previous history–with no signs of slowing down. In America alone, the total consumption of products rose 57% from 1957 to 2000 (that’s over twice the rate of population growth!) And while many believe that recycling is the answer, a new movement called “zero waste” aims to tackle our pollution problem where it starts.

By purchasing more durable, reusable products, and less plastic “single-use” products, zero-wasters aim to reduce the amount of non-recyclable trash they create. Check out some of our favorite products to get you started on your low-impact journey below!

U Konserve Stainless Steel Straw | EarthHero | Zero Waste Essentials

1: Reusable Stainless Steel Straw (with cleaning brush!)

From Starbucks phasing out their plastic straws, to viral videos of sea turtles with single-use straws stuck in their nostrils, the buzz against plastic straws has never been louder. And for good reason! Americans throw away 500 million plastic straws every day, but these straws can’t be recycled and will never, ever, ever biodegrade completely. That’s why we’ve made this our first zero waste go-to: a little stainless steel straw, with a huge environmental impact! Made from BPA and phthalate-free stainless steel, this durable straw travels easily and comes with a straw brush for easy cleaning! Plus, read our reusable straw blog to learn which material of straw is best for you!

Stasher Bags x EarthHero | Zero Waste Essentials

2: Silicone Stasher Bag

Stasher Bags aren’t just zero-waste and plastic-free… they do everything and anything, making them a favorite for anyone trying to reduce their waste in the kitchen, bathroom, or on-the-go. Made from food-safe silicone, a more sustainable alternative to plastic, these resealable bags can be used in the microwave, freezer, oven (on medium heat), sous vide machine, dishwasher–you name it. It contains no latex, lead, or additives (unlike plastic bags), and can be used and reused for years. Whether you’re storing leftovers, cooking, or even using it as a toiletry bag, Stasher is the perfect alternative to wasteful plastic bags and freezer wrap.

Stainless Steel ECOlunchbox x EarthHero | Zero Waste Essentials

3: Stainless Steel Lunchbox Set

When we hear the word “lunchbox”, our minds usually go to playing on the playground and eating PB&J’s in the cafeteria. But the truth is, adults deal with the struggle of bringing lunch, dinner, and snacks with them on-the-go–and the brown paper bag just isn’t cutting it anymore. We’re loving ECOlunchbox products because they’re 100% plastic-free, and flaunt modern looking stainless steel that’s perfect for little ones and work lunches alike. The large oval container fits 3 cups of food, with an accompanying snack cup featuring a leak-proof silicone lid for mess-free traveling. Plus, they’re dishwasher safe–so clean up and repacking is a breeze!

EarthHero x Khala cloths Zero Waste Essentials

4: Vegan Reusable “Cling Wrap”

“Plastic-wrap”…. also known as “cling wrap”, “Glad wrap”, or as we like to call it… “Sad wrap”. These single-use wraps were originally made with polyvinyl chloride plastic (aka PVC) which is non-recyclable, and has questionable toxin levels. But companies like Khala Cloths and Bee’s Wrap are taking us back to our roots with reusable plant-resin and beeswax infused cloths that keep food fresh by molding to various shapes to seal in moisture, and keep bacteria out. The vegan Khala Cloths are made from an organic cotton & hemp blend fabric, with 100% plant-based tree-resins and oils to create a durable, moldable cling-wrap alternative.

Food Huggers x EarthHero Zero Waste Essentials

5: Silicone Food Huggers

Fact: 30-40% of all the groceries you purchase get thrown in the trash due to expiration, which ends up being around $1,600 wasted per year. And most of this waste is due to perishables being exposed to the air–just think of what happens to produce like avocados, citrus, or tomatoes when you leave them uncovered! Food Huggers has found the ultimate solution for perishable produce in their non-toxic silicone “huggers”. In a variety of sizes (even some specifically designed for avocados!), these stretch to fit the uncovered side of partially used produce, keeping bacteria and air out–but moisture and freshness in. In fact, using a Food Hugger can help keep 23% more moisture in your food than if it was stored in plastic containers or baggies!

EarthHero x BioBag Compostable Ziploc Bags

6: Compostable Snack Bags

Americans use 100 billion single-use plastic bags a year, which requires 12 million barrels of oil to manufacture. And almost none of these bags get recycled, instead hanging out in our landfills and waterways for centuries. That’s why BioBag stepped in, offering up a sustainable solution to single-use Ziploc bags. By using compostable and biodegradable film from corn, not oil, their resealable baggies compost at the end of their life. Use the gallon bags for storing leftovers, the snack bags for school lunches, and the sandwich bags for everyday! That’s single-use, done sustainably.

7: Glass Smoothie Straw  & Mason Jar Lid

Now that we know why reusable straws > single-use straws, it’s up to you to decide what straw material and set-up is best for your lifestyle. Simply Straws glass smoothie straws are a great option for anyone looking for a way to drink milkshakes, smoothies, soups, and tons more! The colorful glass is easy to see-through and clean, and has a lifetime guarantee in case anything happens to it on-the-go. Just pick your favorite color, length, and type–then pair it with a straw compatible mason jar lid to transform any jar into an adorable drinking cup!

Natural Fiber Produce Bags | Chico Bag x EarthHero | Zero Waste Essentials

8: Produce Bags

Grocery stores are starting to get the memo: single-use grocery bags are bad! And while some have begun to charge additional fees for using plastic grocery bags, this hasn’t carried across to the thin plastic produce bags that are used with abundance. One of the easiest zero waste swaps you can make is simply adding reusable produce bags to your car alongside a shopping bag, so they’re on hand for the next time you need fresh fruit and veggies. Try mesh produce bags for produce that needs to breathe, like lettuce, or solid produce bags for things like nuts, grains, and rice.

EarthHero x To GO Ware Stainless Steel Tiffins Zero Waste Essentials

9: Stainless Steel Tiffins

Easy to carry, easy to clean, easy to love. Stainless steel tiffins, a traditional lunchbox system out of India, are truly a zero-waste essential thanks to their lightweight, stackable construction with room for plenty of snacks. For small meals, just bring one level–or for bigger lunches, stack two or even 3 tiers for a full spread of snacks. To further reduce your waste, bring your tiffin when you go out to eat to collect leftovers, or use it to shop with ease at the bulk store!

Scrap Happy Compost Bin | EarthHero x Full Circle Home

10: Silicone Compost Bin

Going zero waste is all about reducing, reusing, recycling, and rotting. Rotting? Well, composting. When we dispose of organic materials like food into the landfill, the organic materials aren’t able to get the oxygen they need, and therefore decompose anaerobically–releasing methane into the atmosphere. This is a major problem, because methane is 20x more harmful for our planet than carbon dioxide, with rotting food being the second largest source of man-made methane emissions. Whether you can commercially compost, or simply have a backyard compost, keeping your organic waste out of the trash will create a huge impact! This silicone compost bin is the perfect way to get started, as it can easily go into the freezer to minimize compost smells, is easily washable, and has a hook to attach to the kitchen counter for scraping scraps into it as you cook! Plus, we’re in love with silicone for a ton of reasons… read about them: here.

Klean Kanteen EarthHero Reusable Tumblers

11: Insulated Coffee Tumbler

Single-use paper coffee cups aren’t just terrible at keeping coffee warm and leak-free, they’re also 100% non-recyclable. This means that the 58 billion paper coffee cups that get tossed in America each year go straight to the landfill–where they’ll stay for decades. That’s why, whether you’re a coffee drinker or not, we recommend you stock any zero waste kit with a reusable tumbler that works for any hot beverages. This Klean Kanteen Tumbler features double-wall stainless steel vacuum insulation that can keep hot drinks hot for up to 4 hours, and cold drinks cool for nearly 20 hours. With a scratch-resistant exterior and bold colors, just pair this multi-purpose tumbler with its lid and straw set, and you’ve got the perfect travel mug!

EarthHero x Love Bottle Reusable Glass Bottle | Zero Waste Essentials

12: Recycled Glass Water Bottle

Plastic water bottles: the original sin against sustainability. While there has actually been tons of progress towards banning single-use plastic bottles, and more and more consumers are “BYOBing” (bringing your own bottle!), there’s still a long way to go to reduce the roughly 50 billion plastic water bottles Americans use each year. These Recycled Glass Bottles from Love Bottle not only help reduce plastic waste, but save money otherwise spent on bottled beverages. Plus, 5% of the profits from each Love Bottle goes to providing clean and safe drinking water globally!

13: Bamboo Utensil Set

You order takeout, head to the restaurant, pick it up…. And boom, you now have several individually packaged single-use plastic utensil pouches (and no intention of using them!) Next time you’re on-the-go, say “no utensils please”, and pull out your travel Utensil Set. With a branded EarthHero pouch made from recycled polyester, this essential kit contains a spoon, fork, knife, and chopsticks–with room to fit a straw of your choice inside! The bamboo is naturally stronger than steel, antimicrobial, and antibacterial–making it both easy to clean and carry. Just pop one in your purse, backpack, or car, and be amazed with how much plastic you’ll keep from the landfill!

United by Blue x EarthHero Reusable Lunch Bag Zero Waste Essentials

14: Reusable Lunch Bag
We touched on how packing a lunch is not just for kids… so why are all lunch bags designed for them? United by Blue brings modern sophistication to the adult lunchtime routine with a water-resistant 100% organic waxed canvas lunch bag, featuring a brass buckle and fold-over top. It can be reused again and again, contains no paper or plastic, and is roomy enough to fit all of our favorite zero waste essentials.

EarthHero Zero Waste Products Sling Shopping Bag

15: Reusable Shopping Bag

We all have one…usually found in the junk drawer, or the back of the closet, there’s a conglomeration of discarded superstore and grocery bags that you’ve sworn to make use of one day. And while we suggest you totally try to repurpose those baggies for bathroom trash liners, doggie bags, or shipping packaging–once you have used them all up, switch to a reusable alternative. Made from recycled polyester, the SLING Shopping Bag is big enough for your next grocery haul (without having them bottom fall out on you!) Plus, it can be easily stuffed into its carrying case with a carabiner clip, so you can stash it easily inside your car or backpack.

EarthHero TerraCycle Zero Waste Box

16: TerraCycle Zero Waste Box

Now that we’ve gone over our favorite products to help you create less waste, we have to share with you a little zero waste secret: TerraCycle’s Zero Waste Boxes. Hey, waste happens. Whether it be due to food allergies, medication, or access to sustainable alternatives, you’ll probably have something to throw away at some point. That’s where TerraCycle comes in, offering a solution for recycling nearly everything. While you begin your transition to zero waste, take inventory of what the biggest sources of trash in your life is–and get a zero waste box to help recycle those materials until you can phase them out!

EarthHero Zero Waste Gift Box

Bonus: EarthHero Zero Waste Gift Box
Need to jump start your zero waste journey? Want to set up a friend for sustainable success? We’re making it easier to get the reusable essentials you need with our Zero Waste Gift Boxes. They’re chock-full of some of our absolute favorite zero waste products from Stasher, U Konserve, To-Go Ware, and many more–check out all of our Gift Boxes: here.

Silicone: The Plastic Alternative

Imagine this: you’re making breakfast on Sunday morning, flipping pancakes and scrambling eggs, when you notice tiny pieces of something swirling with the chocolate chips. You take a closer look and–yuck!–it’s pieces of your old plastic spatula chipping away into brunch. So what do you do? You know you shouldn’t buy another plastic spatula, just to have to toss it in another 6 months! Enter silicone, a non-plastic alternative that can take the heat.

What is silicone made out of? An earth element called silica that is found in sand. Is it durable, heat and cold resistant, and easy to cook with? Yep. Is it a better alternative to plastic? Duh. Is there a lot more info about silicone in the blog below? Of course there is. Get the facts on silicone below!

What you’ll learn:

  • The difference between silicone & plastic
  • What silicone is made from, and how
  • Plus, tons of ways silicone can be used to help you live more sustainably!

 

Silicone – The New PlasticEarthHero - ezpz Silicone Mini Mat - 6

Since the invention of plastic in 1907, it’s no surprise that the versatile material has become so widely used. It’s flexible, durable, washable, and can be shaped into just about anything!

In recent years, however, consumers opened their eyes to the harmful effects of plastics. With studies around BPA, BPS, phthalates, and microplastics (just to name a few), plastic is showing its true colors as both bad for the planet, and bad for our health.

That’s why silicone has caught our eye–flaunting the convenient features of plastic without any of the toxic side effects. But what really is silicone, and how is it different from plastic?

silicone-the-plastic-alternative-2What is silicone?

Think about sand. Almost every kind of sand contains silica, which is a form of silicon–the second most abundant element in the Earth’s crust! The form of silicon we’re talking about today, silicone (with an “e”), is a man-made polymer created from silicon, oxygen, and other elements (usually carbon and hydrogen). This polymer has been found to have a wide variety of properties. It can be a liquid, gel, hard, soft, or even rubber-like.

Unlike plastics, silicone has a high resistance to temperature, low reactivity with chemicals, doesn’t support microbiological growth, repels water, and is resistant to ultraviolet (UV light). All of this makes silicone easy to clean, perfect for cooking (microwaves too!), great for hospitals, and a strong overall alternative to plastics.

Silicone vs plastic

silicone-the-plastic-alternative-3How it’s made

Plastics are most often made from crude oil that’s extracted from the Earth and transformed into plastic by altering the oil’s carbon compounds. Crude oil, like coal, is a non-renewable resource, meaning that when it’s gone, there will be no oil left to create new raw plastics. On the other hand, silicon, as we mentioned earlier, is found readily in sand–which is more abundant (although not “unlimited”).

However, to turn this silica into silicone, the silicon must be extracted and processed. First the silica is heated with carbon in an industrial furnace to extract the silicon, which is then passed through hydrocarbons to create a new polymer with an inorganic silicon-oxygen backbone and carbon-based side groups. Simply put: this means that while the silicon in silicone comes from a plentiful resource like sand, the hydrocarbons in silicone come from non-renewable resources like oil and natural gas. This makes silicone a hybrid material, meaning that it’s better than plastic in terms of resource extraction, but still not as naturally renewable, and is not biodegradable.

silicone-the-plastic-alternative-4Toxins?

In 1979, the US Food and Drug Administration determined that silicon dioxide, the raw material that goes into silicone products, was safe for food-grade applications. Health Canada also states: “There are no known health hazards associated with use of silicone cookware. Silicone rubber does not react with food or beverages, or produce any hazardous fumes.”

This is based off the concept that silicone’s base material, silica, does not contain the same types of chemicals that are found in petroleum placed plastics. Although we welcome additional research into potentially overlooked chemicals in silicone, what we do know is that hormone disrupting chemicals found in plastics, like BPA and BPS, aren’t found in silicone, and we’ll take that as a win.

silicone-the-plastic-alternative-5Durability

Compared to plastic, a silicone product will last a good deal longer before it’s unusable. Consider a plastic spatula. It may be in good shape for a few years, but eventually that plastic will look scratched, the edge might be slightly melted, and it can break under too much pressure. A silicone spatula, however, can withstand large amounts of pressure, heat (and cold), and will resist cracking. Not only does this durability mean that you’ll cut down on replacing (and landfilling) your plastic products by switching to silicone, you can feel confident knowing that silicone won’t break down and leach chemicals into your food like its plastic counterpart.

Recycling

Silicone, like plastic, can be recycled multiple times. However, silicone usually has to be sent to a specialized recycling company to be properly recycled. Because of this, many users will simply throw away silicone at the end of its life (where it will sit without breaking down for centuries.) When properly recycled, or sent to a company’s take-back program, silicone can be downcycled into an oil that can be used as industrial lubricant, playground mulch, or another lesser product.

In the landfill (and in our waterways)

Because silicone is so durable, it doesn’t easily biodegrade or decompose. While normal plastics break down into dangerous microplastic pieces that can ingested by wildlife and ocean life, silicone doesn’t break down much at all (it’s that good!). While this may sound worse, plastic activists say it’s actually better for the environment, as large silicone pieces are less likely to get caught in fish bellies, which can cause a multitude of health problems in marine life as well as in humans that consume them down the line.

Silicone benefits

Heat it up (and freeze it too!)

Silicone can endure extreme fluctuations in temperature. It won’t melt under normal cooking scenarios, though once you reach over 400 degrees it may begin to harden over time. Silicone can also be used for freezer storage, and will resist cracking or other deterioration that can result from using plastic containers.

Another benefit of silicone: It’s dishwasher-safe! Because silicone can withstand extreme temperatures, you don’t have to worry about it melting in the wash. Some silicone products, like ezpz mats, can even be stacked for an easier set up, clean up, and meal!

silicone-the-plastic-alternative-6Microwave it

Because silicone is more resistant to heat, and doesn’t contain the harmful toxins that plastic is known to have, it’s considered safe to microwave!

Stasher Bags, for example, are very popular for freezing, cooking, and microwaving food. They’re freezer-safe, and can be placed in the microwave without contaminating your food with BPA or BPS. Into sous vide cooking? Stasher bags can be used for that as well!

Cooking for a whole family? Try ezpz’s unique silicone placemat+ plates! All you have to do is put the food in the portion controlled areas, toss it in the microwave and then serve warm, toasty food–without any plastic chemicals.

ezpz silicone placemats

Seal it

Plastic is a popular choice to use as lids for glass or stainless steel containers due to its ability to create a watertight seal. Well, (you guessed it) silicone can do the same thing! Companies like ECOlunchbox are turning to silicone for the lids to their stainless steel containers. Not only do they work as well as plastic ones, but they’ll last you much longer! Other companies, like ezpz are using the powers of silicone to make an all-in-one placement/plate combo that suctions to the dinner table so tiny hands can’t tip anything over.

silicone-the-plastic-alternative-7Overall, silicone seals in moisture to keep food fresher for longer! Check out Stasher Bags or Food Huggers to seal up your leftovers. They’ll retain more moisture than plastic wrap or plastic bags, and you’ll be able to reuse them for years!

Choosing your silicone products

Like any item, there are low-quality and high-quality versions of silicone products out there. We recommend you always look for silicone thats “medical grade” or at least “food grade”. The higher the quality of silicone, the less likely it is to contain chemicals or toxins that could leach out of the silicone.

Low quality silicone can contain chemical “fillers”, which disrupt silicone’s uniform heat resistance, and can even give usually odorless silicone a synthetic odor. You can test your silicone products for chemical fillers by pinching and/or twisting a part of the silicone. The general rule is that pure silicone does not change color at all, so if any white shows through, there may be fillers in your product.

silicone-the-plastic-alternative-8The final verdict?

We love silicone for its ability to withstand temperatures, seal up food, and last longer than plastic. From a health perspective, it doesn’t contain the same harmful toxins as plastic, (but there’s still research to be done!)

However, silicone is rarely recycled properly and can end up in landfills, where it’s less harmful than plastic yet still won’t biodegrade. Plus, it’s not infinitely recyclable, and will need to be downcycled (used to make a lesser product like playground mulch).

We recommend glass and stainless steel for food storage when possible, and silicone as an alternative for items that you would otherwise use plastic for. It’s great when used as lids and food storage bags and even children’s mealtime mats!

So, how do you use silicone? Are there benefits that we didn’t mention? Share in the comments!

Product Breakdown: TerraCycle Zero Waste Box

Recycling is one of the best things you can do for the environment. It reduces landfill waste and diverts litter from the world’s oceans (hit with 10-20 million tons of plastic pollution every year) and prevents them turning into microplastics, tiny plastic particles that impact animals, natural ecosystems and, ultimately, humans. The eco action also conserves natural resources, offsetting the need to mine the planet for new, “virgin” materials.

EarthHero | How to recycle everything | TerraCycle Zero Waste Box

Most of us have some experience with recycling, learning about it in school, growing up with it in the home, and understanding it to be an easy way to do good by the planet.  But an issue plaguing recycling efforts is the fact that only certain waste is accepted for recycling while the rest has to be thrown away. Public recycling systems cannot handle many of today’s most common waste streams we interact with on a daily basis. Thus, most items are sent to landfill, where they can take years to break down.

EarthHero | TerraCycle Zero Waste Box | How to recycle everything

Enter TerraCycle’s Zero Waste Boxes, easy-to-use recycling boxes for households, individuals and businesses looking to reduce their environmental impact. The Zero Waste Box platform provides solutions for nearly every difficult-to-recycle waste stream that cannot be recycled through regular municipal recycling programs.

EarthHero | TerraCycle Zero Waste Boxes | How to Recycle Everything

Coffee capsules, plastic packaging, disposable cups and cutlery, candy and snack wrappers, writing instruments, alkaline batteries, shipping materials, ink and toner cartridges, drinking straws and more can be easily and effectively recycled through the Zero Waste Box platform.

Here’s how it works: Select the size and type of box needed, fill with the appropriate waste stream, and ship the box back to TerraCycle using the pre-paid shipping label once full. Once collected, TerraCycle separates and processes the products and packaging by material to prepare them for use in new production.

TerraCycle Zero Waste Box | EarthHero | How to Recycle Everything

In addition to Zero Waste Boxes for specific waste streams, the product line also offers room-specific solutions for waste generated in bathrooms, bedrooms, kitchens or breakrooms. The most popular and all-inclusive of these solutions, the All-In-One Zero Waste Box, accepts nearly every type of waste from every room in the home or business without the need for separation or sorting. Available in different sizes, this no-separation option takes the guesswork out of recycling, no matter where you live.

We believe that making a positive impact through recycling can be convenient and accessible. TerraCycle’s Zero Waste Box platform seamlessly integrates sustainability into the home, office, facility or event by making it easy to recycle life’s most common waste items. Conscious consumption considers the full lifecycle, sourcing to end-of-life, and we are pleased to offer TerraCycle’s Zero Waste Boxes as a way to reduce your individual impact.

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!