Thursday, March 19, 2009

plastic-free kids?

I've written before about how much I struggle to balance my values with raising kids who fit in with their peers enough that I'm not scarring them for life. Sometimes the values win out, and sometimes the cultural pressure does, and sometimes, just sometimes, I manage to pull off a win-win.

Dante hangs out with a bunch of boys who love, love, love nerf gun fights. He hasn't been to a single birthday party this year that hasn't involved all of the kids bringing their nerf guns for a huge battle. Weirdly enough, it's not the battling that bothers me as much as the plastic and the fact that the guns and bullets are made in China. I'm sure that some people would disagree, but nerf gun fights don't seem any more violent or disturbing to me than an old-fashioned snowball fight. However, there is an unbelievable amount of plastic involved, and I don't even want to think about the factory conditions in which they are made. Despite my discomfort, we've got a veritable arsenal of nerf guns upstairs, and they get hours and hours of use.

When I was a kid, I was the freaky hippie girl who brought nori in her lunchbox and hid her whole wheat-natural peanut butter-homemade jam sandwich under the table because all the other kids had white bread with bologna and american cheese. See what I mean about that whole scarred for life thing? Fast forward 25 years and my kids are the freaky hippie boys who bring hummus and tabouleh and broccoli and kale in their laptop lunchboxes. (Yes, I know they're plastic, but I have searched high and low and haven't found a good stainless steel alternative. Wah.)

Side note: I always hated that natural peanut butter when I was a kid, because the oil would rise to the top and then I would try to stir it in with a knife and it would slop all over the side of the jar and still wouldn't be mixed in right, so the peanut butter was either really dry or really oily. As soon as I grew up, I switched to Jif, and loooooooved it. But Jif only comes in plastic, and it's full of sugar, and guess what? Now I make my kids eat the natural stuff. I solve the whole oil mixing problem by grinding my own (in the bulk section at Whole Foods) into an old glass pickle jar, leaving half the jar empty so that I have plenty of room to mix it up every single time I use it. Works great!

As for the win-win...my boyz are involved in way too many after-school activities. Those of you who don't have kids may not realize that virtually every after school activity involves some kind of snack commitment on the part of the parents. And virtually every snack involves tons of packaging and trash. However, I have solved the problem without turning my boys into outcasts. On our snack day, I send a big tub of buttered, air-popped popcorn, a stack of reusable plates, and a stack of reusable cups for water. The plates and cups are plastic, but I got them years ago at the dollar store for parties, and over that time they have replaced many, many disposables so I don't feel bad. They are unbreakable, and I don't care if a couple get lost along the way, so it's no big deal to send them to school. It doesn't hurt that this is also way cheaper than buying a big package of goldfish crackers wrapped in individual serving portions and a 12-pack of gatorade...

But speaking of gatorade, here's one that has me stumped: what can I send on game days when I am the "drink" parent? If it's soccer, I could bring a cooler with lemonade and those same reusable plastic cups, but that doesn't work for basketball. Drinks for basketball need to have lids and the kids always take them home after the game. I've thought about making up reusable water bottles (ideally stainless steel) with lemonade or something, but I can't afford to give those away. Any ideas?

7 comments:

Dante said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sf said...

Oops, not Dante here making comments after all...
Anyway! Sorry about that whole "scarring for life" thing...

Fake Plastic Fish said...

Great post!

Have you seen Lunchbots? They are new and made of stainless steel instead of plastic. I know, the Laptop Lunches are so cute and fit everything. Still...

After mixing my peanut butter, I put it in the refrigerator and it doesn't separate again. Do you keep yours in the frig or in a cupboard?

I love that you have turned out to be like your mother. Isn't that what happens to most of us?

:-)

seppie said...

I did see Lunchbots, in fact, on this really cool blog called Fake Plastic Fish :P The problem is that the boyz need lunchboxes that have compartments and will hold something like mandarin oranges or applesauce without getting the bagel chips wet. I also do a better job of packing balanced lunches with the Laptop Lunches, because it reminds me to put a protein in one section, a fruit in another, a veggie in the third, and a treat in the last section. When they just had tupperware in regular lunchboxes, I was more lazy about what I included.

hopalong said...

Seppie, have you seen the lunchbox that Silver and I got from Adivasi? They're metal (maybe stainless steel?) and stackable; someone told me they're also popular in Israel. Maybe you could find them online? They're called "tiffin" on the Adivasi website, and it also seems like they sell rectangular ones that are more in the Laptop Lunchbox format...

Masasa said...

Not that you asked but...

Peanut butter is really easy to grind at home too. If you have a food processor, just dump a bunch of peanuts in it and turn it on for a couple minutes.

Since you can choose which peanuts you buy and from where, etc., it could give you more versatility and potentially be cheaper. Either way, it's a backup option.

Masasa said...

P.S. On game day, just make them drink their gatorade out of their hands ;-).