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Archive for Back-to-School

September 2nd, 2014

Waste Free Lunch Gear to Add to Your Lunch Box

Groovy Green Livin Waste Free Lunch Gear

Packing a waste free lunch has become second nature in our home. There aren’t many plastic baggies to choose from- we ditched those a few years ago- and there are plenty of reusable options.

All three boys pack their own waste free lunch with a little guidance from mom and dad. The process isn’t pretty. Food and crumbs are generally everywhere. If you’re able to let this piece go (I still have a hard time with it!) the independant lunch packing process is worth it. Through making their own lunch they are beginning to understand what a green and healthy lunch looks like.

What is a waste free lunch?

Children’s lunches create more than 3.5 billion pounds of garbage each year, which amounts to 18,760 pounds of trash annually from an average sized elementary school. Think of all the paper napkins, plastic utensils and plastic water bottles that go straight to the landfill!

By using reusable products we can all kick off the school year in an eco-friendly way.

We’ve added a few waste free reusable options to our lunch box options this year. 

1. Klean Kanteen Stainless Steel Food Canister

I really love the Klean Kanteen Stainless Steel Food Canister. It  comes in two sizes-   16 -Ounce and 8-Ounce and both are perfect for snacks and other lunch box items. The canisters have a screw on stainless steel lid that closes tightly and prevents leaking. These containers are not insulated and will not keep items hot or cold.

2. ONYX 2 Layer Sandwich Box

Another brilliant creation- this Onyx Stainless Steel 2-Layer Large Sandwich Box comes with two stackable layers that close firmly together with a locking system. The top layer is perfect for a sandwich and the bottom, larger layer is perfect for a side item such as grapes, crackers or any other lunch time treat. This system could be used as your lunch box or can be packed in your reusable, waste free lunch bag.

3. EcoLunchBox Blue Water Bento Splash Box

The ECOlunchbox – Blue Water Bento Splash Box is ocean themed with a stainless steel bottom and silicone lid.  The lid is designed to be easy to open for all ages, with tabs on all corners for little fingers to grab and open. This box is the perfect size for grapes, crackers and other lunch-time snacks.

4. LunchBots Duo Stainless Steel Food Container

We love the duo LunchBots and have a few in different colors. Our favorite way to pack up a LunchBots Duo is to put slices of cheese on one side and crackers on the other. LunchBots containers are plastic and BPA-free. One word of caution-don’t pack anything that could leak in this container since it’s not air tight.

What are some of your favorite waste free lunch gear?

If you’re looking for a safe, non-toxic lunch box, HERE are a few of my picks.

P.S. If you liked this post you might enjoy our Groovy Green Livin NewsletterReceive new posts and special opportunities delivered right to your inbox! Sign up HERE.


*Some links in this post are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may get a small commission if you make a purchase. Thanks for your support in this way! I would also like to thank ONYX, Klean Kanteen and ECOLunchBox for samples of their products. All opinions are my own.



August 27th, 2014

5 Healthy Back-to-School Tips For Families

Groovy Green Livin Healthy Back-to-School

The countdown has begun. Only a few days left until it’s back-to-school. How did that happen?

At dinner tonight my ten year old announced that this was his best summer ever. Overcome with emotion, I nodded in agreement. It really was the best summer ever.

Next summer has tough shoes to fill. Once the snow returns I’ll be planning and dreaming. In the meantime we’re bracing for the back-to-school frenzy that’s about to enter our care-free lives.

To help with the back-to-school transition here are a few tips to keep your family healthy and sane

Get enough sleep

A few years ago we tried transitioning to a back-to-school schedule before school began. That didn’t work. Now we dive in head first the evening before the first day of school. I’m a bit worried this year about my kids nodding off in school since our schedules are so irregular at the moment.  

Do your kids get enough sleep? Here’s some interesting info from the National Institute of Health:

  • Sleep Facts: School-aged children and teens need at least nine hours of sleep a night. Adults need seven to eight hours of sleep a night. I need a solid eight to feel human.
  • Sleep Tips: Set a sleep schedule, going to bed and waking up the same times each day. Keep room temperature on the cool side. A TV or computer in the bedroom can be a distraction.

Pack a waste-free  and healthy lunch

Children’s lunches create more than 3.5 billion pounds of garbage each year, which amounts to a crazy 18,760 pounds of trash annually from an average sized elementary school. That’s a lot of waste.

Making a lunch box zero-waste through the use of reusable products will minimize the amount of garbage kids create through their school lunch.

Check out some of my favorite waste-free products HERE.

Lunch boxes and toxic chemicals don’t belong together. Unfortunately some lunchboxes are releasing toxic dust into our children’s lunchbox food. Thankfully not all lunch boxes are toxic. HERE are a few safe lunch box choices for everyone in the family.

Make healthy choices when it comes to snacks and treats in your child’s lunch.

  • Don’t buy individually packaged snacks i.e. fruit cups, single serving cookies, chips and crackers. There is a lot of wasted packaging and the cost per item is much more expensive than buying in bulk.
  • We try to buy organic when we can. Remember Organic doesn’t always mean healthy. There are organic foods out there that that are processed, contain lots of sugar and are unhealthy.

Sub out toxic back-to-school supplies

If  a school supply list is specific and asks for a product that could be harmful to my child or other children I  have no problem deviating from the list.  For example I always send in a safe alternative to alcohol based hand sanitizer.

Eat brain food

It’s so simple to add a few foods bursting with brain fuel to the weekly menu. Try adding blueberries, salmon, broccoli and lentils.

Choose a safe backpack

Children’s vinyl “back‐to‐school” supplies (including backpacks) have been found to contain elevated levels of phthalates, hazardous chemicals that have been banned in toys, yet remain widespread in vinyl back‐to‐school supplies.

Vinyl backpacks could also contain high levels of lead, which can wipe off onto children’s hands and ultimately end up in the child’s mouth.

HERE are a few safe preschool backpack suggestions and HERE are my picks for safe elementary school backpacks.

So are you ready for back-to-school?

P.S. If you liked this post you might enjoy our Groovy Green Livin NewsletterReceive new posts and special opportunities delivered right to your inbox! Sign up HERE.

photo credit: Gerry Dincher via photopin cc

September 17th, 2013

Green Your School Fundraising

Groovy Green Livin fundraising

The school fundraising packet just arrived. Did you get yours? I browsed through mine and ended up circling wrapping paper, ribbons and more wrapping paper. Every year I scour the fundraising packet for stainless steel or reusable options. There are generally a few eco choices buried behind the piles of wrapping paper and chocolates. Every year I promise myself that I’ll just write a check and call it a day, but then I start circling and find myself ordering reams of wrapping paper and boxes of chocolate. Just what I don’t need.

Why aren’t there eco-friendly fundraising options?

There are.

This past spring our schools partnered with NSTAR, our local gas and electric company, for a fantastic fundraising event. We were able to order a variety of CFL bulbs and/or a Smart Strip power strip. 

Now there’s another option. MightyNest, one of the Groovy Green Livin’s long-time sponsors. came up with an innovative idea for school fundraising. They launched  the MightyNest for Schools program.

For those of you unfamiliar with MightyNest they’re an online shop started by a husband and wife team. Their site is filled with useful information and natural, organic and non-toxic products all in one place. All of their products are free from known toxic ingredients such as: BPA, PVC, Phthalates, Lead, Melamine, Formaldehyde, Flame retardants, Parabens and more.

So what is MightyNest for Schools?

It’s a simple way to raise money while engaging your school community in healthy living.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Raise money for your school while buying products you’ll love! 15% of every order you place at MightyNest can be donated to an elementary or pre-school of your choosing. Your child’s school, a family member’s school or one in your community: pick the school you’d like to receive a donation from your orders.
  2. Engage your school community around healthy living! Every school in the program has a community page at On that page, anyone can earn points towards rewards for their school by pledging to take simple, healthy actions. There’s no purchase required to participate, just simple pledges to live a healthy lifestyle.

It’s that easy.

To celebrate the official launch of MightyNest for Schools, one lucky school will earn a $5000 bonus and as many as 50 others can each earn $250 in prizes. The school with the most points wins!

To get started simply:

  1. Look-up your school at and join the page.
  2. Share the page with your family and friends (their purchases and actions count, too)!
  3. Share the page with your PTA.

Any other ideas for a great ‘green’ fundraiser? 

August 30th, 2013

School Supplies and My Interview with The Wall Street Journal

Groovy Green Livin School Supplies

School Supplies

School supplies are covering every square inch of my living room floor at the moment. Notebooks, protractors, crayons, colored pencils and binders are everywhere.

The tedious collection of school supplies began a few days ago when I had the sudden realization that school was about to begin and I had done nothing to prepare. The actual shopping took a few hours and now I’m knee deep in crates and boxes filled with everything my three boys will need according to the back-to-school supply lists.

This year I made the decision to attack one school supply list at a time. It was comical. Running from aisle 3B for crayons to aisle 8A for paper and then back and forth again for the next class. I’m sure there was a better way to approach this and you’d think I’d have figured it out by now, but there’s always next year.

The school supply lists are interesting. Some teachers are very explicit about what brands they want while other school supply lists are a bit more open-ended with room for interpretation.

If  a list is specific and asks for a product that could be harmful to my child or other children I  have no problem deviating from the list.  For example I always send in a safe alternative to alcohol based hand sanitizer. I generally don’t write a letter to the teacher explaining my position, but if you’re interested here’s a  sample letter to a teacher which spells out why some of the school supplies have been swapped out for safer alternatives.

The real concern is that many if not most of the school supplies are placed into a classroom “pool” for general consumption. So my sending in one lone bottle of safe hand sanitizer isn’t going to make much of a difference. I still haven’t figured out a way to tackle this.

My Interview with the Wall Street Journal

I was recently contacted by a reporter from the Wall Street Journal to talk about school supplies and whether or not I stick to school the suggested products on school supply lists.

We had a really interesting conversation about how product placement could be lurking in our children’s school supply lists. There seems to be a tremendous push by big brands to get their names out there and at the top of all of our school supply lists. For example “teachers, parents or school administrators who put Kleenex on their lists were entered into a sweepstakes that could win their school $25,000 to buy books and other supplies…”. So of course parents are swayed to buy Kleenex.

Product placement on school supply lists poses a number of issues. Requiring families to buy specific brands when there may be more economical options isn’t fair. Also, as I mention in the Wall Street Journal article, I want the option to send in non-toxic school supplies, especially when the suggested product is a product that comes in contact with food or the children’s skin. I really wish more school systems would suggest safer alternatives for some products such as hand sanitizer and wipes.

You can read the full article and find my quote HERE.

I’m wondering how you feel about all of this. How do you handle school supply lists? Do you follow them or do you deviate?


photo credit: JimmyMac210 via photopin cc>

August 28th, 2013

5 Foods to Boost Back-to-School Brain Power

Groovy Green Livin Brain PowerIn need of a little extra brain power to prepare you for back-to-school?

We have a few days to go before summer vacation comes to a screeching halt so I’m in the process of savoring every last minute with my kids (with some minutes definitely better than others). I have to confess that over the summer we sometime strayed from healthy options, but we did our best. Now that a routine is back in sight it’s time to add a few foods bursting with brain power to the weekly menu.


Groovy Green Livin Brain

Not only are blueberries delicious, but there’s research which suggests that the flavonoids in blueberries make them a top contender for improving brain power. Flavonoids may improve memory, learning and general cognitive function, including reasoning skills, decision making, verbal comprehension and numerical ability. Blueberries may also provide protection against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.


Groovy Green Livin Brain

Broccoli is one of those foods my kids will eat without any complaints. This superfood is not only chock full of needed nutrients, but it also boasts a large amount of vitamin K  which helps enhance cognitive function and improve brain power.


Groovy Green Livin Brain

Lentils show up often in meals at our house since they are so simple to prepare- no soaking necessary. This legume is brimming with folate, a B vitamin shown to help boost brain power. Folate also plays a role in decreasing levels of amino acids that can impair brain functioning.


Groovy Green Livin Brain

Fish generally ends up on our dinner table once or twice a week. Salmon is a family favorite with other types of fish being hit or miss. Many types of fish, including salmon, contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to improve mental alertness.  Omega-3’s are considered ‘good’ fats and are linked to improved memory and brain function. They also can reduce the risk of degenerative mental diseases such as dementia.


Groovy Green Livin Brain

Turns out those 8 recommended glasses of water are truly needed. Our brain depends on proper hydration to function at its best. Years of research have found that when we’re thirsty or dehydrated, we have trouble staying focused. Dehydration can impair short-term memory function and long-term memory.

What’s your favorite brain food?

photo credits: maira.gall via photopin cc,  Darwin Bell via photopin cc , Dey via photopin BrownGuacamole via photopin , RLHyde via photopin ccMadison Guy via photopin cc

July 29th, 2013

Giveaway: Lunchbox Love Heads Back-to-School

Groovy Green Livin Lunch Box Love

Lunchbox Love Mom Panel

Right before I jumped on a plane to BlogHer in Chicago (photos and a recap or two coming soon!) I received some fantastic news- I was selected to be a member of  the Lunchbox Love Mom Panel! Woo hoo say you….but what does that mean? Well, I’m joining forces with an AMAZING team of ten smart and influential women to spread the word about a new and innovative product: Lunchbox Love – The Original Lunch Box Notes.

Groovy Green Livin Lunchbox Love

What is Lunchbox Love?

I’m a sap, what can I say? My kids are 9, 11 and 12 and they usually make their own school lunch. That’s not why I’m a sap. I’m a sap because once in a while I throw a little love note into their lunch box. Mornings are generally hectic so it doesn’t happen as often as I’d like, but I think about writing a note (that counts, right?).

Groovy Green Livin Lunchbox Love
Lunchbox Love makes it so simple. Each 12 pack of cards are pre-printed with all sorts of sayings. For example “Keep up the effort in school, You’re doing a great job!” and “Be strong.” for the younger crowd. When your child flips the card over they’ll find an interesting piece of trivia or a joke to share with friends at the lunch table. There are also two blank cards in the pack which you can use for personalized notes to your kids.

Lunchbox Love gives back

The company was founded by two life-long friends and moms, Judi Willard and Mary Fuller, who know that there is scientific evidence that shows positive thoughts and words have a positive affect on our mental and physical health. Their philosophy is that positive words can change someone’s day, a life, and eventually the world. I happen to agree.

The company is also donating a portion of their proceeds to help feed children around the world.

Lunchbox Love for tweens and teens

My kids are officially tweens and I still want to give them “I love you” notes. I’m perfecting my embarrassing mom skills. Lunchbox Love gets it and created a pack of cards specifically for the tween/teens in your life. These cards are printed with more sophisticated feel good notes with inspirational quotes on the back. My favorite is “Sometimes parents make mistakes too. I’m sorry.” 

Your chance to try Lunchbox Love notes

Since back-to-school is just around the corner for many of us Lunchbox Love Notes will be a fun addition to your child’s lunch box this year. Here’s your chance to win a 4 pack (12 cards each) of Lunchbox Love Notes.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

photo credit: ryry9379 via photopin cc

July 12th, 2013

Non-Toxic Backpacks for Elementary School Kids

Groovy Green Livin non-toxic backpacks

Non-toxic Backpacks for Elementary School Kids

After putting together a Non-Toxic Preschool Backpack Guide I realized that kids over the age of 3 or 4 probably won’t want to be seen in any of those backpacks. The leap from preschool to elementary school is big and with it comes new styles and tastes. A cute little pig on your back probably won’t cut it for most kindergartners.

When my boys started elementary school I did a lot of research to find a safe backpack.

No Vinyl, No PVC, No Phthalates, No Lead

If you’ve been following along here for a while you know that a study by the Center for Health, Environment and Justice’s(CHEJ) found children’s vinyl “back‐to‐school” supplies (including backpacks) contained elevated levels of phthalates, hazardous chemicals that have been banned in toys, yet remain widespread in vinyl back‐to‐school supplies.

Phthalates are hazardous at low levels of exposure, disrupt hormones in our bodies, and have been linked to birth defects, infertility, early puberty, asthma, ADHD, obesity, diabetes, and cancer. Not something you want in your child’s backpack!

Vinyl backpacks could also contain high levels of lead, which can wipe off onto children’s hands and ultimately end up in the child’s mouth.

Bottom Line: Don’t buy vinyl backpacks!

Here are a few non-toxic backpack options for kids in elementary school.

THE NORTH FACE Jester Daypack Groovy Green Livin non-toxic backpack

This is our families backpack of choice at the moment. My two youngest, while in elementary school have used this pack. It’s the perfect size and has a lot of different compartments for storage. The backpack comes in quite a few bright colors and a few plaid choices. I was assured by The North Face that “All our daypacks are PVC, lead and phthalate free. All our products meet global restricted substance requirements.” These are probably best for kids on the older side of elementary school.

Price: $55.00

Groovy Green Livin non-toxic backpackGarnet Hill Backpack for Ages 7 and Up 

My son started kindergarten with a blue Garnet Hill backpack. That pack lasted for a few years and he loved it. Their backpacks come in a variety of snazzy designs and all are certified PVC free. I was assured verbally that all of their children’s products pass all mandatory CPSIA testing-although I couldn’t find this information anywhere on their site. CPSIA testing lowers the amount of lead that can be in children’s products.

Price: $45

ecogear Earth Series Glacier Backpack in pink or grayGroovy Green Livin non-toxic backpack

This company makes their backpacks with planet-friendly organic cotton, PVC-free materials, recycled plastics and toxic-free dyes and components. This backpack is a perfect size for elementary school students.

Price: $25.00

Beatrix New York Big Kid Backpack (Ages 5-10) Groovy Green Livin non-toxic backpack

If you want to stick with a cute backpack for a few more years then this is your bag! The packs are designed for ages 5 to 10 and are PVC, lead, phthalate & BPA free.

Price: $51.00

SoYoung Junior Backpack & Lunch Bag

I lGroovy Green Livin non-toxic backpackove the look of this backpack. Designed with the grade-schooler in mind, this backpack has adjustable straps which allow the backpack to be carried by a 6 year old, but mom and dad can borrow it too. It comes with a fully insulated collapsible lunch bag. SoYoung’s backpacks are PVC, phthalate and lead free. Take a look at the Grey Rocket Backpack, Grey Robot Backpack and the Pink Fawn Backpack too!

Price: $50-$75 (with lunch bag)

Do you have a favorite non-toxic backpack for an elementary school child?

Disclosure:  I received no monetary compensation and all opinions expressed are my own. This post may contain affiliate links for which I will earn compensation if you make a purchase. Thank you for supporting Groovy Green Livin! I’m disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255, Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Photo credit © Monkey Business #11889842

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About Lori

I’m Lori Popkewitz Alper, a recovering attorney, mom of three and the Founder of Groovy Green Livin. Come along with me as I work hard to make the world a little safer for each of us.

Click HERE to contact Lori

Lori on ABC World News

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