I'm the first to admit I'm not the greenest Mom on the planet. While we recycle glass and cans at home, and I try to be limit my use of paper towels, Ziploc bags and plastic cutlery, often I opt for convenience over preserving Mother Nature. I think that's why I love the idea behind the Complete Laptop Lunch System sold at the eco-friendly theultimategreenstore.com, but I may not be the best person to put it into practice.
The Laptop Lunch System is comprised of a Japanese-like bento box (a plastic box with smaller compartmental containers that fit inside), plus metal cutlery and a plastic 12-oz drink bottle that fit in a nifty insulated carrying case. While the Laptop Lunch System is designed for kids to bring to school (each piece is labeled with "Name:_________" to fill in with with permanent marker), it's streamlined and non-cutesy enough for me to use it on my travels, too.
An accompanying Laptop Lunch user's guide/recipe book spells out the philosophy behind using such a lunch box: putting foods into reusable plastic containers is so much better for the planet than buying single-serving yogurts and chips in plastic bags, or sending kids to school with sandwiches in Ziploc bags and plastic forks -- all items that end up in landfills. Plus, highly processed foods sold in such packaging are more expensive than buying and cooking in bulk. Another big bonus: whole foods made at home are also a heck of a lot healthier.
The lunch box comes with two internal, covered containers, for "wet" items like yogurt, cottage cheese and salad dressings, as well as three open containers for dry items like veggies, cheese slices, sushi, salad, fruit and nuts. A sandwich can be sliced in half and stacked in a large container; remove a couple containers to fit a large item like a bagel. Containers are dishwasher and microwave safe (if you're a believer in microwaving plastic).
I tested the product on a day outing with my kids. It was a very overcast day in June (downright chilly, actually) so I didn't worry too much about keeping my cottage cheese, deli meat and fruit refrigerated. Still, I wanted my food cold(ish), so I actually stuck the mini 3-oz freezer gel pack from my IcyBag into a slim zipper compartment on the outside of the bag; there's no place for any larger ice packs (which concerns me a little in terms of food potentially going bad).
I liked using the Laptop Lunch System. I felt a little like Alice in Wonderland -- big ol' giant person using a diminutive lunch box. But the limited packing space definitely helps limit portion sizes, which is not a bad thing. My guess is, once the school year starts, my children are going to fight over who gets to use it. The compartmentalized lunch box is definitely a different concept here in the States, and will likely draw plenty of attention at the cafeteria table.
Purchase the Complete Laptop Lunch System at theultimategreenstore.com for $37.99. Or, buy the bento box, silverware and user's guide (without the insulated case and drink bottle) for $22.99.
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