We've been on a plastic-free crusade for the past 11 years since starting Life Without Plastic, our online store that offers alternatives to plastic products to help people live a more healthy and sustainable lifestyle. We feel we offer the greenest shade of plastic-free green because our products are not only healthy, ethically-sourced and created with the best materials we can find, they are made and packaged without plastic.
We may not have to remind anyone that plastic pollution has become an overwhelming disease that is threatening the health of our planet, let alone our own health as it infiltrates the global food chain. A recent survey of plastic production worldwide estimates that if plastic continues to be produced at the current rate, the planet will be afflicted with another 26.5 trillion pounds of it, in addition to the 18.2 trillion pounds that have already been produced since the 1950s. Already 90% of all sea birds contain plastic in their stomachs, and an estimated 100,000 sea turtles die each year from plastic ingestion. Moreover 93% of Americans have the common endocrine-disrupting plastic component bisphenol A (BPA) in their bloodstream. This has to stop. One solution to the problem is to offer more plastic-free products as alternative.
One item that is very challenging to find plastic-free is an insulated lunch bag that will keep your lunch cool or hot until it is time to eat. Plastic lunch bags tend to have a short life and once they start tearing and cracking they expose the insulating plastic foam, which can then start absorbing food leaking into the bag. Because they can't be washed properly, they’re often only wiped clean, which means that millions of bacteria can start colonizing in all those nooks and crannies. Yes, gross. And because they can’t be repaired effectively, they have to be thrown in the garbage because there is nothing in these bags that can be efficiently recycled...off to a landfill they go.
We've played around over the past few years with various ideas. The best material that we've found for optimal insulation is wool. In fact, when we first introduced a wool lunch bag product back in 2010, our plastic-free living blogger friend Beth Terry (http://myplasticfreelife.com) conducted a heat and cold test proving that wool performed just as well as plastic foam insulation if not better. See the results of her tests here.
The main challenge with plastic-free cloth lunch bags insulated with wool is ensuring they can be machine washed. This is an important element of durability. All of the earlier wool lunch bags we've offered have had a relatively thin layer of wool sewn into the fabric of the bag.
With the help of a good friend, Jean Corriveau, owner of the organic natural mattress company Obasan, and the collaboration of another dear friend, Tracey Vibert, seamstress, we've come up with a new concept for a plastic-free machine washable insulated lunch bag.
Our Solution: The Clean Lunch Bag
Jean Corriveau contacted us a few years ago to ask us if we might have a use for an 80% GOTS-certified organic wool textile he had created by using up all the leftover scraps from his organic mattress manufacturing (the other 20% is GOTS-certified organic cotton and GOLS-certified organic rubber scraps). The textile had a sufficiently robust thickness and could hold itself nicely when shaped as a square or rectangle. This gave us the idea of using this soft wool textile as removable insulating panels for a plastic-free lunch bag.
Not only do these panels offer excellent insulation potential, but they are made of a high quality organic material that may otherwise have been thrown out as leftover scrap from an industrial production process. Cradle-to-cradle, amazingly sustainable. We loved it!
So we designed the Clean Lunch Bag around these insulating wool panels. The bag shell prototype is made of hemp fabric but we may offer the option to have GOTS-certified organic cotton canvas or a blend of hemp and cotton depending on your feedback.
We created a lining made of GOTS-certified organic cotton with pockets to hold the panels in place. The panels can be easily removed when it is time to clean the bag in the washing machine. In its current form, the lining is detached from the bag, but we may actually sew the pockets directly on the bag depending on your feedback.
In keeping with our promise of a 100% plastic-free product, we made sure the lining would attach to the bag shell with metal snap buttons. We also made it easy for small hands to open using a smooth high quality metal zipper. The zipper has a cotton fabric base.
We are very open to suggestions on ways to improve this bag to make it practical but also pleasing to the eye. We think it is really cool that all parts of the bag can be seen and the natural texture inspected.
When the bag is disassembled, it takes almost no space. So you could carry it with you in your luggage when traveling and it would allow you to pack a lunch when out and about or during layovers.
The bag is offered in two sizes: square and rectangular. The square bag is about 8" X 8" X 8" or 20 X 20 X 20 cm and the rectangular one is about 8" X 8" X 11" or 20 X 20 X 28 cm. The colour are all subject to change based on the feedback we will be getting. Currently we are planning to offer black, denim blue and burnt orange.
We used the square and rectangular shapes to maximize the space available for storing wide containers upright. Ice packs can fit right into the lining so they won’t sweat on the food.
Why seeking your support on Kickstarter?
The unique advantage of using Kickstarter to bring a new product to market is that it allows us to: 1) assess customer interest for a completely new product that does not already exist; 2) obtain customer feedback through an interface that allows for back-and-forth communication with our backers. We are committed to bringing to market the best possible plastic-free and zero waste lunch bag, but we need your help to fine tune the product and ensure it meets your needs. We see this as a waste-free and sustainable approach because your feedback ensures we are injecting valuable resources from the Earth into a project that is truly desired and supported.
What You're Funding
We have a couple of prototypes, but we are in the design phase, so we would love to hear your feedback - what would you love to see in a lunch bag? The design and look are subject to change as we are striving to ensure that by the time we launch the new Clean Lunch Bag, we have created the perfect product for your needs. If you support this project, we will be seeking your feedback as we continue the design process.
In addition to the help of Jean Corriveau at Obasan and Tracey Vibert, we have partnered with a delightful, world class, family-run manufacturing partner in India whom we know well and trust to produce this utterly unique lunch bag to our ethical manufacturing and high quality standards. We have met them in person and visited their welcoming and spotless factory where each bag will be made by hand.
By supporting our campaign and pledging now on KickStarter you’re telling us that you want this plastic-free alternative to become available to families around the world who wish to avoid plastic insulated lunch bags. With your help we can offer a more sustainable and eco-friendly way to carry lunches.
Thank you for your support and thank you for joining the plastic-free movement. Please tell your friends and share our page so we can achieve our goal and together minimize the waste and plastic entering landfills and oceans around the world.
Thank you also to the following people who have helped us make this project possible: Caelan Burningham-Benn at Soft Focus Films for the awesome video, Morgan Nordstrom for doing much of the ground work to get us started, Alise M. Bowler for most of the stunning photos, Eva von Jagow for the creative artwork and help with the promotion, Sarah Wylie for holding the fort, always, and providing great feedback and encouragement, and of course, as already mentioned, Jean Corriveau and Tracey Vibert for being ongoing inspiration.
Risks and challenges
We are hoping to have these lunch bags ready to ship by December 2017, which means they may be available as a Christmas or Holiday present. However, there is always the possibility of unexpected issues with our manufacturing partners, and such unpredictability could increase delivery time, so we set the delivery date to February 2018. Also, the prototypes we've created for this campaign are just that, prototypes. We are open to your feedback for changes to colours, fabric, even improvements to the actual design, so incorporation of such feedback may add delays to our production schedule.
We will be in constant contact with all our backers to let them know how production is going. Thank you so much for your support and understanding!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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