What’s On Your Lunch Box?

What’s On Your Lunch Box?
By Debra L. Smith, Attorney at Law

It is more difficult that it used to be to find a lunch box that is free from a concerning chemical smell.

To be more ecologically responsible, I purchased stainless steel Lunchbots and To-Go Ware Tiffin Sidekick to take lunch, plus Klean Kanteen water bottles for drinking water on the go.  Sandwiches fit easily in the Lunchbots and snacks fit in the To-Go Ware Tiffin Sidekick. The stainless steel Lunchbots avoid the use of plastic bags being placed in the environment after use. Klean Kanteen water bottles avoid my being exposed to BPA that is in some plastic bottles. Water tastes good in these water bottles.

I was one of the signature signers for the Massachusetts Bar Association’s Green Guidelines, where lawyers sign a pledge to make best efforts to be green in ones office. http://www.massbar.org/media/252221/greenguidelines0108.pdf So, I do make best efforts to be ecologically responsible.

When on trial, I take my lunch so I can maximize the time between the morning and afternoon session to prepare for the afternoon session if needed. Since my cloth lunch box was seeing some wear and it was really too small for all of my green purchases, I sought out to find a lunch box to fit my Lunchbots, the To-Go Ware Tiffin Sidekick and the Klean Kanteen water bottles.

Figuring that R.E.I. had good products, at the end of May, 2014, I purchased a large lunch box called REI Lunch icebox. When I opened the lunch box, it had a concerning chemical smell. I figured that if you put food inside a lunch box, then it was important to find out what was sprayed on the product. The pleasant young woman store sales clerk at R.E.I. assured me that the product was fine and that she owned one, so I purchased it.

I decided to do more research on the product and called R.E.I.’s Customer Service Department to find out what the smell was in my lunch box. After a couple of phone calls, on June 9, 2014, I received an e-mail from Courtney Gearhart from REI Public Affairs, where she stated:
“Many of our products use chemical treatments to improve the performance of the material substrate. All of these treatments-and the substrates-are required to meet our restricted substances list. This list includes globally regulated chemicals, as well as an extensive list of substances that REI voluntarily restricts.

To further build upon the restricted substances list, REI is also converting all of our fabrics to the bluesign® certification. You may have seen our recent press release regarding this decision. By having bluesign certified materials, we’re working to prevent chemicals of concern from entering into our products during each step of the manufacturing process. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to look into the bluesign program, as it may help you find brands and products that meet the industry’s highest standard for chemical sensitivity and concern.”

I was never told what chemicals were in my lunch box. It sounds to me that the new safer chemicals with bluesign® certification are not on my lunch box. To me, I’d rather have a lunch box that is safe and free from concerning chemicals than have “chemical treatments to improve performance of the material substrate.”