Martina Barrera-Hernandez's lunch bag was a sight to behold. It wasn't so much the tasty contents, although the Argentinean empanadas smelled divine. But Martina's hot pink, eco-friendly bag has become the newest must-have on the Walnut Creek Intermediate campus. And it's the brainchild of a seventh-grader and her mom.
Between chip bags and sandwich wrappers, the average youngster generates 67 pounds of lunch bag debris a year. That bothered young Adrienne Boukis, a Walnut Creek middle schooler who didn't want to tote a lunchbox but balked at disposables.
"It wasn't good for the environment at all," she says.
So Adrienne asked her mother if she'd run across any alternatives, something like the classic brown bag, but reusable, washable and cool.
"I made this really funky prototype out of recyclable material," Rosalind Boukis recalls. "Funny thing is, they aren't flashy or anything exciting. But they are useful."
Soon, a small subset of the school population was toting them, not just in discreet taupe or black, but hot pink and neon green too.
"The first day I showed my friends and they thought it was really cool," says Adrienne. "They wanted me to bring them one. And it turned into this bigger thing."
Suddenly, Adrienne's anti-brown bag was a hot item. A local supermarket chain came calling. Bolder Boulder, a Colorado foot race that draws 50,000 runners a year, used the bags to deliver racers' lunches. And Disney's Family.Com named the bags one of its six favorite green ideas for 2008.
"They're half the size of binder paper," says Adrienne. "You can put it in your pocket, put it in your backpack, go in the washing machine, and you can eventually throw it away. It decomposes really fast."
Now the little bags are sending aid to children in cyclone-stricken Myanmar too. Adrienne's "Teens Around the World" class, an interdisciplinary elective with a philanthropic bent, started selling the lunchtime totes last week. Within 24 hours, students had raised nearly $1,000 for the Save the Children Foundation, making lunchtime a little greener too.
Contact Jackie Burrell at email@example.com.