Back To School: Sustainable Accessories


It is hard to believe that the time to start planning for our kids to go back to school is here. Along with the school-required shopping list, a lot of us are also thinking about what lunch box, backpack, snack containers, water bottles, and clothing items will be best for our kids’ return to school.

While using what you already have is the first priority, we are always researching the most sustainable options out there for purchase. To cut down on the length of the post, we are doing back-to-school as a multi-part series. Here, we are focusing on backpacks and lunchboxes and have rounded up our favorites here!


Fjall Raven

With the Swedish mantra in mind, “Straight backs are happy backs,” Fjällräven created the first Kånken in 1978 to spare the backs of school children, as back problems had begun to appear in increasingly younger age groups. Fjall Raven also considers sustainability from its design and materials to its production. These bags are intended to stand the test of time. Their designs are simple but come in a wide variety of colors. I made the mistake of asking Wil which color he wanted, so he might be sporting a black backpack this year (sigh!). I am hoping that adding a few colorful patches will liven it up!

*They are currently having issues with counterfeit bags so only purchase through their website or a certified retailer (a list of these is available on their website).



Parkland has the cutest, most vibrant prints! They carry many different sizes of backpacks, lunch sacks and even fanny packs! The exterior fabric of all Parkland products is made from 100% recycled water bottles. The vegan leather diamonds on their bags are made from apples. The recycled polyester they use is supplied by a partner in Shanghai, China, who is a global leader in producing recycled fabric. They are committed to ensuring our factories follow international standards regarding labor, wages and safety practices. They believe in being very hands-on with our manufacturing process and work very closely with our factories.


Lunch Boxes

For lunchboxes, the most sustainable options are ones that have promote the least amount of packaging inside. Here are a few of our favorite reusable snack bins, lunch boxes and bento boxes… all fabulously green options!

Planet Box

We love PlanetBox for our kids because of their simplicity for both the kids and for Mama (the one who packs lunch). With three kids, its so nice to already have the containers built into the lunchbox so I don’t have to worry about what is washed and what isn’t. As a former preschool teacher, I can also attest to it being nice to open only one item versus multiple containers or snack packages. Don’t even get me started on Gogurt Packs or those Danimals drinks that would both inevitably spill all over my hands (or even my clothes) when helping the students with their lunches!

We decided to get the Rover version for its many compartments but they also have two other sizes depending on what your child prefers. They are all very durable and dishwasher safe! I purchased the accompanying lunchbox to solve the problems of where I would put the silverware, napkin and drink! They have so many cute options!



Another favorite! The lunch bins are probably better for older kids lunches but the snack bins are perfect for any kid or adult’s snack time. If I packed a lunch, it would be in one of these since I am not going to carry a lunchbox around, and it would fit nicely in a purse or backpack. I often carry one of these out to dinner for takeout!


Getting ready to go back to school is such an exciting time. I miss the routine that school provides as a parent and seeing my child meet new friends and learn new things warms my heart. This year, I am especially excited since we will be returning home to Houston from a year away in North Carolina. The kids will meet the children they will become lifelong friends with! My husband grew up in Houston and we still regularly hang out with the friends he met in preschool and elementary school!

Happy Back to School!

x, Amy

Potty Training: a waste-reducing milestone


This year we have saved 339 pounds of food scraps from entering landfills by composting with CompostNow,  changed our purchasing habits to avoid most plastic packaging and started recycling what plastic we do accumulate through TerraCycle. But with 20 billion disposable diapers dumped into landfills each year (EPA), accounting for more than 3.5 million tons of waste, we might have accomplished our most waste-free change yet… potty training our 2.5 year old! 

Potty training is no easy feat, so following someone’s sage advice is wise. When I potty trained our oldest, I devoured Brandi Bruck’s book, Potty Training in 3 Days and followed her method to a tee. I had my in laws take Joseph for the weekend so I could give my full attention to Wil. We packed up our diapers to say goodbye and didn’t watch television or any screens for three days. I made the perfect potty chart for him (see below) with presents purchased for every eight stickers on his chart, and we gave him a treat for every time he went pee pee or poo poo. It was very organized and worked perfectly. He was potty trained in 3 days. 

Wil with his potty training chart when he was 2.5 years old.

Wil with his potty training chart when he was 2.5 years old.

I’m embarrassed how low-grade this looks compared to Wil’s. Like I said, this was last minute!

I’m embarrassed how low-grade this looks compared to Wil’s. Like I said, this was last minute!

Poor middle-child Joseph did not get the same treatment. I decided day of to start the training while our nanny was on vacation. It was me, Joseph, Isabel, and Wil in the house in the middle of the hot North Carolina summer. We were probably going to be inside all day anyways, so I was determined to accomplish something useful. I used Bruck’s method in my own revised, realistic way, and with what I already had in the house. I ripped out a sheet of paper from “The Secret Life of Pets 2” coloring book to use as his potty chart (it also had stickers in it). I threw some underwear on him with a short shirt. You want a short shirt so you can easily see if they start peeing. We already had the Baby Bjorn seat insert and Baby Bjorn step stool, so I took him to the bathroom and showed him how to pull down his pants, sit, and go potty on the toilet. 

We modified Bucks’ rules of potty training and allowed him to watch TV (Mama was in survival mode)!

We modified Bucks’ rules of potty training and allowed him to watch TV (Mama was in survival mode)!

I told him Thomas on the underwear he was wearing did not want to get wet. I also said, “Let me know when you need to go pee pee or poo poo and then you can get a treat and sticker” about a hundred times the first day. Brucks recommends giving one treat for pee and two treats for poop and a sticker on the chart for every time the child successfully gets something in the toilet. He got really excited about getting so many treats and stickers so  he was regularly going in the toilet when he was thinking about it, but he also had many accidents ( especially poop accidents). Because I was alone with all three kids all day, I ended up letting him watch a lot of TV for my own survival (seen in pic). I think that slowed down his initial training because he would get distracted by the screen. The first days were MESSY, but finally by the fourth day he really started to get it and would go on his own without me asking. He was even successful on our first outing to a birthday party (seen below). Bucks recommends not going on any outings until at least 3 days into potty training.

First outing post potty training. A birthday party at a local farm.

First outing post potty training. A birthday party at a local farm.

It’s fun to see your child’s personality come out during the potty training process. Joseph is a very exuberant, determined, and independent little boy. He now refuses to have me help him in the bathroom and says, “NO, me!” and closes the door when I try to help. After he goes I can always hear him applaud himself with a “Yay!”. I am so proud of him and know that he feels proud of himself. Because I decided last minute to do the potty training, I wasn’t prepared with toys for every eight times he successfully went potty. I think this was fine because he remained excited enough about the stickers and treats. I had told him when he filled the coloring page full of stickers, then he would get a new toy. We chose a fire station by Green Toys that he LOVED, and knew he got because of his hard work!

Joseph and Isabel playing with his new fire station.

Joseph and Isabel playing with his new fire station.

Two down… now only one to go (maybe in a year or so!).

our Potty training essentials

I am no expert, but please comment if you have any questions about potty training!



Saying goodbye to our dog


I planned on writing a post about something else this week, but I can’t think about anything other than losing our beloved dog, Max. He died somewhat suddenly last Thursday from complications stemming from congestive heart failure.  Max was my first baby. I got him when I was just 22 years old, in that vulnerable time after graduating from college. It was 2008 and I had just moved from Richmond to Austin to look for a job in public relations when firms were more keen to lay people off. My personal life also seemed a mess as David and I were trying to figure out if we were just college sweethearts or real-life partners (thankfully we ended up being the latter). So I was jobless, on a break from my relationship, and in a new city trying to figure out where my life was headed, when along came Max, my sweet little Cavalier King Charles. He gave me so much comfort and companionship, it was everything I needed at the time.


After a year and two internships in Austin, Max and I moved to Houston. David was attending medical school and I took a job teaching pre-k and enrolled in a Masters of Education program. David proposed soon after we moved and I couldn’t have been more excited to spend the rest of my life with him.

I had to have Max in one of my bridal portrait shots. It is actually the only one of them I have framed in our house.

I had to have Max in one of my bridal portrait shots. It is actually the only one of them I have framed in our house.

Max and I, along with David and his cat, Mr. Kitty, all moved in together soon after our engagement. Max loved everyone and every animal he met and he and Mr. Kitty got along famously. They would run around and chase each other while David and I were out during the day and would even snuggle with each other regularly.


After David finished his medical school training, he applied to orthopedic residencies across the country and eventually chose the program at University of Texas at Houston. Knowing we would be in Houston for the next five years and would likely start a family, we bought a house in West University in Houston. Max was there, of course!


Max was there for every milestone in our lives. From my first jobs out of college, to our wedding, first house, and the birth of all of our three children. Max provided me with stability as my life had its ups and downs during my twenties and early thirties. He was a dependable companion as I grew into adulthood. We’ve really grown up since he came into my life, and he certainly played a role in shaping our family!

Max in front of our first house in Houston (left) and with David in the backyard (above).

Max in front of our first house in Houston (left) and with David in the backyard (above).

Max with Wil (left), Joseph (center) and Isabel (right). The kids would sometimes pull on Max but he would never show a hint of aggression. He always wanted to be near them.

Max with Wil (left), Joseph (center) and Isabel (right). The kids would sometimes pull on Max but he would never show a hint of aggression. He always wanted to be near them.


Max assumed the role of family dog effortlessly as kids 1, 2, and then 3 came into the picture. It was so touching to watch Wil, Joseph, and Isabel grow attachments to him, give him kisses and hugs when they were being sweet, and Wil often calling him “His best friend”. The hardest part about him passing was the timing. Timing is never good for loss but Wil was in Houston with his grandparents when it happened, so we had to tell him when he got back and he felt like he didn’t get to say goodbye. It is hard to know the right way to tell a four and a half year old that their dog died. Wil is very curious and fact oriented so I responded with the honest truth when he asked very detailed questions about how he died. Joseph and Isabel were able to say their goodbyes in whatever way a two and a half and one year old can. Joseph gave him a hug at the animal hospital and said, “Bye bye Max”.


I will probably harbor some guilt for a bit around Max’s passing. In his last years, he slowly went from being the center of my world to someone else I needed to take care of on top of three young children, so the guilt of not giving him enough attention feels hard to reconcile. Each day gets better though and I know I’ll soon remember Max with all the good memories we had with him. He really was the best dog and he will forever be missed.