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Snackabys Conquer the Plastic Baggie Monster

Locally-made reusable, wipeable, washable earth-friendly snack, storage bags

West Orange moms and business owners Jen Larsen and Jen Dowd have it in the bag with their new business selling reusable, wipeable, washable environmentally friendly Snackaby snack and storage bags.

"We're two moms and we created Snackabys because we just couldn't stand using so many plastic snack baggies for our sons' lunches," said Larsen.

They figured there must be a better option that would satisfy their needs for a greener, safer, baggie. When they found out there wasn't, they made their own and then decided to start a business.

The colorful bags are made of laminated cotton on the outside and a food-safe, polyurethane laminate that is free of DEHP, Phthalate and BPA plasticizers, on the inside.

Snackabys comes in two sizes — sandwich and snack size — and three attractive designs.

Larsen said that the materials resist flaking and drying out even after many trips through the dishwasher.

The velco closure is easy for little fingers to open but secure enough to keep apple slices from browning for a whole day, according to Dowd.

A Snackaby kept my dog's smelly salmon treats from stinking up or spilling in my purse.

The bags score high on the "5 Cs" I try to incorporate into my purchases: concern, convenience, community, conservation and cost.

On the concern front, Snackabys are an excellent alternative for families who are looking to reduce the amount of plastic exposure — and potential toxicity — in their home and especially around their kids.

BPA and other chemicals commonly found in plastic food containers and baggies cause cancer and reproductive system changes, more so in smaller growing bodies. If this is news to you, as a first step you can read the FDA's warning statement about products with BPA.

Convenience. Re-using Snackabys means one less thing to shop for, store and run out of.

For conservation, re-using bags reduces energy, manufacturing and transportation costs to create new bags. Re-using a sturdy bag keeps discarded baggies out of our landfills, oceans and incinerators.

Snackaby is a West Orange-based business, so the business scores high for community on my checklist. After selling the initial home-sewn batches to friends and neighbors, Larsen and Dowd went in search of a local manufacturer.

Larsen wrote about the hunt that ended with a contract to a Passiac-based manufacturer. Also local is the design firm Mutant Media that created the adorable wallaby logo.

And finally, cost. At $8 for a small, $10 for a big or $17 for the set, I figure you'll recoup the investment in less than a school year. A set would make a thoughtful, affordable earth-conscious gift for a new parent or birthday.

Plus, Snackabys are fun. My six-year-old niece is delighted with "her" Snackaby and having the responsibility of choosing a snack to go inside it every day.

While designed for food, Dowd said Snackaby customers are also using them for cosmetics, sunglasses, tiny toys, nature collections, and baby wipes.

Dowd and Larsen sell Snackabys through their Etsy.com site and most recently at the West Orange Street Fair. Now that they have a manufacturer lined up, the pair is gearing up for bigger sales and possibly school fundraisers.

Dowd told me that, "We want to contribute to creating a more sustainable world where everyone shares responsibility for it."

By taking responsibility for making West Orange a little greener and by partnering with local businesses, I think Dowd and Larsen are doing just that.

Can a locally-made reusable bag to carry your kid's pretzels really make all that much of a difference? Since our lives are nothing but all our small choices added up, I'd willing to bet it can.  

[Disclosure: Sommer received Snackaby products free of charge. Snackaby co-owner Jennifer Larsen is also a Patch contributor.]

Beverly Meaux June 21, 2011 at 01:33 PM
Congrats on having the courage to step forward to bring a solution to a problem. Good luck on being a start-up business showing how to be green. Question: what do you suggest is the best way to get the kids to create a new habit to bring these back home and not throw them away?
Jennifer Larsen June 21, 2011 at 01:36 PM
Snackabys are substantial enough that they don't look like something you would throw away. They have colorful designs that kids and grown-ups like. My 4-yr-old has claimed all of ours as "his." They are great for snacks in the car on a long trip, too.
Loren Svetvilas June 22, 2011 at 12:21 AM
These look great, Jen, and I look forward to ordering some for our family. (Just because the school year ended doesn't mean people should return to zip-loc bags -- especially since W.O. doesn't even RECYCLE the zip-locs!) We have gone all kindergarten, first, and second grades with reusable water bottles, cloth snack bags, reusable containers, reusable thermoses, and reusable sandwich wraps. (We do succumb to the occasional use of plastics and foil, though...!) It's very doable, and my kids are great at returning all the "pieces and parts". Good luck.

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