When it comes to the value of the lunch your child eats at school, citizenpip is giving parents something else to think about. How much does it cost our enviroment each time a child takes tossable lunch supplies to school? The average lunch includes a paper bag, a couple ziploc bags, a paper napkin, and maybe some plastic utensils, all of which are items making their way into the trash. Add up the daily tally of waste for your own kids and multiply that by the number of days your kids have lunch at school. The numbers are astounding.
Christina Ip-Toma, the founder of citizenpip and a mom, knows first hand how much trash it can all amount to. Those little plastic bags were everywhere, in her kid’s lunch and in the car for snacks. When Christina set out to find a better alternative, she came up with a business instead. Her lunch kits are easy to use, stylish, and very earth friendly.
Tell us about citizenpip.
citizenpip offers convenient reusable lunch kits to make it easy for busy families to pack a waste-free lunch.
What inspired your reusable lunch kits?
With three boys, our familiy packs at least two lunches each day and I constantly carry food around for my son who has food allergies. One day, I noticed all the plastic baggies I was using every day and I just thought there has got to be a better way. I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for and I figured a lot of other people might switch to reusable if they could find an easy alternative, so I decided to start citizenpip!
We currently have three lunch bag styles — which we call Eat, Yum, and Tasty.
What is included in a kit?
We offer three convenient kits and many individual items. For kids who are all about sandwiches, we offer the Square Meal kit which includes an insulated lunch bag, sandwich and snack sized airtight food containers, a stainless steel water bottle, and a set of five cotton napkins. For more lunch options and packing flexibility, the Soup to Nuts kit comes with everything in the Square Meal kit, plus an insulated stainless steel food jar and stainless steel flatware. And for those who already have a beloved lunch bag, we offer the BYOB Kit, which includes everything you need to pack a waste-free lunch except the lunch bag. Since all products can be purchased individually, families can pick and choose just the items they need, and also purchase spare parts to avoid washing the dishes everyday!
First, we offer kits that include everything you need to pack a waste-free lunch, including napkins and flatware. All items have been carefully coordinated and have been tested to the same high standard. Second, citizenpip lunch kits are designed to be flexible. Our lunch bag can accommodate many types of containers. We all have food containers in our cabinets already — and I wanted to be able to use any type of container with the kit. Lastly, and most importantly, all citizenpip products are what we call “muck-free”: they have been tested by a CPSIA accredited lab to be lead-free, phthalate-free and BPA-free.
Do you have any goals that you hope to accomplish within the next year? Any long-term goals?
We have lots of great ideas about adding new products to make it easy for families to go green! In the next year, we would love to add more fun designs. Working with schools has also been a great way to engage and rally entire communities around reducing waste, so I plan to grow our school program where we give a percentage of sales back to partner schools.
What are some of the lessons your business has taught you as it has grown?
I’ve looked at this whole process of launching a business as one big learning experience! There can be a lot of challenges to starting a business, but I’ve learned to look at these as learning opportunities instead of hurdles. More than anything, starting citizenpip has taught me that there is always a solution to a problem!
What are some tips or tricks that you have used to help you balance your time between business and family?
This is still a work in progress! Starting your own business is a lot like having a baby. You think about it all the time, you worry about it, you want to nurture it and see it grow. But while I’m thinking about the business a lot of the time, I have the flexibility to be with my kids at their various activities throughout the week. Also, I try to dedicate weekend days to family activiities. I tend to work a lot at night when everyone is asleep.
Do you have any advice for parents that are trying to build a business of their own?
Go for it! There are definitely challenges (see above!) because starting a business is time consuming and one thing most parents do not have enough of is time! But having your own business allows you more flexibility to spend time with your kids during the day. It is also a great opportunity to really focus on something you feel passionate about and share this passion with your kids.