Today, I’m “chatting” with the lovely Amy of Ojamiya, one of my teammates on Team Eco Etsy. Amy sells altered bento boxes, a great way to keep your lunches green. Here, she talks a little about business, Japan, lunches, creative upcycling and going green green green!
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
(Giggling – this is always hard for me to answer. Where do I start?) I’m an avid shop owner and stay at home mom. I live in a small town in the upper midwest with 2 amazing kids, a fabulous hubby and two lazy fuzzballs (cats). It’s a very abnormal day if I don’t have a project brewing. I love learning about Japan and doing photography, fiber arts, sewing, computers and walking.
Tell me a bit about your business. Please share some of the green aspects of it.
My shop, Ojami on Etsy, started out of my love for Japan. The first items I sold were otedama sets (a traditional Japanese juggling and jacks game) and I’ve been adding from there. The bento obsession came from wanting to provide a healthy lunch for my kids. Bento is a Japanese boxed lunch and lends itself naturally to reducing the amount of throw away waste from lunches. No plastic baggies, no bags from junk food (because you don’t put in junk food), no throwaway plastic silverware.
I keep looking for ways can make my business more green. Here are some of the things I’ve worked in so far:
- I love a good fabric find and upcycle garments into bags whenever I can.
- My boxes, labels and packaging are all recycled or recylable – even the scraps cut from my shipping label can be used as packing.
- I try to keep any paperwork that I can digital. (And do computer backups!)
- Fabric scraps are usually just threads before I am willing to toss them. Small scraps can be re-used into otedama balls or ornaments.
- All my products are recyclable and most can be reused many times over.
What is your creative process like?
I must confess my creative process is pretty random, unlike the rest of my business and personal life (where I obsess about being efficient in both). Ideas tend to pop into my head at what ever time they feel like, so there’s always a notebook or sticky note handy – in my purse, on my computer, on my dresser,… When the idea is worked out enough on paper, I’ll tinker with it in the evenings after the kids go to bed. Sometimes the idea works as well in reality as it looked on paper and it’s a product right away. Other times, there’s a lot of trial and error. Working through the problems usually requires me to turn on music or a story to help keep me focused.
My weakness in the creative process is wanting to try to do all the ideas. I love to try new things. There’s not enough time – and that was a very difficult realization for me. I’m learning to pick the most important and the best, and let the rest go. Just because it’s “good, doesn’t mean it’s “the best”.
Problems I’ve had to try to solve for myself or my family usually result in my best ideas. My passion will be the strongest about these ideas and products, too.
I’d like to encourage everyone to keep trying at things that you feel are important – your products and your dreams. Just because something doesn’t look like it will work right away, doesn’t mean it won’t. Be stubborn. Step outside your usual way of thinking. Turn the problem on its ear and question the assumptions. Adapt. The difficulties and how we get through them are a big part of what makes us who we are.
Can you share any tips you might have for packing easy, affordable, green lunches in your beautiful bento boxes? Perhaps some for on-the-go adults at work (or wherever) and some for parents packing lunches for their kids?
My passion with the bentos is that my kids get a healthy alternative to the junk offered at our school. No chips, pop and a cookie for lunch. (Seriously, our school has had to send home letters about that!) I don’t go for extra cute or fancy in my lunches – simplicity is key.
A few general lunch packing tips:
- Make meal a plan and use it to help with your grocery list. Even if you don’t follow it EVERY day, you at least have a plan and the supplies on hand. (This sounds basic, but you’d be surprised at how many people only plan the evening meal and don’t consider lunch!)
- Go ahead and have the same veggie or fruit more than once. If you can’t just buy a few berries or one head of broccoli, use it up over the next few days.
– Stock up on your favorites. Use fresh when ever you can, but make sure you get fruits and veggies in! My fridge always has grape tomatoes, snap peas, and oranges. My freezer always has frozen berries and veggies for times in a pinch.
– Allow for a “treat” every once in a while. I let my kids have PBJs on Fridays. (No sugar in my peanut butter, but they get the sugar from the spreadable fruit or honey.) If it’s been a tough week, I’ll tuck in a teaspoon sized candy or treat.
– If you’re usually rushing out the door, like my family and I do, consider making your lunch at night or at least do any cooking for your lunch at night. I’ve been eating breakfast before my kids get up, and doing the food prep and packing lunch for them and for myself while they eat breakfast.
Bento specific tips:
– Make sure you have the right sized box for your calorie needs. When packed to the rim with no space and with the proportions of 3:1:2 for grain to protien to veggie and fruit, the calories are approximately the number of milliliters of the box. See Lunch in a Box’s guide for more detail –
Bento boxes usually look very small compared to American lunch boxes. But the space is completely filled and the boxes are a good gauge for a healthy amount of food.
– After washing, pat fruits and veggies dry so they don’t get other things wet.
– A little lemon juice on cut fruits and avocados helps keep the color nicely. (And it’s really yummy on bananas.)
– Lettuce and spinach work great as food dividers (i.e. to keep rice off your orange sections).
– Reheat any leftovers for food safety. Then cool them before sticking them in your bento box, so they don’t get evaporation on the lid. (I usually warm up foods first, then stick them on a plate and in my freezer to cool them while I make the rest of the lunch).
– If you have temperature sensitive foods like poultry, use a bento box with a lid that’s an ice pack or strap an ice pack to your box closest to where the sensitive food is.
Be sure to look for Ojami around the web at:
Thanks to Amy for this informative and inspirational interview!
Photos used with permission.