How to Prepare Waste-Free School Lunches
In the frantic rush to get the kids off to school with a healthy lunch in hand, we go for convenience.
We stuff sandwiches and other goodies into plastic baggies or wrap them up in aluminum foil and wax paper; we toss individual packages of chips, yogurts, puddings, and juices into bags — packaging that gets a single use and then lands in the garbage...and eventually the landfill.
The cost of convenience is high, however. In fact, according to Waste Free Lunches, an average school-aged child's lunch box generates an estimated 67 pounds of waste per school year. That's 18,760 pounds of lunch waste for just one average-size elementary school. As a result, our landfills are overflowing and incinerators are burning up loads of plastic waste, polluting the air we breathe. Meanwhile, Ecowatch reports that "93 percent of Americans age 6 or older test positive BPA (a plastic chemical)."
Here are some ideas for how to turn a typical disposable school lunch into a waste-free, reusable lunch.
1. Reusable Containers
Store these foods in reusable containers instead of single-use plastic bags or aluminum foil:
- Sandwiches and wraps
- Sliced cheese and cut fresh fruit and veggies
- Crackers, pretzels, cookies, chips, and other snacks
2. Ditch Pre-Packs
Instead of pre-packaged individual-serving containers, put these foods in reusable jar containers:
- Soups, stews, and chilis can go into Thermos-style insulated jars
- Yogurts, applesauces, and pudding go well with sturdy, screw-top jar containers to prevent leaking
3. Say No to the Pouch
Instead of sending juice, milk, or other drinks in individual cartons or pouches, fill a reusable, washable drinking cup (one with a good seal!).
4. Reuse Utensils
Instead of packing plastic forks and spoons and paper napkins, include cloth napkins and reusable utensils in lunch boxes.
Sure, there's bound to be a learning curve as kids get used to toting empties back home for washing, but once you establish your waste-free routine, you'll both feel good about your eco-smart lunch box.
BONUS: Making lunches like this means you can buy foods in larger quantities — which saves money while it protects the planet! Waste Free Lunches estimates that packing a waste-free lunch results in a savings of $246.60 per person each school year.
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