From brown paper bags and napkins to plastic produce bags at the grocery store and the plethora of packaging that comes with store-bought, packaged snacks, school lunches can create a lot of unnecessary waste and expense. These three tips for waste-free, back-to-school lunches will help you start the school year off green.
#1 Eat Locally and Seasonally
By purchasing local, seasonal vegetables from a farmer’s market or purchasing a CSA share, you reduce the amount of pollution created when out of season produce is transported long distances and can eliminate the need for packaging by bringing your own produce bags and to the farmer’s market or your CSA drop off location. By buying fruits and veggies in this way, you won’t need to visit the grocery store produce aisle and can avoid plastic packaging by not buying imported, boxed tomatoes, berries, and greens. Plus, seasonal produce packs more nutrients and is healthy for your family, and is easier on the wallet because it’s more abundant than out-of-season produce.
Many parents have become aware that plastics contain harmful endocrine-disrupters like BPA and phthalates, and plastic baggies are among the biggest offenders. Aside from the health concern, the average family packing lunches using sandwich bags and pre-packaged snacks like granola bars or crackers creates 4,320 pieces of trash per year—that’s a lot of trash!
Eliminate lunch and after-school waste by replacing brown bags and plastic baggies with an eco-friendly, stainless steel bento box with separated compartments or containers for the main dish and sides. By prepping meals and snacks ahead of time, you can pack your kids’ lunches with homemade granola bars, chopped fruits and veggies, or bulk snacks like sesame sticks to eliminate packaging found around store-bought snacks and the need for baggies. Skip plastic silverware and paper napkins and instead buy a few sets of cloth napkins and bamboo cutlery.
#3 Use Non-toxic, Reusable Water Bottles & Lunchware Accessories
Now that we know that plastics are harmful to our health and the environment, why waste money and add to the Pacific Ocean’s island of trash by sending your kids to school with bottled water and boxed milk or juice? Invest in a set of really great, stainless steel bottles (which are free of all the harmful chemicals found in plastic) and fill these with drinks for your student to take to school.
What’s your favorite zero-waste lunch or snack accessory?
photo credit: ECOLunchBox