School lunches, both packed from home and served at school, amount to a massive amount of waste each year. If you pack your child’s lunch you can make a difference with these 10 easy steps to waste-free lunches.
1. Get a long-lasting awesome lunch box: Any old reusable lunch carrier is better than a plastic or paper bag, but you score many more waste-free points if you look for a long-lasting, well-made lunch box or lunch bag. Aim for a lunch carrier made from eco-friendly materials. Insulated carriers are also excellent as they allow you to carry cold food even in the summer heat – which means your child’s bag will work for school and summer camp.
2. Get a safe reusable drink bottle: Your child will need a great, BPA-free reusable water bottle and you may want to consider a smaller, also BPA-free bottle for juice or milk. Kids get sick of H2O day in and day out.
3. Get some safe reusable containers: You can look for BPA-free plastic containers or stainless steel mini food containers. Glass is too heavy and breakable, so I don’t recommend it for kids. Reusable containers are perfect for foods that could get smashed or leak – like a muffin or watermelon cubes.
4. Get some reusable baggies: You can use containers for everything, but reusable snack baggies and sandwich wraps save space in a lunch box and are perfect for less smooshy foods like crackers, dehydrated fruit or hard cookies. These eliminate plastic baggies, plastic wrap and foil altogether.
5. Get some ice packs: Even for an insulated lunch box, ice packs are nice if you want food to stay super cold and fresh. One tip: If your child has a cloth lunch sack make sure to wrap the ice pack in a little cloth sleeve or it’ll drip.
6. Get some cloth napkins: I suggest cheap cloth napkins for packed lunches because we always lose a few per year. I have no clue what Cedar’s doing with them, but they vanish like magic. Still, even factoring lost napkins in, cloth is much more cost effective and eco-friendly than paper.
7. Get at least one thermos bowl: A small thermos stainless food jar is perfect for sending pasta, soup and other mixed dish-minded foods to school.
8. Get some real silverware: Plastic silverware is such a waste, expensive and feels terrible compared to real silverware. Cedar has some special school silverware, so that we don’t lose any of our real set. Actually, he’s never lost a spoon or fork though.
9. Get some food your child will actually eat: Sure pack healthy lunches, but make sure it’s healthy food your child likes and will eat. If not, he’ll just toss it, thus creating waste. Also, he’ll be hungry and cranky when he gets home – NO fun.
10. Get organic: I’m sure I don’t have to tell you this, but organic is the way to go. If you think you can’t afford organic, you’re wrong. You can afford organic lunches, especially if you start planning for organic lunches now, so you’ll be prepared.
[image via Flickr user Terwilliger911]