Zero-Waste School Lunches
by Dawn Francom
It’s that time of year again friends! BACK TO SCHOOL, and with back to school comes back to school lunches (Gosh I love food!). Now let’s think for a second. Does your kid’s lunch look like mine used to: plastic bagged sandwiches, plastic forks and spoons, juice box, individually wrapped cheese string and granola bars. Seem familiar? I have no hard feelings towards my parents for these types of lunches, of course, both being single parents, environmental awareness wasn’t exactly on their radar. Like most families, they were busy with multiple children, and working full time jobs to support us. However today, awareness is higher than ever. Changes are being made and people are focusing more on the enviro-friendly side of practically everything; including bagged lunches. Breaking the routine is really the hardest part of any change. With the following guidelines, you can turn that ordinary lunch into a Zero Waste lunch.
The average juice box does not get recycled, between that and the high levels of processed sugar, it’s important we start here. They’re just not good for anyone. The amount of preservatives and chemicals in them are just so unnecessary. Make juice yourself and bottle it in reusable container like “Juice in a Box” or a stainless steel water bottle. Even consider skipping the juice all together and stick to filtered tap water.
Try to avoid using them at all by using reusable containers. There’s plenty of options such as stainless steel (instead of glass for kids). It’s washable, reusable and basically kid proof. I wouldn’t feel comfortable sending a 5 year old with a glass jar… we all know that accidents happen, and it can break. Stainless steel is strong enough to let kids be kids. I’d also urge people to avoid plastic as much as possible. Chemicals from the plastic can leach into the food, causing health issues. BPA (Bisphenol A – an industrial chemical used to make hardened plastics and the linings of most canned foods, as well as other products) is one of the most known, but BPA free doesn’t mean that there aren’t other chemicals that won’t cause damage as well. It’s best to avoid them completely.
WHY?! Simple solution, send them with regular silverware. Rewash when they get home and send again, saves you cash in the long run instead of spending money on plastics that will most likely end up in landfills. If you don’t want them bringing silverware, there are other options. Sporks for example, made by the good people at bambu organic and sold at Terre à soi located at 3580, rue Ontario Est, Montréal QC. I have one that I love and has found a permanent home in my purse.
Reusable lunch bag
Paper bags and single use plastic sacks are not the way. Reusable lunch bags, boxes, cloth bags, anything is a better option. Again, saving you money and waste at the end of the school year. Plus, if it’s kept in good condition, they can last even longer than a year. I’ve had mine for about 5 years now and it is still going strong.
SNACKS! Again, I LOVE food… but hate the wrapping that comes with it! Basically any snack aimed at children is in single use plastic packaging. Reduce your need for this by making your own snacks. It’s really not that hard and wayyyy more nutritious! You can actually pick and choose what you want based on preferences. Instead of being encouraged by marketing to choose what they are selling. Granola bars for example, my family can’t get enough of them. I make a vegan version that is packed full of protein, but you can find one that is good for your family. Also taking into consideration allergies. Nut allergies are huge, so why not fully ensure that our snacks are nut free ourselves. Instead of having to search for the no-nut symbol. Try different recipes for different snacks, really figure out what your family likes and will eat. Eventually it will become a habit, and really won’t take that long in the prep work.
Food waste is another issue which is impacting our lives and the environment. Did you know that 30-40% of the food supply is thrown away every year? That’s a lot of food that could have otherwise gone to feed the hungry. Only pack your little ones what they will actually eat. Also encourage them to bring home scraps to put into your compost. Most waste in landfills is organic matter and completely compostable, releasing methane (a strong greenhouse gas). Methane gas is one of the big names contributing to climate change. Let’s avoid it as best we can.
Applying these easy to do guidelines to your child’s lunch routine will really add up. Saving you a bunch of money at the end of the school year (who wouldn’t love that!) and saving the environment on our needless waste.
For more tips and tricks, head over and like my page on Facebook called Live Waste Free. Where you’ll get daily ideas to keep you on the Zero Waste path.