When my daughter started preschool four years ago, the parents were encouraged to pack "no waste" lunches, or lunches that do not generate any non-compostable garbage. It took me a while to wrap my head around the idea, as I was a card-carrying member of our single-serving society. A child's school lunch can create 67 pounds of trash each year, according to the EPA.¹ That's 4.6 billion pounds of lunch waste each year!
We can do better.
And, I promise, it is really quite simple to do:
- Put food & drinks in reusable containers
- Include reusable utensils and a cloth napkin
- Pack it all in a reusable bag or box
You will save money when you stop buying individually-packaged food such as cracker packs and yogurt cups. WasteFreeLunches.org estimates you can save $250 per year, per person just by switching to waste-free lunches. Simply buy the big box of crackers and put a few in a small container for lunch. Or buy the big carton of yogurt and scoop some into a reusable container.
There are also some super-cute one-piece lunch containers on the market such as the Goodbyn Bynto and the cute-as-a-puzzle Laptop Lunches if you are worried about losing pieces.
If you don't want to spend a bunch of money on cute containers, you can always reuse empty food containers such as small jars or plastic containers. I have an itty-bitty jar that once held jam but I've re-purposed it for fun stuff like baby pickles or chocolate chips. If you're not worried about your child dropping glass, small canning jars are fantastic reusable lunch containers: try freezing a smoothie in one the night before; it defrosts just in time for lunch!
Just think: your kids are getting lessons on academics at school, but you're also throwing in a daily lesson on how to be a good steward of the earth.
Here are two great resources for launching a No-Waste Lunch program at your child's school: