Although my children are too young for school, we regularly pack snacks and lunches for outings and errands. I always try to be conscious of packaging and aim to be waste-free. And of course, their health is of utmost importance to me!
There are many ways to do this. Really the hardest part is just investing in the supplies and taking the time to create healthy, eco-friendly meals for your kids (or for yourself or your spouse!).
How to be Eco-Friendly and Waste-Free?
1. Choose environmentally friendly (and safe) lunchboxes or lunch bags. There are many style and material options including those made of canvas, cotton, stainless steel, or washable neoprene. Also popular are bento boxes.
2. Use eco-friendly, reusable snack or sandwich baggies (rather than plastic baggies or plastic wrap). You can buy some that act as both a sandwich wrap and a placemat! Genius!
3. Consider using reusable and/or biodegradable utensils, napkins, and straws. (Yes, there are reusable straws!) Have any mismatched stainless-steel forks or spoons? They make great lunchbox utensils!
4. Opt for reusable bottles, thermoses, and containers such as glass, stainless steel, or aluminum. You can buy glass bottles with protective silicone or neoprene sleeves--both safe and stylish! (And please note that many of the inexpensive plastic containers are NOT safe when used with hot foods or when microwaved--dangerous chemicals can leach from the plastic into the food. This includes plastic containers reused from purchased items such as yogurt or Cool Whip.)
5. Pack the lunches with fresh fruits, vegetables, sandwiches or wraps, snacks and nuts, or even leftovers. (Skip the individually packaged foods and drinks.) It only takes a few seconds to wash an apple or an orange. It takes just a few minutes to wash and cut up carrots or celery. Make your own granola or trail mix. Buy in bulk to save money and cut down on packaging. (And don’t forget to include a nontoxic, reusable ice pack if needed! You can freeze fruit to act as natural ice packs!)
Note: In general you want to avoid anything made with PVC, phthalates, BPA, or lead!
This is really a great opportunity to teach your children about living green and how the little choices you make each day can add up to create a big impact on Earth. Have your family help to prepare and pack their own snacks and lunches. (And to make their lunchboxes and containers even more appealing, have your children decorate them!)
Also, remind your family members to bring home any food waste or leftovers to add to the compost bin or save for later. Zero waste, remember?
For more information and buying options, check out this site. For other excellent ideas and resources, check out WasteFreeLunches.org and also this information on the US EPA’s website where you can download or request a free poster for your home or classroom called “Pack a Waste-Free Lunch.” These links are worth clicking!
Waste-free lunches are better for the environment, better for your budget, and better for your family’s health! Get started today!