As we shift gears to back-to-school once again, have you thought about the heap of trash created every day after kids have devoured their school lunches? It’s estimated that the average child creates upwards of 60 pounds of trash over the course of a school year. Between single-serve packages and disposable drinks and bags, it’s not hard to picture the mountain of waste generated daily in schools across the country.
I fondly remember my Holly Hobbie lunchbox with its matching thermos, filled with lunchtime treats, including a daily portion of homemade crinkle-cut carrot sticks. That was back in the day when thermoses were still lined with glass and before excessively packaged single-serve items were the norm. I wish I had held onto that Holly Hobbie lunch box! Not only would it now fetch a pretty penny on Ebay, it would also make a great eco-conscious food tote, too.
Curbing waste and creating trash-free lunches is as simple as returning to some of the lunchtime basics many of us grew up with – and taking advantage of many of the snazzy options for reusable lunch bags, boxes, totes and drink containers. New, innovative products have come a long way. They not only nip this generation of disposables in the bud, but they also make it fun for kids to do their part too.
Here are a few ideas for creating trash-free lunches on a daily basis:
• Avoid single-serving packaged foods.
• Choose fruits and veggies that come in their own packaging! How novel is that?
• Choose a reusable lunch bag, box or tote. Such durable goods are now available in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and designs.
Check out some of the neatest and most enticing eco-friendly lunch accoutrements I’ve seen:
|Acme Lunch Bags. From simple, recycled cotton bags to soft-sided insulated thermal totes made from recycled plastic, Acme offers durable, practical lunch bags. Their designs have even won awards. All of Acme’s products are made from sustainable, high-performance materials in cooperation with fair trade labor practices. Find them for $4.95-$9.95 at www.reusablebags.com|
|Bazura Bags. These colorful bags and totes are made by a women’s cooperative in the Philippines from recycled juice packs. Children from local schools collect the used drink containers to sell to the coop, creating a successful micro-industry. At the same time, they are also diverting waste from the landfill. Available in a festive rainbow of colors and styles, find Bazura Bags online, prices starting at $14.95 at www.bazurashop.com|
|Munchlers by Built NY. These intelligently designed, insulated lunch bags are functional and great fun and they will captivate kids’ imagination. They zip up into zoo animals – a panda, dog, bunny or tiger – and unzip into a placemat, which is easy to wash in soap and water. They are lead-free and a mere $10 each. You can find them at www.builtny.com|
• Choose a reusable drink container. Making sure kids drink enough fluids is plenty of work on its own, let alone considering what kind of packaging the drink is in. Single serve drink packs may seem convenient, but they are the source of a pile of waste that cannot be recycled. Plastic water bottles are riddled with another set of concerns, including potentially dangerous plastic additives leaching into their contents. Fortunately, there are some great options available from Sigg. Swiss-made Sigg bottles are created from extremely durable, ultra-light weight, crack-proof aluminum with a leach-proof lining. Sigg bottles are the only reusable metal bottles I have found that don’t infuse a metallic taste into the drink. They come in a wide variety of cheerful designs for kids (as well as simple and fashion-forward designs for adults) with interchangeable lids, including a flip-top sports tops, which makes it easy for kids to sip. These bottles will last a lifetime and, because they are aluminum, they are ultimately recyclable. Kids bottles are available in 10-oz. and 13-oz. sizes from $15.99 to $17.99 at www.mysigg.com
• Rethink sandwich bags. Plastic sandwich bags are not only the source of excessive waste, they are also cause for concern when it comes to plastic-additives leaching into foods. Unbleached wax paper sheets or bags are a greener alternative for wrapping up sandwiches. One of the most ingenious products I have seen is Wrap-N-Mat’s reusable sandwich wrap. These wraps are made from a washable material that can be used to bundle up a sandwich. They are designed to be unwrapped into a placemat, again and again. Prices start at $4.99. Find at www.wrap-n-mat.com
• Pack a cloth napkin, instead of a paper one. Saving the Earth is that simple.
• Opt for reusable cutlery, instead of disposable plastic forks and spoons. Dedicate some kid-sized cutlery for the lunchbox.
Renee Loux is the author of cookbooks, The Balanced Plate and Living Cuisine and The Art and Spirit of Raw Foods, the host of Fine Living TV’s special It’s Easy Being Green, and an eco-consultant for spas and restaurants throughout the U.S. She has appeared on Emeril Live and the Today Show. She lives in a solar-powered home in Maui, For more on Renee, check out her website: http://www.euphoricorganics.com
Got a question about going green for Renee? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org