Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Greener School Lunches

180 school days times two children = 360 packed lunches in my household. That's a lot of lunches! While my greatest challenge remains finding healthy food that my children will actually eat, another struggle is how to avoid all that plastic baggie waste. For me, I try to keep the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle mantra in mind with their lunches.

My solution was helped by the fact that from an early age, my kids refused to eat sandwiches. Why, I never could figure out, since they will eat bread, meat, and cheese separately, but that's another story. My default answer became a thermos full of last night's leftovers. This way they get to reuse the leftover food and we get to reduce the overall waste factor, by not using a plastic sandwich bag. The thermoses have contained everything from chicken and veggies to soup to spaghetti.

For all the other items (fruits, veggies, crackers, etc.), I use reusable plastic snack containers. Truthfully, these are the same ones I've been using since they were babies with their first snack of Cheerios, but they do the trick. They also each take a reusable water bottles and plastic silverware. I used to send them with cloth napkins, but those came back unused everyday, so I gave up. Who was I kidding? Little boys don't use napkins of any kind!

I'm happy that we skip the plastic baggie route most days, but we still have room for improvement. One of my kids gets a small can of apple juice each day, while the other buys a carton of milk. While these items can be recycled, I don't think that's currently happening. The school did just send out a notice on reducing its carbon footprint, so I'm going to make a note to follow-up on their in-class recycling options. They also each usually get a small yogurt (hiding under the carrots in the picture). I tried converting to home-packed containers of yogurt that come from the larger tubs from the store. It would be cheaper and there would be less waste, but I haven't sold the kids on that idea yet - their favorite flavor/brand doesn't come in the big containers. Ah well...

There are many options for going green with school lunches including reusable sandwich wraps, but I have yet to try these. I think it's all about what works for each family and our plan seems to be working for now. Anyone else have other tips or tricks?


    Erika, your lunch routine is a Very creative and very worthy idea. I see in other countries landscapes littered with these flimsy plastic bags which is terrible environmentally. It is my understanding that China has totally banned these plastic bags. Of course, if one can capture those already in the environment and make something usefull out of them such as purses etc., that would be great.

    Once again, HAPPY EARTH DAY,ERIKA and All: April 22, 2009 Best wishes, Harvey

  2. The statistic I heard yesterday was a million bags are used each minute in the world. Average for Americans is 500 per person per year. That's a lot of plastic (and petroleum).