Green Your Lunchbox

The other day, I was driving my kids to school – my daughter had a field trip later that day. I asked her if she was excited for the trip and she said yes but then she paused, and from the back seat of the car she said, “Mom, there is one thing that I don’t like about field trips.” “What’s that?” I asked. “Well, I have to throw away all that trash from my lunch.”

Photo: Eco Lunchbox

Right then, I just started to laugh. I couldn’t help it. It was so cute and I was also so proud. The thing is, whenever the kids have a field trip, the instructions are very clear that their lunch must be completely disposable – no items will come back to school with them. It’s a big difference for my kids over the lunches they normally take to school. Their reusable lunch containers make them aware of the trash generated by a typical lunch, and they don’t like to create this waste.

It’s a small part of our daily lives, but actually, our kids’ lunches can have a big impact. The average school-age child eating a disposable lunch generates 67 pounds of waste per school year. That equates to 18,760 pounds of lunch waste during the year for just one average-size elementary school.

There is also a hidden cost of disposable lunches – convenience foods are expensive and generally not as healthy for your children. In fact, if you switch to using reusable containers rather than traditional baggies and pre-packaged food, you will save about $250 per school year per child, and feed your kids healthier food too. 

For a greener lunch, there are lots of great reusable container options.

Here are a few:

  • Laptop Lunch mom-invented lunch kits that are American-style bento boxes designed to help families pack nutritious, environmentally-friendly lunches. These sustainable lunch containers (which are lead-free, made of FDA approved polypropylene plastic) are reusable, recyclable, and dishwasher safe. Laptop lunches are also portioned controlled to help you provide the right amount of food for your child.
  • Eco Lunchbox -  these kits are 100% plastic-free, waste-free, lead-free, BPA-free, PVC-free and vinyl-free.
  • Lunch Sense -  the machine washable, BPA/lead/PVC free lunchbox is available in three sizes to suite all ages and stages of lunch packing.
  • LunchBots -  sandwich or snack size containers, a great choice if you would like to avoid plastic containers. Made entirely from the highest quality 18/8 stainless steel.
  • To Go Ware -  a good selection of stainless steel food containers, food carriers and (my favorite) the To Go Ware utensil set that you can carry in your purse – never use plastic utensils again!
  • Water Bottles – And of course, don’t forget the reusable water bottle. There are many on the market. I prefer stainless steel like Klean Kanteen or aluminum like SIGG bottles over plastic because my kids leave their water bottles in the sun and I’m concerned about the potential leaching of chemicals from plastic bottles when exposed to heat.

So, my daughter enjoyed her trip and got over the fact that she had to throw away her paper lunch sack, a couple plastic baggies, and plastic water bottle. Because, like we discussed that morning, we can’t do everything perfectly all the time, and having a disposable lunch a couple times a year for a field trip is not something to worry about. But, we are back in our normal routine now – the kids headed out the door with their waste-free lunches this morning. Now, if I can just get them to actually eat it all – I guess that’s the next step. It’s still a work in progress.

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