How To Make Your School Lunch Box Eco-Friendly
August 27, 2023
By Guest Blogger Lori Popkewitz Alper of Groovy Green Livin’
If your school is like most, kids, teachers and staff create a lot of waste every day. The beginning of the school year is the perfect time help reduce that waste. Put down your paper and plastic and invest in a few reusable containers and bags for school lunches and healthy snacks. On average, a child bringing a brown bag lunch to school every day generates 67 pounds of waste per school year. That can add up to 18,760 pounds of lunch waste for just one average-size school! The Sierra Club estimates that families spend $85/year on disposable plastic baggies.
Investing in reusable products might be a bit of an investment upfront, but the savings over the life of the products is substantial.
What to look for in a reusable product
- Washable products. Having used reusable products for a few years, I’ve seen how messy they can get. Mashed sandwiches, crushed carrots and leaky drinks make washable products a must.
- Safe materials. Take the time to investigate what your reusables are made from since they are coming in direct contact with your food.
- Distance the product traveled. If possible, buy products from local companies to support the local economy and reduce the amount of travel (and thus the amount of petroleum) needed to reach you.
Favorites for an Eco-friendly and Healthy Lunch Box
I have been trying out a variety of products over the years and there’s no question that some work better than others. Here are a few that win a spot in our lunch year after year:
1. Klean Kanteen 12-Ounce Water Bottle. The perfect size for a lunch box and a snack bag. These bottles are made from stainless steel so there is no risk of leaching plastic. By using a reusable water bottle you are also helping reduce the number of plastic bottles that end up in landfills, sitting for years while they try unsuccessfully to decompose.
2. Reusable lunch bags. There are so many different designs and brands. We have this one in a few different colors. Check out the different styles and designs offered at reuseit. Make sure your new bags are PVC and lead free.
3. Graze organic 5 Pack organic reusable snack and sandwich bags. These bags are great! Made of 100% certified organic cotton. There is no plastic lining, just pure organic fabric. These bags are easy to hand-wash and line dry.
4. Sandwich size Lunchskins sack and Snack size Lunchskins bag. Lunchskins come in all sorts of great designs and are made from cotton fabric coated with a “food-safe” polyurethane liner**. Big plus: these bags are leak proof.
5. SnackTAXI Sandwich Sack and SnackTAXI Snack Bag. The exterior of a snackTAXI is comprised of 100% cotton, and the interior is lined with polyurethane** coated nylon. The sacks are made by a local Massachusetts company in their home-based workshop. They are committed to keeping their business local, and never outsource our labor.
6. Foogo Thermos in Stainless Steel. This insulated thermos keeps things hot and cold and prevents delicate food items from crushing. We use this for packing fruit, soup, mac n cheese and applesauce.
**Polyurethane liners are certified as lead, Bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalate-free, but they are still a form of plastic.
What are some reusable products that will be in your lunch box this year?
Two more things:
Whatever product you choose, be aware of food temperature safety. A new study of preschoolers’ lunches found that more than 90 percent of the food sent from home was at an unsafe temperature long before children started eating, according to USA Today.
Since lunch boxes are often made of PVC, the poison plastic, use the Center for Health, Environment & Justice’s PVC-Free Back-to-School Guide to help you navigate what’s safe and what’s not!
The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and not necessarily those of Healthy Child Healthy World.