A large percentage of students at Burroughs bring their lunch from home. Parents can help to reduce waste going to the landfill by decreasing the amount of non-compostable, non-recyclable items in kids’ lunches. With some estimates saying that schools accumulate 3.5 million pounds of lunchtime garbage every year (or 67 pounds per child per year), it’s time to get smart about what our kids are or are not eating and throwing away along with the packages in which their food is contained.
A litterless lunch means that only compostable items should be left over (banana peels or apple cores for example) and everything else should be brought home to be reused. Here are some very accessible tips to help you understand and pack your child's litterless lunch:
1. Reusable Containers, Fewer Baggies
Begin creating a collection of small plastic containers that have resealing lids that can be used over and over to hold everything from crackers and cookies, to rolls of lunch meat or cut up fruit and sandwiches. Things like empty yogurt or deli salad containers (both of which are generally not recyclable) work well and fit easily into a lunch box/bag, cooler or backpack.
You can also purchase inexpensive food storage containers in all sizes at the supermarket (even little snack sizes). Rather than tossing out those empty plastic bread loaf bags, put your kid’s sandwich or snacks in them instead! By reusing containers you will save hundreds of plastic lunch and snack baggies that would otherwise be thrown away.
If you use plastic baggies, consider washing and reusing. Instead of throwing out enough plastic zippered baggies to smother a herd of rhinos, consider a reusable option such as the Wrap-n-Mat, which you can easily wipe down or toss into the wash.
2. Make Your Own “Snack Packs”
The supermarket is loaded with time-saving, individually wrapped, portion-controlled, lunch items that may seem like a good idea, but often create more waste than value. By purchasing lunch items in larger quantities and then filling smaller containers yourself, you will save on one of the biggest waste producers in kids lunches - excess packaging.
If you want to give your future honors student a real head start, forget the mini-packs of Cheetos and Doritos. Apples, oranges, bananas, and other fruit are heathful, waste-free snackables that come with their own compostable wrapping.
3. Juice Boxes are NOT Our Friends
In lieu of landfill cloggers, get each one of your kids (and adults for that matter) a reusable drink bottle that you can fill each day with their favorite drink. With so many great eco-friendly, high-quality, and BPA-free kids bottles on the market today, there are lots of options to use instead of non-recyclable drink boxes.
Many stores sell stainless steel thermos containers (in fun colors and patterns with ‘built-in’ straws your kids will love), and also stainless steel ‘meal’ containers which are great for holding soups, pasta or yogurt.
The added bonus - think of the money you’ll save when you dilute bottles of usually overly-sweetened juice for your kids.
If your kids like to drink milk, consider buying at school, as the cartons can go in our Organic Composting collection. If your kids drink organic milk, fill up those eco-friendly reusable containers rather than buying milk boxes at the store which are not compostable or recyclable.
4. Way Cool Lunch Box Dude
Make your kids lunch easy to transport and appeal to their own sense of style with a lunch box or bag that is also eco-friendly. By investing is a quality lunch box or bag, it will last longer and keep your kids lunch fresher. Look for boxes and bags that are made with recycled materials (like recycled plastics or cloth), are lead-free, use minimal vinyl, and can be insulated with a cold pack when necessary.
Laptop Lunch Bento boxes are BPA free, you don’t have to use any plastic bags and the system includes a recipe book. Another suggestion might be to try an eco-friendly lunch system from Nubius Organics. They offer a wide variety of lunch boxes and a wrap n’ mat for sandwiches.
5. Are you Going to Eat That?
Many parents don’t consider the environmental impact of throwing food away when a child doesn’t eat what has been packed for lunch. When food goes uneaten, it becomes a waste of the resources and energy required to grow, harvest, transport, and produce that snack item they decide they don’t want (or can’t trade to their friends).
Try to keep your child’s lunch as appealing as possible by letting them help choose what to bring (within parameters of course), and keeping food the right temperature so it tastes good at lunch time. Buy fresh, local and organic- take the kids to get them involved- it’s healthier for you whole family and puts dollars back into local farmer’s pockets. Read your Labels (if you can’t pronounce an ingredient- chances are you shouldn’t be eating it!). Resist the Marketing (food marketed to children is very likely high in unwanted sugars, fats and other non-healthy additives/preservatives- so stick to your guns moms and dads and make the right decisions for your kids).
6. Shop and Cook with Kids
Involving your children in making their own food means they’ll take pride in what they made and are more likely to enjoy eating it. Whether that’s at home or at school, kids who make their food and have fun with it – will be less likely to throw it away. Go apple-picking in the Fall and make apple butter, apple sauce, apple crisp and pies with the kids.
John Burroughs would be proud of our school!