Let an eco-friendly lunch preparation be a part of your everyday practice by creating a 100% litter-less lunch, both for your children’s school lunches, and for your work lunches as well. This means that all of the items brought to school or work are in re-usable containers and everything is disposed of properly at home.
Why is it important?
We are all very aware that we need to be stewards of our land, air and water, and minimize our negative impact on Mother Nature. The average school-aged child with a disposable lunch generates 30 kilograms of waste a year. All this packaged food brought to school or work, is more often than not disposed of improperly. Instead of proper recycling or composting at home, our waste ends up littered or thrown into the garbage destined for the landfill. If it is not biodegradable, it sits in/on the ground for far too long, causing harm to our natural environment.
Here is what to do:
The biggest obstacle to packing a litter-less lunch is neglecting to plan ahead of time. Preparation is a big part!
1. Begin by buying a re-usable lunch bag or box and re-usable containers that fit inside your re-usable lunch bag. Avoid plastic wrap or bags, as they are highly wasteful and harmful to the environment. Of note, tinfoil can be recycled, so if you must use it, ask your child to bring it home with them.
2. Buy a stainless steel drink container. Buy your beverages in large bulk containers rather than individual sized items to put into your drink container. This creates the least amount of waste, and is the most cost-effective method of shopping. Avoid buying juice boxes and juice bags. Although juice boxes can be recycled, they too more often than not end up in landfills instead of the recycling bin. Juice bags CANNOT be recycled and go into your regular garbage, which makes them highly wasteful and bad for the environment.
3. Do NOT buy disposable, plastic water bottles! Add up the cost of paying for those plastic water bottles and re-invest your money in a permanent water filter system, or re-usable water system (water coolers for example). It will pay for itself over time, you will be providing yourself and your family with better quality water (bottled water is not always safer than tap water) and very importantly, you will be reducing waste in landfills.
4. Empty yogurts, dips, sauces, and puddings into a re-usable container and recycle the original container properly at home (tinfoil lids can be recycled along with the tub, just wash both first). This insures that the container is disposed of properly at home, and reduces the amount of mess left in the lunchbox! Ensure to buy these items in bulk too, and reduce packaging waste – again, it is a more cost-effective way to shop.
5. Granola bars, packaged cookies etc., can also be prepared at home by removing their packaging and placed into a re-usable container.
6. Remove peels and cores from fruits and vegetables, cut them up, and place them into a re-usable container. Dispose of the peels and cores in your compost or green bin.
8. Pack re-usable cutlery and cloth napkins instead of disposable plastic cutlery or paper napkins.
Here are some tips to help get your older kids involved:
1. Begin to instill the importance of a litter-less lunch and why it is important for protecting the environment. Explain to them that for the plan to work in your home, they must bring back the containers. Be diligent; make sure you and everyone else in your family always bring home their containers.
2. Involve them in the lunch process. This will instill responsibility and accountability, and, they are more likely to eat their lunch if they helped prepare what they like.
3. Offer an incentive or reminder system to help. One idea is to give a reward at the end of the week, such as a movie or a favorite activity if they have been successful at bringing their containers home.
4. Place notes in their lunch bags or box (using a recycled piece of paper of course!) that gently reminds them to bring items home, and it can include words of encouragement too!
You may not be able to change everything at once, but do your best, and just get started. This small change will lead to huge benefits to the health of our earth!