There are so many small, simple changes we can make that will have a big impact on the environment. And back-to-school season is the perfect opportunity to think about safe, non-toxic and earth-friendly lunch ware for children. Here are some tips for “greening” your child’s school lunches.
Reuse Sandwich Bags
According to the Sierra Club, an estimated 8 billion pounds of plastic bags, wraps and sacks enter the waste stream every year in the US. And unfortunately, families spend roughly $85 annually on disposable plastic baggies. Despite the water cost, savings on raw materials, emissions from shipping, and landfill space make washing incredibly worthwhile.
An even better option would be opting for reusable sandwich bags that are dishwasher-safe, certified food-safe, quick-drying, grease-proof, moisture-proof, lead-free, bpa-free, and phthalate-free. They do exist! And can be used to replace hundreds of single-use plastic baggies.
Remember Cloth Napkins
The only con of a cloth napkin? Laundry. But you have to do it anyway! Look at these fun, reusable napkins for kids from MightyNest.
Say No to Plastic and Brown Paper Bags
According to the EPA, each child who brings a brown bag lunch to school every day generates about 67 pounds of waste by the end of the school year.
ECOlunchbox analyzed the amount of waste an American family with two children and one adult packing lunch 200 times a year generates annually. They found that the total amount of lunchtime waste generated added up to 4,320 pieces a year—and the thousands of pieces of throwaways unnecessarily cost the family almost $500.
If you must use brown paper bags, they may be recycled with other paper products. Or you can get creative: cover your kid’s textbooks with old paper bags or bring them back to the grocery story for your next trip.
Snag Some Reusable Utensils
It’s estimated that over 40 billion plastic utensils end up in landfills each year in the US alone, and bamboo is an earth-friendly solution. You can find many items like these at www.reuseit.com.
Pack Goodies in Reusable Containers
There are many reusable food containers and accessories that kids find exciting. Goodbyn, for example, helps children and adults see the value in healthy eating while solving the problem of trash created by one-time-use packaging.
Grab a Fun BPA-Free Drink Container
Juice boxes have always been popular among school-age children, and are very convenient for adults. But they have significant downsides: not only do they add more waste; they contain an unhealthy amount of sugar. Consider using a BPA-free reusable bottle—it’s better for you, your family and the environment. Using a reusable, eco-friendly water bottle makes drinking water more convenient wherever you go, and it reduces your carbon footprint.
Instead of bottled sweet teas, sports drinks and sweetened juices, give kids herbal fruit teas with added fruit like raspberries and honey or maple syrup for a touch of sweetness. When they’re done, they can fill up their water bottle with water from the fountain.
Snacks In Bulk = Parents’ Best Friend
Did you know that packaging accounts for approximately 8% of the cost of food? And when you really sit down and think about it, most of your recycling is food packaging. Buying bulk, very aptly put by Earth911, “takes into account how the food gets to the store, how often you have to buy it and ease of disposal.”
Green Foods = Healthy Foods
The lunch you pack can be as sustainable as the box you pack it in—and what you pack is likely to be more nutritious than hot lunch served in the cafeteria. The Environmental Working Group has great tips and tricks for packing healthy lunches on a budget, including healthy snacking tips and kid-approved recipes.
Here at Carolina Fibre, we understand that recycling is about sustainability. And sustainability is about doing simple things we often take for granted—like thinking differently about our consumption habits, and how they impact our children’s decisions. Carolina Fibre Corporation is a Greensboro NC recycler, and we operate our facilities with sustainability as our main objective.