Wednesday, December 5, 2012

How to Make Kids’ Lunchboxes Waste-Free

We talked about safety issues with lunchboxes on Monday, but what about making your lunch containers safe AND environmentally friendly? When we think of school lunches, many of us picture a brown bag containing a paper napkin, a sandwich on store-bought bread in a plastic baggy, a box of juice or milk, and perhaps a piece of fruit and a plastic-wrapped cake or cookie.

A lunch sits on a blue tablecloth with a brown...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
What we probably don't picture are landfills heaped with non-biodegradable plastic packaging and brown paper bags that were not recycled. Let's take a new look at the portable kids' lunch and find ways to make it less wasteful, along with keeping your kids safe.

1. Lunch box not bag

Not only is a reusable lunchbox (see Monday's post for some safe options) or insulated bag more environmentally friendly, but it provides a convenient container and carrier for the reusable containers and flatware your child will be bringing back home.

2. Reusable containers

Remember the thermos you used as a child? Filling a thermos with a cold drink is less wasteful than juice boxes, bottles of water, cartons of milk, or other convenience-packaged beverages. Refillable glass, stainless steel or hard plastic water bottles are another great option.

Covered glass containers or the thermos are good for hot or cold foods - chopped fruit, potato salad, or green salad are good cold options for such containers. Warm food suggestions are pasta, soup, or some of those wonderful dinner-leftovers.

3. Cloth napkins

These are not expensive and come in a wide range of designs. Let your child personalize his or her lunch with a unique napkin. Choose cloth napkins that can be washed with your regular laundry.

4. Do away with plastic straws and flatware
Straws are really not necessary, especially if you are using a refillable water bottle. Go ahead and pack whatever forks and knives you normally use at the table, or get a special set for your child's lunchbox. Since you'll be packing your kids' lunch in a reusable lunch bag, it's a simple matter for the flatware to be put back in the bag, brought home and washed.

Lunch box for January
Lunch box for January (Photo credit: monicca)
5. Home-made food

Remember the store-bought bread mentioned in the beginning? It undoubtedly came in a plastic bag or packaging. Making your own bread is not only healthier - it's cheaper and saves on throw-away packaging. And it's much more delicious as well! The same goes for the meals you pack. If you have to open a can or open a package to prepare their lunch, that's one more thing you will be throwing away.

Store-bought cakes and cookies, canned pasta or soup, and bags of chips are some suggestions of waste-producing items you can make yourself or dispense with altogether - the homemade versions will be tastier AND much healthier too!

6. Sandwiches

How do you pack this old lunch stand-by without plastic baggies? There are all sorts of reusable containers available that are just right for a sandwich. Flat containers with tight covers in hard plastic or glass are a great solution. They are widely available, washable, and they keep the sandwich from getting squished.

Lunch time does not have to be waste time! These tips should help you pack a healthier and more environmentally friendly lunch for your kids.

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