My baby girl started kindergarten on Monday (YIKES! When did this happen?! She was like three yesterday…), and my oldest started 4th grade last week. With them in school and the baby off to daycare, I now have five lunches to pack. Lunches are taking a center stage in my evening ritual and have got me thinking about ways to go green when packing a lunch. Assuming many of you are in the midst of back-to-school and packing lunches, too, I’m including a variety of green solutions for packing a green lunch. If you can, explain your (new or existing) green lunch choices to your kidlets and help them understand the importance of being eco-conscious in their lunch lives.
Disclaimer: I’m all for healthy eating and avoiding processed foods…but this post focuses on packing a “green” lunch, meaning reducing the amount of waste that ends up in a landfill. Fellow RMB Contributor, Lynnette Bellin, posted last week with some awesome suggestions for healthy lunches.
Super Sprout Level
Think an eco-friendly lunch sounds tricky? Try these baby steps first.
- Send your munchkins lunch in a reusable lunch box instead of a paper bag.
- Buy food in bulk and pack smaller portions. Think about individually boxed raisins or snack crackers; that’s a lot of garbage and it all adds up. Plus, it’s cheaper to buy in bulk, too. (Individually packed items are about 50% more!)
- Send drinks in shatterproof thermos or reusable bottles. Look for non-leaching plastics that are BPA and phthalate-free.
- If you do send individually packaged beverages, have your tot bring the empty container back home. Then recycle that old V8 V-Fusion juice can, water bottle, etc.
Splendidly Sturdy Stem Level
Ready to take it to the next level? Give these ideas a try.
- Send a cloth napkin and tableware that can be brought back home, washed, and used again and again.
- Use reusable containers. I use Rubbermaid containers, and grew up using Tupperware; but I have been coveting Laptop Lunch Boxes (see fellow RMB Contributor Vanessa Simpson’s post for great info on these). Regardless, using reusable containers is much better than throwing anything away!
- If you are buying in bulk and don’t have reusable containers, you can use plastic baggies or aluminum foil – IF – you reuse them to death. Ask your kiddo to just put the empty bag back in their reusable lunch tote and bring it home. Then wash it and let it dry on a bag-drying rack. I love mine; I even use it to air dry my water bottles. You can find them online, such as this one from Amazon.
- Give a reusable baggie a try. ReUsies are made of washable 100 percent cotton and lined with nylon and are free of BPA, phthalate, and lead. They are the perfect size for a sandwich, crackers, fruit, and other lunch items. To clean, simply toss them in the washing machine or dishwasher or wash by hand. Another brand of reusable sandwich keeper is Wrap-N-Mat. It’s basically a washable sheet that wraps up sandwiches and secures them with a Velcro fastener. They’re also BPA-, phthalate-, and lead-free.
Full-On Sunflower Golden Sunshine Green Goddess Level
Did you do all of the above? Ready for a challenge? Start a Brigade!
Join Terracycle and see what sort of school-wide collections you can instigate. You can even do a brigade at home. Through TerraCycle, you can send in previously non-recyclable or hard to recycle items that are in turn repurposed (“upcycled”) into cool new products. In most cases, Terracycle even provides the shipping label and covers all costs. Think about things like empty pouches (Honest Kids, Capri Suns, Kool Aid, etc.) Or do you know those GoGo SqueeZ applesauce pouches? My babe loves them, as does my kindergartner. Save them! Send them to Terracycle. With this level, the ultimate goal with greening your lunches is to not only reduce at home, but to help your kiddo’s school or day-care center start and participate in a brigade!
No matter what level you reach, good for you, and thank you for doing what you can. If you do reach full-on sunflower golden sunshine green goddess level, let me know, and I’ll be right over with my camera and a trophy, because WOW. Just wow.