Reducing waste from packaged lunches: The average student produces aprox 67 lbs of garbage from lunches per year. That’s about the weight of a small child! Landfills are filling up, recycling bins are overflowing, oceans are contaminated. According to wastefreelunches.org, one average elementary school could produce over 18000 lbs of lunch waste per year!
There are 6 simple steps you can take to drastically reduce the amount of garbage and food waste from packed lunches.
- Consider how tonight’s dinner can turn into tomorrow’s lunch. Turn your cooked, leftover veggies into hearty soups and pack tomorrow in a thermos. Or, freeze your leftovers instead of throwing out or composting and use them another time in pot pies, wraps or quesadillas.
- Go paper towel-less. Pull out those cloth napkins and put them to use! Not only will you be saving on excess paper waste, but you will be saving yourself from chemicals that are used to bleach paper towels. They don’t start out white!
- Say no to individually packaged drinks (juice boxes, cans, bottles). These account for a lot of recycling! and juice cartons have to go through a complicated recycling process as they are layered with different materials. Pack a drink in a stainless or BPA-free bottle and be sure to bring your own coffee mug if you buy your coffee throughout the day. This eliminates a cup, a cardboard sleeve and a plastic lid.
- Pack a stainless or reusable straw for drinking. According to ecocycle.org, 5 million plastic straws are used and discarded per day in the U.S. They are not easy to recycle and end up in our oceans, ingested by land and sea creatures, then back in to our food chain.
- Pack at least ONE home made snack per day. This could include homemade granola that you pack on the side of yogurt, or muffins, bliss balls, cookies or squares. These can all be customized to include healthy ingredients and things you love so you will not end up throwing them away. Here is a link to 4 healthy bliss ball recipes.
- Buy in bulk: not just more of one thing, but buy the larger sizes of foods. Large yogurt tubs, large cans of beans, granola, and nut butters that are not individually packaged. Then, repackage yourself in compartments in a reusable bento-style lunch box, small containers with lids, or insert rubber cupcake liners in a shallow sandwich container that will allow you to separate your foods.
Does your office have a workplace wellness program? Introduce a wast-free lunch challenge with your co-workers. Start with one week and assign one bin for all lunch garbage and recyclables. See how empty your office can keep it by the week’s end.