How to green your lunch….it’s not too late to start and it’s easy!
We all want to help the environment but sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. I know what you are thinking… this is going to be a hassle, or expensive but it’s not. As a mother of two and the owner of several businesses I’m here to tell you if I can do this anyone can. Here is a guide on how to reduce your lunch waste. Remember, reducing is the new green recycling model. If the environmental impact doesn’t move you, maybe I can appeal to your sense of frugality? According to Waste Free Lunches, the average disposable lunch costs $4.02 where the reusable lunch costs only $2.65. Add that up for every person in your household and you might just have yourself a vacation fund in a year 1. Here are just a few facts to get you fired up to make some positive changes:
- 80% of the 28 billion plastic water bottles every year by Americans end up in landfills 2.
- The average sized American elementary school generates 18,760 pounds of lunch waste per year 3. That’s 3.5 billion pounds of garbage a year.
Top 10 Fast Ideas to Green Your Lunch
- Use a reusable lunch bag, preferably a PVC free one. PVC is a plastic that has been identified as being produced with carcinogens and toxic chemicals that can leach out. PVC products are often labeled vinyl or have the number 3, V or PVC underneath the universal recycling symbol.
- Use reusable food containers (stainless steel containers, plastic reusable bags, and soft reusable sandwich wrap or pouch varieties).
- Ditch the bottled water or juice box habit in favor of a reusable bottle.
- If you must use aluminum foil to wrap something use recycled aluminum foil or natural recycled parchment paper.
- If you must use plastic bags then re-use them by using a product such as Bag E Wash for the dishwasher or wiping them out the old fashion way.
- Bring re-usable cutlery from home. You can use what you already have in the kitchen or there are also nice bamboo travel ones as well, if it has to be disposable for a particular event then use biodegradable cutlery.
- Use cloth napkins rather than paper ones; it saves you money, too. I was able to find brand new ones at yard sales, dollar stores, and on clearance racks. I found that dark colors work best for children. I wash them weekly with my regular laundry, so it’s no extra work.
- Consider buying organic food, it is healthier for your family and better for the environment. Go to local farmers’ markets or consider joining a local farmers CSA in order to get cheaper organics.
- Buy items in bulk with as little packaging as possible. Buy large containers over single serving ones and then put a single serving in your reusable containers. This will save you money as well.
- Compost your food scraps. You can use a plastic storage tub, a compost bin, or a worm bin to do this. There is an option to fit everyone's home or situation. Create wonderful soil rather than waste with your food scraps.
Favorite Eco-Friendly Lunch Products
- For wrapping sandwiches I like the wrap-n-mat. It's a plastic-lined, Velcro-closure, cloth reusable sandwich wrapping device so you don't have to use disposable plastic wrap to wrap your sandwich every day. It folds out to form a nice eating area as well.
- To wrap snacks and cookies, I like the snackTAXI snack sacks. SnackTAXI is also a mother inspired business as well -- always a bonus in my book. I ran right out and bought more of these because I liked them so much. They also now have a sandwich version too. You can beat their cute designs.
- If you have a tight fit in your existing lunch bag I would recommend the innovative collapsible water bottle the Vapur. Another brand I like for lunches or to replace sippy cups is the Contigo autoseal kids mug. I liked this mug idea so much that I’m ordering a full sized one to use when I teach yoga. A full sized bottle for you thirsty ones is Project Earth H2O. A percentage of every purchase goes to support environmental charities. You can also now customize Sigg bottles with names or pictures at Café Press. A company with customer service bar none is EcoUsable and they have great water bottles too with optional nice sleeves for gripping called water wrapz. I had the best customer service experience with this company and have never forgotten it, they really stand behind their products.
- Cool Tote’s are insulated lunch bags with a variety of fabric choices that are very well constructed. I’ve had one of their bags for years and it still hasn’t worn out. If you are going to put a drink bottle in it I would recommend the larger sized bag. Bazura’s lunch boxes are made from recycled packaging. Yubo is a unique lunchbox and container system that allows you to change the outside designs. Later this year they are adding an attached drink system as well. My daughter went crazy over the peace sign version of this lunch box. The Laptop Lunch bento box system is a very sturdy and popular system as well with many options.
- When you need a pre-packaged snack for on the go, try Tasty Baby organic fruit snack in eco-friendly packaging. Both of my children thought these tasted as good as the less healthy varieties. I am all about promoting organic food options.
Kelly Neylan is a registered yoga teacher, reiki master, eco-entrepreneur/advocate, and author of the upcoming book Little Bodies Big Souls: How Stories from Yoga and Children will Change your Life. Submissions are being accepted at Little Bodies Big Souls.
1. “What does it cost to pack a waste-free lunch?” n.d., http://www.wastefreelunches.org (accessed Oct. 2009).
2. “Facts about Plastic Bottles” n.d., http://earth911.com/plastic/plastic-bottles/facts-about-plastic-bottles/ (accessed Oct. 2009).
3. “How to Reduce Waste in Your School” n.d., http://www.epa.gov/osw/inforesources/news/2007news/03-school.htm (accessed Oct. 2009).
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