How to Pack a More Sustainable Lunchbox | Seventh Generation
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How to Pack a More Sustainable Lunchbox

Author: Seventh Generation

What better time than the start of a new school year to start a new lunch routine that’s healthier for you and your kids – and the planet!  According to the stats, on average a school-age child throws away 67 pounds of lunch packaging waste a year. That means that if your child has 25 kids in his/her class, they are producing 1,625 lbs. of waste each year – and that’s just during lunch in one classroom! Imagine what a whole school produces.


If the environmental costs don't sway you, the economics might. Waste-free lunches are 35 percent cheaper than their disposable counterparts; that number is based on an average price of $2.65 and $4.02 respectively Over the course of a school year, litterless lunches net hundreds of dollars worth of savings.

And if you still need some persuading, consider this: According to the CDC, avoiding pre-packaged, processed foods reduces your child’s risk of obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and kidney disease. The majority of sodium found in the typical diet comes from processed food products, accounting for about 40 percent of American’s total sodium intake.


So as September approaches, explore healthier food choices with your kids and a get them involved in shopping for and packing more nutritious, litter-free lunches.


Author, radio host and authority on greening your life, Gill Deacon offers these tips for swapping out common, disposable products, with eco-friendly, healthy and affordable options:

  • Reusable lunch carrierSnackTAXI and Kids Konserve offer great options in place of the plastic bag in which many children and adults wrap their lunches.
  • Reusable containers – Stainless steel, glass, or an alternative wrap like the Wrap-N-Mat in place of plastic wrap or foil.
  • Stainless steel or glass drink bottle– Stainless steel, glass or an alternative like the bobble instead of single-use cans or juice boxes
  • Healthy snacks – Some of our favorite swaps are a water bottle instead of a juice box, a homemade sandwich instead of pre-packaged processed meat and cheese packs, and fresh cut fruit for fruit snacks.

Now that you have healthy, litter-free lunches all wrapped up for your kids, it’s time to follow the same simple steps to see to it that your own lunch hour doesn’t end with a trip to the garbage bin.


Have you already begun packing litter-free lunches? What do your kids like the best?


Photo: Nicole


Jude113 picture
I have been using ziplock divided containers for my daughter's lunches. They come with 3 compartments and the container easily fits into a Land's End lunch bag. She has a steel bottle for water. I also used storage containers for her snacks. This greatly minimized the packaging waste. To save my sanity I made a 5 day lunch rotation, whole wheat pita with humus, whole wheat bagel with cream cheese, peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat, homemade whole wheat fruit muffin and a hard boiled egg and some walnuts. To round out the lunch I usually threw in 2 veggies and 1 fruit that varied by seasonality. For snacks(had to be nut free) I sent things like low salt Triscuits, whole spelt pretzels, homemade popcorn, cheese, homemade granola bars, fruit or veggies. When my daughter brought her lunch bag home, I could see what wasn't eaten and adjust portions to avoid food waste. My daughter is a slow eater and prefers to rush out to recess as ASAP. One of the biggest wastes I see is in school hot lunch. At my daughters Catholic school, patents are required to do lunch duty. I see many kids taking hot lunch routinely dumping half of their food in the garbage untouched(the food quality is decent). I have previously taught in other school districts and seen similar food waste, not to mention styrofoam lunch trays, prepackaged heat and eat containers, plastic silverware, etc. I think getting rid of morning snack would help lower food waste as well.
NYCChica picture
Love these ideas, and they're great for adults going to work as well. I have been switching over to reusable/sustainable lunch containers and utensils over the last year and it has really made a difference in how much waste I create for one meal a day. I keep a set of flatware in my desk so I don't have to take plastic utensils from take-away places. It has it's other benefits as well. I am more likely to bring my own food from home which saves money and calories. My wallet is a little fatter while my waistline has shrunk a bit!
Nancy D. picture
Nancy D.
This is great encouragement for parents/caregivers, as well as a learning opportunity for kids to learn about the waste we generate. I would like to add that buying school lunch is also a possibility, especially if your school lunch program does focus on healthy choices and waste reduction!