Improving your Litterless Lunch Box Literacy
August 20th, 2018
by Kristen LaRocque, GreenUP Store Coordinator
School is around the corner and with it comes the usual back to school shopping but also some new vocabulary. Boomerang Lunches refer to lunches where any and all food packaging sent to school goes home with the child. Litterless Lunches, however, are lunches with little or no packaging, and typically these kinds of lunches have significant environmental and nutritional advantages to their package-heavy counterparts.
Let’s start by unpacking some of the bad apples in the typical school lunch roster. Pre-packed granola bars may seem like a convenient snack option but the wrappers are not recyclable so they are destined for the landfill. Consider baking your own healthy alternative in large batches, which you can freeze and thaw as needed. This is a great way to save time and money, while offering an opportunity for your child to be involved in the baking process. The finished product can then be wrapped in beeswax food wrap, which is reusable, washable, and compostable after approximately one year of use.
Another source of waste in the lunch box is the single-use, plastic re-sealable sandwich/freezer bag. This type of packaging can be avoided entirely with the use of fabric snack bags, like those made by Colibri. These zippered bags offer the element of surprise and the novelty of opening a package. They are reusable, easy to wipe out at the end of the day, and can be tossed in the washing machine when they need a deeper clean.
Yogurt cups and tubes are another waste culprit in a typical school lunch packing arsenal. If they are not finished up during lunchtime, they cannot be resealed, which leads to food waste. Plastic yogurt tubes and foil lids on yogurt containers are not recyclable and therefore end up in the landfill. Although the plastic cup portion is recyclable, it must be properly rinsed before being put in the blue bin, and often this can be a challenge in a busy classroom.
Similarly, juice boxes can be recycled, however they are often not rinsed properly before being put into the bin. This leads to contamination of other recyclables which can result in the whole lot being sent to landfill. In speaking with teachers and education assistants, I have learned that juice boxes are the number one unfinished lunch item, and more often than not, they end up half-full in the garbage. Juice boxes and other tetra pack beverages can be substituted with a reusable stainless steel water bottle filled with good ol’ H2O, right from the tap! Beyond reducing waste, getting into the habit of drinking water at lunch is a solution that’s good for your child’s health and your pocket book.
The nutritional benefits of Litterless Lunches don’t end there. By moving toward a package free lunch for your child, you reduce the risk of chemical contaminants present in many forms of “food-safe” packaging. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently issued a report acknowledging the growing body of evidence, which suggests that chemicals added to food directly or indirectly (via packaging) could have long-term developmental repercussions in children (Click here for a summary of the report).
Litterless Lunches are based on the benefits of simplicity. By using stainless steel containers, thermoses, and water bottles, you can forgo packaged foods and beverages. You can also avoid buying single use products like re-sealable bags or plastic wrap. This translates into tangible savings that will benefit you, and the planet.
It’s not always possible to avoid packaging. If you are looking to check up on the recyclability of specific items within the City of Peterborough, there is an excellent online resource located on the City of Peterborough Waste Management webpage called, What Goes Where. This web page allows you to type in a particular item or material and then receive specific instruction about the how and where of its disposal.
School lunches offer an opportunity for families to instill healthy eating habits and foster environmental responsibility within their children. There are additional resources in the community that can support this effort. The Recycle Rangers: Planet Protectors Program, developed by GreenUP, addresses the need to reduce what is going to the landfill from our schools. The program aims to educate our young people about waste reduction and inform and empower students so that they can educate their families and friends to be environmental leaders. For more information visit our website: www.recyclerangers.ca.
The GreenUP Store offers a variety of tools to help you create your child’s litterless lunch kit. We carry reusable stainless steel containers, such as Planet Box, and many other brands that feature easy-to-open lids, silicone seals, and insulated double-walls for keeping meals warm or cold. You can also find a wide selection of reusable bottles, lunch bags and totes, fabric snack bags, and more!
For more information visit our website at www.greenup.on.ca/greenup-store. Please visit us at the GreenUP Store at 378 Aylmer St. in downtown Peterborough or give us a call at 705-745-3238 ext. 222 or email firstname.lastname@example.org with your zero-waste lunch questions.