Reducing Food Waste with Litterless Lunches

August 24th, 2016

By Amy Bowen, GreenUP Communications Intern

Littlerless lunch infographic

In the coming weeks, families will be settling into the familiar back to school routine. Returning to school is most often a time when new goals are set, and when new school supplies are purchased.

This year, GreenUP is encouraging students and families to consider how they can incorporate litterless lunches into their school or work routine.

To support waste reduction, GreenUP offers educational programs for students, and sells a variety of products in the GreenUP store that can help you reduce your food packaging waste.

During the upcoming school year GreenUP will be delivering the Recycle Rangers: Planet Protectors Program on behalf of the County of Peterborough, City of Peterborough, City of Kawartha Lakes, and Northumberland County.

The Recycle Rangers: Planet Protectors Program aims to help schools reduce waste by improving recycling habits and increasing composting.

The program challenges students and the school community to become active agents of change. Schools can book a visit from the Recycle Rangers program, where a leader will visit the class and run a dynamic, multimedia puppet presentation that is designed and curriculum-linked for Grade 3, 4, and 5 students.

Last year the program visited 38 schools in 4 municipalities and reached 3,400 students. In speaking to teaching and custodial staff, program leaders found that schoolyard composting and blue bin sorting are areas that need the most improvement.

Blue bin contamination – when students don’t finish food and put a half-full container into the blue bin, thus making it unable to be recycled – was identified as one of the main problems at the schools visited.

Based on these findings, the program is starting a new two-year module on Food Waste in the fall. The goal for Recycle Rangers over the next two years is to reduce the amount of classroom food waste by encouraging responsible consumption and litterless lunches.

Responsible consumption means becoming more aware of the food waste we produce. For example, instead of leaving a yogurt cup half full, the program encourages students to finish it or to consider if they intend to finish the yogurt before they open it.

Becoming responsible consumers will help reduce blue bin contamination and decrease the amount of wasted food and food packaging we produce.

Danica Jarvis, Environmental Education Coordinator at GreenUP, explains that “recent audits in the County of Peterborough found that 15% of our garbage was wasted food by weight.” This would include food that has expired, such as moldy bread and vegetables and fruit that were not consumed in time before going bad.

Sustain Ontario reports that in Canada almost 50% of total food production is wasted at the household level. This has drastic financial implications, and the Recycle Rangers program will also be discussing the economic impact that wasted food has on families.

Knowledgeable staff at the GreenUP store can help you prepare for a litterless lunch, which will allow you to save money and prevent unnecessary waste.

Ausma Clappison, Coordinator of the GreenUP Store and Resource Centre, says that “packing food for a picnic, car trip, or back to school can potentially produce a lot of waste.  At the GreenUP store there are a variety of storage choices that are available to help make small changes to how we think about meal packaging and waste reduction.  Reusable is the key – nothing goes into a landfill.”

The store offers a wide variety of beverage containers as well as thermoses for hot drinks. Reusable juice boxes are a great substitute for pre-packaged ones. Imagine one juice box per day for the whole school year going into the trash – you can save a lot of waste by switching to a reusable alternative!

Lunch bags of various designs are available, and can be filled with reusable food containers, cutlery, and snack bags that can be washed out and reused. The store carries reusable lids for mason jars, making it easier to use the jar for a beverage, spice shaker, or food storage.

A great substitute for saran wrap is reusable beeswax paper, sold at the store. The paper, produced by Abeego, can last up to a year with proper care. And, it can be composted instead of thrown into the garbage when it becomes too worn for further use. The whole life-cycle of a product is important, and by choosing products that will biodegrade naturally we can lessen the amount of waste that ends up in a landfill.

If you’re ending off your summer with a camping trip, a weekend up at the cottage, or a picnic in the park, these are great opportunities to try reusable products and plan out litterless meals. When school starts, you’ll be well on your way to preparing healthy, affordable, and environmentally-friendly litterless lunches!

For more information about the Recycle Rangers program, including how to book a school visit and links to curriculum that will help with your classroom planning, visit www.www.greenup.on.ca or www.recyclerangers.ca. You can also contact Danica Jarvis at 705-745-3238 ext 216 or by email at danica.jarvis@www.greenup.on.ca.

To learn more about the products the store offers, you can visit the GreenUP Store at 378 Aylmer St. North in Peterborough, or contact Ausma Clappison during the week by phone at 705-745-3238 ext 222.

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