Zero Waste Lunches and Other School Survival Tips

August 25th, 2017

By Kristen Larocque, GreenUP Store Coordinator

What is the secret to effortlessly packing school lunches? It is a difficult task to entice children to eat nutritious meals and snacks and this challenge seems twofold when they reach school age.

As a parent to a very adventuresome 4-year-old on the brink of starting school, this subject is at the forefront of my mind. My conversations with teachers, parents, and dieticians along with my perusal of parent blogs and online articles have given me some insight as to how I can navigate this transition with ease and in turn, help my child adapt to life at school.

Making the transition into kindergarten is a huge milestone with a variety of associated hurdles. Your child begins to eat without your constant supervision and prompts and they are expected to be able to open and close any containers you send with them. No matter what age your child is, parents can dictate what is in the lunch box, but while at school, children remain firmly in control of if and how much they eat.

While I hope for ease and convenience while packing lunches, I am also aware of the immense importance of reducing household waste and living sustainably. Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson is a fantastic resource and her insights have certainly shaped some of my school preparations. Here are some helpful tips to make the transition easier for parents and children:

  • Involving your child in the lunch-packing process can encourage independence and ownership; if kids choose their own sandwich-type or veggie option, they are more likely to eat it
  • Consider choosing reusable stainless steel containers, thermoses, and water bottles. Stainless steel is hard wearing, long lasting, light, and free of BPA and other harmful toxins
  • You can practice your lunch routine before school starts by packing a demo lunch and going on a picnic. This gives you the opportunity to see your child’s lunch gear in action and they can demonstrate their ability to open and close the containers so that you can be sure that the food you pack is accessible
  • Juice boxes or tetra packs can be substituted with a refillable juice box and consider offering a homebrewed fruity flavoured water. Your child will feel like they have a special drink for school without the unnecessary sugar. Teachers and education assistants have told me that one of the main sources of food waste in schools are half-full juice boxes that get inevitably tossed in the garbage after lunch is over
  • Consider replacing plastic zip bags with reusable fabric snack bags. They 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 once they need a deeper clean. Plastic wrap can also be replaced with a reusable alternative; Abeego Beeswax Food Wraps are reusable, washable, and compostable after one year of use
  • Pre-packed granola bars may seem convenient but a wasteful wrapper each day starts to add up in landfill. Consider baking your own nutrient-rich alternative. If you bake large batches you can freeze the extra 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 food preparation
  • Do some research! A quick Google search will bring up hundreds of blog posts and articles with parents documenting their school lunch ideas. One of my favourite ideas is fresh fruit or vegetable skewers. Try visiting the website of the brand of your child’s lunchbox. For example, the Planet Box website provides specific recipes that help you make the most of the compartments provided.

School lunches offer an opportunity for parents to instill healthy eating habits and foster environmental responsibility in their children. There are additional resources in the community that can support this effort. For example, 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 on 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 zero waste lunch kit. We carry many reusable stainless steel container options in many sizes including Planet Box, and many other brands that feature easy-to-open lids, silicone seals, and insulated double-walls for keeping meals warm or cold. We have many reusable bottles, drinking boxes, 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 kristen.larocque@greenup.on.ca with your zero-waste lunch questions.


Posted in conservation, GreenUP Store