A typical bagged school lunch contains a sandwich (in a plastic baggie or wrapped in plastic wrap), and usually 2 or more store bought, individual serving, pre-packaged items like a yogurt, a bag of apple slices and a package of crackers or cookies . Also included is a juice box (with a plastic wrapped straw) or a bottle of water, a spoon that is thrown away, and a paper napkin. At the end of the lunch, nothing is left for the student to take home- everything goes into the trash, EVERY DAY! Multiply this by the number of students who bring their lunch to school and that is A LOT of garbage… garbage that can be eliminated and replaced with American-made products. Follow these four steps for a better back-to-school lunch routine:
1. Replace those paper or plastic lunch bags that are tossed after each use with an Eco-friendly re-usable lunch bag.
There are several great reusable lunch bags that are made in the US. Mimi the Sardine Lunch Bags are manufactured in the San Francisco Bay Area. They are non-toxic, easy to clean and have great designs for kids of all ages. Headquartered in Milwaukee, Rebel Green manufactures organic cotton lunch totes that are stylish enough for the picky tween and teen and even come with an organic cloth napkin.
2. Use reusable lunch containers or bags instead of plastic baggies, plastic wrap or aluminum foil and purchase the regular package size of snack items instead of individual pre-packaged snack sizes.
The Bento Box has been really popular in the school lunch room over the past few years. Laptop Lunches Bento Boxes are made in the USA, and contain NO lead, BPA, phthalates or PVC. Bento Boxes DO NOT fit in regular lunch bags, and Laptop Lunches sells the special size bags but they are not US made. Laptop Lunches also sells Bento Buddies Containers that can be used in regular lunch bags and are USA made. You will save money in the long run by buying a jar of applesauce and using these containers vs. spending more for the package of four single servings! Planet Wise offers made in America sandwich wraps. These wraps are made of food safe materials and are PVC, BPA, phthalate, latex and lead free. They are also great for holding fruit, and snacks.
3. Instead of purchasing water or juice boxes (by the case) that will just get thrown away, pack that drink in a re-usable bottle.
The use of just one re-useable bottle can save so much waste! Liberty Bottle Works makes the first and only US made metal water bottle in Yakima, Washington. These bottles are made of recycled aluminum and are BPA free. Liberty Bottle Works offers a 16 oz kids size with a great selection of designs to choose from.
4. Invest in cloth napkins and re-usable forks/spoons then stop buying paper napkins and disposable utensils
Most of the companies mentioned above also sell made in the USA cloth napkins. Planet Wise offers the cute Planet Wise Washable Cotton Napkins that are pictured. Also, cloth napkins with great kid patterns can be found on Etsy. Preserve Cutlery makes a nice line of re-usable utensils. You could also pick up silverware cheap at yard sales or use old odd and end pieces.
Green Living Editor, USA Love List
Follow Tracey on Twitter @aMothersEarth