I’m not going to lie, waste free school lunches are no easy task, but they are possible! According to The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, each child who brings a disposable lunch to school generates about 4 to 8 ounces of garbage every day, which totals to about 45-90 pounds of garbage every year! You may be shocked by this statistic, but when you picture the typical lunch brought to school today, the numbers don’t seem far off.
Families rely on the convenience of prepackaged snacks, single use plastic bags and disposable silverware when packing lunches. Unfortunately, this trash ends up in landfills and incinerators. So how can we fix this problem?
Waste Free Lunches!
A waste free lunch does not include any throwaway packing and produces little to no food waste. These lunches are often packed in a reusable lunchbox and the food is stored in reusable containers. Students should bring a beverage to school in a refillable water bottle and pack cloth napkins and stainless steel utensils that can be washed at home. Any leftover food should be saved for later in the resealable containers, or composted in the school garden.
Lunches served at school can also be waste free! If you school would like to switch over to a waste free program, consider using reusable tableware and encouraging students to only take what they will eat.
Switching to a waste free lunch program can seem like a daunting task, but it does not need to be done overnight. I recommend enlisting the help of other staff members or parents when beginning your waste free lunch program. It is important that you give parents time to adjust to this program, as many of them have set lunch routines within their busy schedules. Amy Hemmert, author of The Laptop Lunch User’s Guide: Fresh Ideas for Packing Wholesome, Earth-friendly Lunches Your Kids Will Love, recommends setting a goal for your program that works for your school. Some schools hold waste free lunch programs every day, while others hold them once a week or once a month. It is important to remember that every small action makes a difference, so it is okay to start small!
Please, educate the parents and students. It is important that they are as passionate about the cause as you are, and they know the difference they are making in the environment. There are many resources on the internet such as, Waste Free Lunch Tips and Go Green This School Year!. Send home tips, post eye-catching posters around the school, and most importantly, congratulate the students and families on their hard work!