Waste Free Lunches – School Lunch Ideas for Parents

Waste Free Lunch packed in a reusable container

I’m pretty excited – I just got invited to a lunchtime workshop with students at our school about Waste Free Lunches.  We’ll play with our food, pack some sample lunches, and come up with some menu ideas for parents.  Many thanks to Amy Allen, our amazing Green Team Leader, for coordinating the work that our students have been doing at lunchtime to reduce, reuse and recycle.  Here’s a little primer to get you started…

What’s a “Waste Free Lunch” and why should we care?

A single student produces 45 to 90 pounds of garbage every year in disposable lunches.
This garbage doesn’t just go away – it takes up space in our limited landfills. The more garbage we produce, the farther we have to truck it for dumping, and the more greenhouse gases we emit. Even items that we try to dispose responsibly (such as light-weight plastic bags) may blow out of bins, trucks, and landfill sites, landing in our
streams and Bay.

Going Waste Free is one of the most significant things we can do to protect the environment and our children’s health. And it’s easier than you think!

How should you pack a Waste Free School Lunch:

  • A lunch box or reusable bag
  • Reusable containers for your food
  • Thermos or reusable drink containers
  • Reusable tableware
  • Washable cloth napkins (or cut up old t-shirts)
  • Real forks and spoons that can be taken home and washed
  • Some of my favorite waste free lunch items can be found in my Amazon Store

What NOT to use for your Waste Free School Lunch:

  • Juice boxes, disposable plastic or foil drink containers
  • Individual disposable packets of yogurt, applesauce, chips or pudding
  • Plastic bottles (at all!)
  • Styrofoam containers and cups
  • Plastic baggies
  • Aluminum foil (unless you can take it home to wash and reuse or recycle)

Ideas for packing your lunchbox:

  • Set out at least 4 small reusable containers for each child.
  • Talk to your kids about their preferences and make a list of foods that they enjoy in each of these categories:  Protein, Whole Grains, Fruit, Veggies and Snacks
  • And then pack each container filled with one food from each category.  (In the packed lunch above, you’ll find a sandwich and walnuts, both of which fit in the Protein category; there are grapes and cucumbers, both in the fruit/veggie category; pea snacks, which are a healthy snack; gummy vitamins, and olives in the small lidded container)
  • I have written about this topic before – This school lunch post has more resources and some other links to awesome articles on other blogs.

Please join our Facebook Community and upload a photo of your child’s waste free lunch! Believe me, we can use the support and will benefit from seeing what you pack 🙂

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12 Responses to Waste Free Lunches – School Lunch Ideas for Parents

  1. Forget school lunches, I need to implement this for my husband!

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention Waste Free Lunches - School Lunch Ideas for Parents | What's Cooking With Kids -- Topsy.com

  3. Amanda says:

    Man… I had no idea! Thanks for the great info!

  4. Tracy says:

    Love this! I can definitely do these things for hubby’s lunches! 🙂

  5. Great suggestions, I’ve been trying to go waste free as much as possible in my home too by using glass containers and cloth napkins as well.

  6. Brilliant. I’m actually pretty waste-free with Noah’ lunches now that I think about it. Thanks goodness for Tupperware!

  7. My 8YO has had a couple field trips & such where the school has made a clear voice in how to pack lunches just like you’ve outlined. It has definitely made me think twice about how I do things. Great tips!

  8. Libby says:

    I ended up packing waste free lunches accidentally! My son’s food allergies forced me to pack every day, and his issues with fine motor skills made one easy open container the best option when he was younger, which I’ve continued as he’s gotten older.

  9. Michelle, thanks for the awareness. I am all about the waste free lunches. I cannot believe how much is thrown our each day at the schools.

  10. naomi says:

    Waste free is definitely something we practice in my home.

  11. Holly B. says:

    I love packing my 8yo son’s lunch in reusable containers. I’ve even trained him to rinse out the containers when he gets home. But I have one problem. I’ve been searching and searching for a low, rectangular (or round) insulated container to send him with warm leftovers. I currently use a soup Thermos, but that means I have to mix everything together. I’ve searched online and seen many bento boxes, but haven’t found anything to suit my needs of separating hot/cold items in his lunchbox. Any ideas?

  12. Kat Brand says:

    This is a great post! Might I offer another waste-free alternative: COMPOSTABLE sandwich bags by Untrash! We are implementing a Green Lunches Program for Bay Area elementary schools that will provide 100% compostable packed lunches.

    Please check us out at ucanproducts.com and follow us on twitter @UntrashHero

    Thanks, Michelle for the awesome post!

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