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Tips for Packing an Eco-Friendly Lunch


Have kids going to the Volusia County area schools? If so, there is a good chance that you pack a lunch for your child at least some of the time. While most parents are focused on what their child will want to eat that day, it's also a good time consider how you can pack a more eco-friendly lunch. Not only will you be doing good for the environment, but you will also be setting the example for your child, which they will likely follow when they grow up.

Start with a reusable lunch box, of course, and then go from there to consider the rest of the items. Here are some tips for packing an eco-friendly lunch for school:

  • Invest in a reusable drink container. There are many reusable drink containers to choose from, including those that will keep the drink insulated. Rather than all the waste associated with sending drink boxes/pouches, opt for using a reusable drink container. Whether you fill it with water, juice, milk, or whatever your child prefers, you will be saving a lot of waste when you opt for this route. Drink boxes/pouches have a lot of waste associated with them, despite the container only having a small amount of liquid.
  • Avoid single use plastic. Skip the plastic wrap, plastic bags, plastic straws, and plastic utensils. Those items are not environmentally friendly and are not recycled (they are also not biodegradable). Opt instead for reusable containers, including little snack cups with lids, sandwich containers, etc. If you have something you need to wrap, consider using foil, which can be recycled, or natural wax paper sandwich bags. There are also reusable sandwich bags that work great and last for years. Pick up a couple of cheap metal forks and spoons that can be used for lunch box days, as well as some reusable condiment cups for days when they will have things to dip or need to carry something like salad dressing. The reusable containers you purchase should last for years. 
  • Reduce meat consumption. There is a lot of information available about the big carbon footprint and environmental damage that is caused by the meat industry. Your lunches will be more environmentally friendly when you nix, or at least reduce, the meat consumption. If your family loves meat, consider at least adopting a Meatless Monday's approach, where you pack a meat-free lunch every Monday. For years, the United Nations has been urging people to reduce their meat consumption for a healthier planet.
  • Skip individually wrapped items. Yes, individually wrapped snack items are convenient, but they are not usually environmentally friendly. They tend to use more resources and create a lot of waste. Opt instead for buying larger packages and putting the items in your reusable containers. You may even save money purchasing this way, too, because it's usually more economical to buy items in bulk that you will use a lot of. 
  • Reduce food waste. As a country, we tend to waste a lot of food. And I mean a lot. It's estimated that in America, we throw out a pound of food per person, per day. It's estimated that 4.2 trillion gallons of water each year is used to grow that food that gets wasted. As much as possible, try to avoid sending more than they will eat so that it doesn't end up in the trash.
  • Encourage good habits. Let your child know that if it's possible, they should bring their reusable waste home for recycling. That way it doesn't get thrown into the trash can at school. Have them stick it back in their lunchbox and bring it home to be recycled. Items like foil, for example, can easily be brought home to be recycled.

There are times when it may be difficult to stick to packing an eco-friendly lunch. This is especially true when the kids take field trips and they have to take a lunch that has all waste they can trash afterward. In that case, opt for a paper bag, with wax paper bags for the items that need to be packed inside (packing PBJ works best, because you can't use cold packs). Field trips don't happen that often, however, so these tips will come in handy on most school days that you pack a lunch.

I have made it a priority to try to pack environmentally friendly lunches ever since my kids started school in Volusia County. They take lunch nearly every day, and do so in a reusable lunch box. We use reusable containers, as well as foil and wax bags when needed, and they bring items home that can be recycled. Plus, their lunches are always vegetarian. To see a list of things I pack for their lunch, click here

By doing this all year long, you will save a lot of waste, reduce your carbon footprint, and teach your child about caring for the planet. Plus, you can use these same tips for packing a lunch for work. Keep in mind that it's not about perfection, because nobody is perfect. Making even one of these small changes to your lunchbox routine can add up to big results throughout their school years! 

- Jacqueline Bodnar

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