Eco-Friendly: 5 Tips for a Waste-Free Lunch

home management

If you pack lunches for yourself and two kids each week, you’re probably going through 15 paper lunch bags, 30 plastic bags for snack and sandwiches, 10 juice boxes, 15 sets of utensils and disposable napkins, and much more. It’s a little daunting to think about all the waste we produce just from lunch.

Lunch box with compartments and containers

But there are easy ways to pack waste-free lunches without breaking the bank. Consider that the set of reusable sandwich bags I bought two years ago at $8 each are still going strong in our house. The average school year is 270 days. Two years of use is about 540 days/uses. Opting for disposable plastic sandwich bags actually cost more money (five 100-count boxes of plastic sandwich bags at $2 each is about $10 total), plus all that waste ends up at the landfill. My sandwich bags will still be around this year and probably for a few years to come.

The key to going waste-free for lunch is to find eco-friendly alternatives to disposables and making a habit out of using reusable lunch containers and accessories. Another plus is that you can personalize (or in my case stylize) a whole lunch box set with a theme that each family member with love.

How to Have a Waste-Free Lunch

Here are some ideas to help you go waste-free for lunch:

  1. Ditch the paper bag and invest in a lunch bag or tote made from recycled or sustainable sources. Let your kids choose a lunch bag in the design or style of their choice, including themes like superheroes, dolls, animals and sports. There are great styles for men and women too – including laptop-style lunch bags and purse-like lunch bags.
  2. Opt for reusable sandwich bags instead of disposable plastic bags. There are a number of options, sizes, and styles that can make coordinating a lunch fun – especially for kids. For instance, if your son loves cars, find reusable sandwich bags with a car-themed print.
  3. Pack an entire lunch in a bento box (lunch containers with compartments for food). Look for bento boxes with 2-3 compartments so you can pack a main entrée like a sandwich or a wrap, fresh fruit and vegetables. You can even use a BPA-free plastic container with silicone muffin liners to create compartments like a bento box.
  4. Switch out disposable paper napkins for reusable cloth napkins. There are a number of cloth napkin options available, including bamboo, cotton and hemp, which are all absorbent and easy to wash. Add a set of reusable utensils with multiple uses like a spork (spoon on one side, fork on the other) to complete the set.
  5. Replace juice boxes and plastic water bottles with reusable, BPA-free water bottles. It’s an easy way to cut down on waste, as well as the sugar.

What are your favorite ways to go waste-free for lunch?

Tracey Black, Don't Mess with MamaTracey Black is web and social media strategist, and the founder and chief blogger for Don't Mess with Mama, a lifestyle blog about parenting, green living, organic food and family travel. She has three boys under the age of eight, and lives in San Diego, Calif.

Featured image courtesy of Flickr.

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