As with many moms, back to school is the start of fresh new school year and a fresh new routine for my family. As September approaches, my three sons love picking out their favorite lunch items. A few years ago, while researching my first book, Green for Life, my opinion started to change on how my family packed school lunches.
In my research I recognized the impact of what I call the three P's of school lunches – Prepared, Packaged and Processed. My family will be heading into our sixth year of packing waste-free lunches, and I wanted to share the health, cost and environmental benefits of going litter free.
Cost savings: Not only do Litterless Lunches help prevent huge amounts of waste but they also pack a tidy savings punch. Litterless lunches are 35% cheaper than their disposable counterparts. Over the course of a school year, litterless lunches net hundreds of dollars worth of savings.
Health: Avoiding pre-packaged, processed foods can help reduce your child's risk of obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and kidney disease. When you pack a lunch from fresh foods, you know exactly what your child is eating – and can keep an eye on their sodium and sugar intake.
Litterless Essentials: The foundation of a litterless lunch starts with swapping out common, disposable products, with eco-friendly, healthy and affordable options. Here are my top picks for waste-free lunch solutions:
- Reusable lunch carrier – The SnackTAXI is a great option in place of the plastic bag in which many children and adults wrap their lunches.
- Reusable containers – Stainless steel, glass, or an alternative wrap like the Bee's Wrap in place of plastic wrap or foil.
- Reusable water bottle – Send them to school with a reusable water bottle, like this filtered version from bobble, and avoid disposable bottle waste.
- Healthy snacks – Some of our favorite swaps are a water bottle instead of a juice box, a homemade sandwich instead of pre-packaged processed meat and cheese packs, and fresh cut fruit for fruit snacks.
Watch how you wash: Keep in mind that while you are making an investment in a healthy and more sustainable lunch, it's important to investigate what you are using to wash and keep your lunch containers clean. Wherever possible, look to wash your lunch bags and containers with plant-derived dish soap like Seventh Generation's Natural Dish Liquid.
Gillian "Gill" Deacon is a Canadian author and broadcaster, currently the host of Here and Now on CBLA-FM in Toronto. Before working in radio, Deacon was a television broadcaster.