Looking back, I realize that my childhood school lunches were a sad affair- not only because my brown bag lunches usually consisted of a flattened sandwich that was a little more than lukewarm come lunchtime, but also because these home packed lunches were horrible for the environment. Between the individually wrapped fruit roll ups, the disposable brown bag and the one use sandwich baggie my lunches were essentially a giant middle finger to Mother Nature. It wasn’t intentional or malicious, but still if I had access to a time machine I may go back and inform my parents of the advantages of living an eco-friendly lifestyle–just after I travel back in time stop good ol’ Abe Lincoln from being assassinated and right before I go forward in time to steal next week’s winning lottery numbers…space time continuum be damned!
In 2010 parents are not able to hide behind an ignorance of the negative effects a wasteful lifestyle has on the environment, we all are aware of global warming, even those naïve enough to not believe in it. Now that I have sufficiently guilted you, I can offer some very simple steps that you busy parents can take to ensure that your child’s lunch is delicious to both their and Mother’s Natures sensitive palates.
1.) Black List Your Brown Paper Bag:
Brown paper lunch bags not only allow your child’s Sammie to get flattened under the weight of errant text books by lunch time, but they also are terrible for the environment. As with most items, something that is single use is not eco-friendly. Switching to a reusable bag or lunch box is your eco-friendly alternative. There are plenty of adorable options out there that will keep your child’s beautifully constructed sandwich in tact while keeping those brown bags out of garbage cans and land fills.
If you are feeling extra ambitious, you can even make your own reusable sandwich wrap, perhaps a fun project that you are your offspring can tackle together!
2.) Go Organic, Vegan or Vegetarian:
Regardless of your stance on eco-friendly lunches –hopefully since you are reading it your stance is, “Yay! I love feeding my kid in the most ecological way possible!”– you definitely want to feed your child food that is not only nutritious but delicious as well. The good news is that being an eco-friendly lunch packer does not mean you have to sacrifice taste.
Whenever possible, purchase organic and local ingredients. The closer the food is made to your home, the lower its carbon footprint! Even if you are a carnivore through and through, you may want to switch it up every so often by serving your child a vegan or vegetarian lunch! Meat comes with a huge carbon foot print- we are talking Big Foot proportions- between the fuel it takes to grow the grain to feed farm animals and the amount of methane cows releases into the atmosphere via their gas, skipping on the meat and dairy will make your packed lunch an eco-friendly power house!
Your kids will not be missing out on flavor, there are many awesome vegan recipes online including delicious ones that can be found right here on the Autonomie Project Blog, such as this one for homemade fruit leather, a recipe that does not call for three layers of wasteful packaging.
3.) Just Say “No” To Juice Boxes:
We can all agree, while adorable in their pint-sized stature, juice boxes make for a ton of excess packaging. From the individually plastic wrapped straws to the box that houses a dozen smaller boxes, these wasteful extras put a strain on the environment.
By purchasing a thermos, your child can still indulge in all the delicious juice needed to quench their lunch time thirst. By purchasing a larger bottle, or making your own juice and filling this reusable thermos you cut down on oodles of waste.
4.) Strut Out The Reusable Cutlery:
Sometimes what’s easiest- in this case tossing in a disposable fork or spoon in your child’s lunch- is not the right thing to do. Purchase reusable cutlery that will fit into your child’s adorable reusable lunch box. Notice a theme here? Good, you get a gold star! Reusable goods are the corner-stone to green lunch!
5.) Refuse To Purchase Individual Servings:
When faced with purchasing the already separated into individual serving sized snack and the larger, bulkier, not ready to grab and toss into your child’s lunch box snack you should always aim for the latter.
When purchasing snackables for your beloved little scholars, always seek out the path with the least amount of packaging. Fruit is delectable to taste buds and often comes wrapped in its own natural casing…bananas, I am looking at you pal, way to be a handy-dandy snack! Even when indulging your offspring with the occasional store-bought cookie, purchase the larger package and allot the appropriate serving in one of your child’s reusable lunch accessories!
If these five steps are a little too verbose, here is a cheat sheet to packing an eco-friendly school lunch: avoid excessive packaging, reuse whatever materials you can and be aware of where your ingredients come from. Got it? Good, there will be a pop quiz at a later date and time…and no, I can not tell you when, that is the point of the “pop” in the pop quiz.
Packing a school lunch with a mind for the environment takes minimal effort and shows that you not only care about your child’s present but also their future.