Sunday, August 14, 2011

Back-To-School: On Trash-free Lunches

Last year was the first for packing lunches in our household. Music Man has been bringing lunch fixin's for years and preparing a fresh lunch in the kitchen of his workplace. We've been taking snacks all over town forever. But last year we needed to pack an official school lunch. Five times a week!

In addition to the challenge of keeping them interesting, I noticed that these lunches also produced more trash than I was comfortable with. Ziploc bags, granola bar wrappers, cheese stick wrappers, more ziploc bags, juice boxes, paper napkins. All this times 180 school days. That's a lot of trash.

After about a week, I started looking for alternatives. Since my particular first grader was pretty good about bringing home all lunch leftovers, including trash, I knew I could safely send things like cloth napkins and real silverware. I experimented with homemade granola bars. I started sewing reusable Sandwich Wraps and Snack Packs as alternatives to plastic ziplocs.

I got so many compliments on them that I started selling them at the local Farmers' Market under the name The Eventual Farmer.

They are consistently a top seller and shoppers have a fun time guessing what food-grade repurposed plastic is used to line the inside. (Wanna take a guess? Leave it in the comments!)

For our family, homeschooling was a close runner-up to the amazing charter school where my children attend. So knowing that they are making no more trash at school than they would be at home is a relief.

Since it took me several months to come up with and implement these trash-free options, I thought I'd save you all the time by listing some below.

I do have to remind myself: it's a process. We still produce a bit of trash. Not every lunch is trash-free. But we're working on it.

10 Ideas for a Trash-free Lunch

1. Take leftovers in a Tupperware or Pyrex container, instead of in foil or wax paper.

2. Take a cloth napkin and real silverware, instead of a paper napkin and plasticware.

3. Take crackers or cut fruit in The Eventual Farmer’s snack packs, instead of Ziploc.

4. Try to eat food close to its natural state to avoid packaging (example, an apple instead of applesauce).

5. Consider making granola bars instead of store-bought ones. See here for a simple recipe.

6. Take sandwiches in The Eventual Farmer’s sandwich wraps, instead of in a Ziploc.

7. Use a washable drink bottle or jar, instead of a juice box.

8. Bring home food scraps (banana peels, apple cores, etc) for composting or simple burying in the flower beds.

9. Buy big blocks of cheese and take small chunks, instead of individually wrapped string cheese.

10. Take a hard-boiled egg for easy protein. Bring the shells home for composting or burying.

Do you all have more ideas? I'd love to hear them! One facebook friend already recommended Mason Jar Meals. So cute and simple, we may be instituting Mason Jar Mondays around here.


  1. I'm going to guess that the repurposed plastic is the bags found in cereal and cracker boxes.

  2. You got it, Nicole! Have you had a chance to try the snack packs yet?

  3. Yes - we use them pretty much everyday. So handy!