We’re a little embarrassed to admit it—but with school out of session, we’ve gotten used to everyone eating at home. With back to school on the horizon, we’re starting to think about packing up a waste-free lunch for the whole family every day—and it’s exciting, of course, but… at the same time, it’s a little daunting. Filling up plastic baggies and just tossing in a disposable juice box is so much easier to deal with than hand-washing reusable food containers or reusable snack and sandwich bags at the end of a long day, right?
But then, we remember—disposables might make our day-to-day a little easier, but the positive impact of a sustainable lifestyle far outweighs a little convenience. Packing a waste-free lunch for yourself and your little ones not only reduces your contribution to plastic and paper waste—it also saves you money at the checkout line AND encourages your family to eat healthier, fresher foods. Here’s how:
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1) Packing a waste-free lunch costs about half as much as a disposable lunch. According to wastefreelunches.org, a conventional, disposable packed lunch—with plastic bags, juice pouches, plastic utensils, paper napkins and pre-packaged food—costs $4.02 per day, $20.10 per week and $723.60 per school year. A waste-free lunch containing a reusable water bottle or reusable juice container, reusable utensils, cloth napkins and fresh snacks packed in reusable containers costs only $2.65 per day, $13.25 per week and $477.00 per school year.
2) Pre-packaged foods are often filled with scary chemicals. Various studies from organizations such as the FDA, the Environmental Working Group and the Environmental Law Foundation have found toxic levels of arsenic and lead in over 40 different juices and juice boxes, as well as baby food, packaged fruit cups and other snacks—so much lead, in fact, to warrant a warning label under California’s Safe Drinking Water & Toxic Enforcement Act. Ummm—no thank you. By choosing to pack fresh fruits and veggies (that are locally grown and in-season!) in chemical-free, reusable containers, you know exactly what is—and what isn’t—going into your waste-free lunch.
3) And, obviously, a waste-free lunch greatly reduces plastic, paper and other types of waste! The amount of waste generated in the US every year is crazy out of control. Just take a look at these astounding statistics from the EPA and LunchSkins that show just how much disposable waste is added to landfills annually— - 2.7 million tons of (recyclable!) plastic bottles and jars - 2.7 million tons of (recyclable!) aluminum - 3.5 million tons of (compostable!) tissues and paper towels - 40 billion plastic utensils - 100 billion plastic bags - 20 million sandwich bags per DAY! And, since plastics, like those used in disposable lunch products, will never fully biodegrade, these items will last for thousands of years—and the majority of plastic remnants and pieces end up in the water system, polluting our waterways and oceans.
By making a conscious choice to reduce your lunchtime waste, you are choosing to no longer be a part of the problem—and instantly you become a part of the solution! Taking a small step to reduce the amount of disposable waste you and your family create every day is an impactful, mindful way to show your love and care for the planet—and for future generations.