Lean, Green Lunch Machine

by Lindsey Toth

Now that school is in full swing, it’s time to focus on getting our lunches in check, both for the health of our bodies as well as the health of our planet.  Here are some tips to make sure your lunch is eco-friendly and belly-friendly when you hit the books.

The Norm: Plastic bags for sandwiches and snacks.

The Problem: More than 20 million sandwich bags from school lunches go into landfills every day.

The Swap: It’s been estimated that on average, using a disposable lunch generates 67 pounds of trash a year.  Save money and the planet with reusable bags, like these super chic and cute ones from Etsy or Lunchskins. Feeling crafty?  Make a fun project out of it using directions like the ones found here and add your own personal sense of style and creativity.

The Norm: Brown paper lunch bags.

The Problem: One reusable lunch container can take the place of more than 200 brown bags over the course of the school year.

The Swap: Hello, retro!  Invest in a reusable lunchbox and recoup your money well before the holiday season.  There are tons of great new products to help keep your lunch eco-friendly.  Laptop Lunch Boxes are an eco-chic brown bag swap to obsess over.  These colorful recycled, food-safe plastic containers were created by two eco-friendly moms looking for a way to cut down on waste while still keeping lunch convenient and fun.  Planet Box also makes a great alternative to plastic lunchboxes, with separate containers for each food item, making clean up a snap.

The Norm: 100 calorie snack packs for snack time.

The Problem: Convenience costs you.  Snack packs cost about three times as much as buying the regular size and portioning out yourself.  Plus, the amount of petroleum based packaging increases dramatically.

The Swap: It’s tempting for busy students to load up on these convenience foods, but meet snack attacks a smarter way, and slash your grocery bill and the level of packaging waste by making your own snack packs.  Pre-portion snacks into reusable containers or reusable fabric bags on Sunday night, and you will have eco-friendly snacks ready to grab-and-go all week long.

The Norm: Turkey sandwich.

The Problem: Processed meats are linked with higher rates of heart disease and cancer, and about 50% of our “foodprint” comes from the amount of animal products in our diet.

The Swap: Lunch like a flexitarian! Swap your typical deli meat sandwich for a roasted red pepper hummus and veggie sandwich, like cucumber, spinach, sprouts, or zucchini. Or try cooking up a Sunshine Veggie Burger in a wrap – talk about delicious meeting nutritious! Not only will you be saving on your carbon footprint, but you’ll also be cutting back on sodium and artery clogging fat – a delicious win-win.

Looking for more ideas? Waste Free Lunches is a superb, one-stop shopping website for information and resources to build waste free lunches from home or get your school going a deeper shade of green in the cafeteria.

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