April 22, 2019

LIVING GREEN: Waste-free lunches

Homemade lunches can be healthy and affordable, but they can also be wasteful. Consider the materials used to pack your or your child’s lunch each day, and how much is thrown out at the end of that midday meal. A 2008 EPA study found that 31 percent of all household waste was from food packaging and containers.

A brown bag lunch with a single serving yogurt, individually wrapped granola bar, packaged snack and sandwich packed in a plastic baggie can amount to a lot of trash—the EPA estimates that the average school-aged child disposes of at least 67 pounds of lunch waste per year, most of which ends up in the landfill. Items like juice boxes cannot be recycled due to their composition of inseparable cardboard, plastic and foil. The EPA estimates that Americans threw out about 2.8 million tons of aluminum in 2011, mostly sourced from food and beverage containers.

Consider switching out single serving snacks, granola bars, and yogurts for bulk supplies packaged in reusable material like Tupperware or reusable cloth bags. Swapping out a disposable brown bag with a reusable lunch box can reduce waste and save your family money. Reducing food packaging and disposable lunch wastes can eliminate literally tons of trash, and an estimated $246 per child per year. Transitioning to waste-free lunches for you and your family can make lunchtime healthy, affordable and sustainable.

—Becka Gregory, Observer staff

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