As with many Canadian moms, back to school is the start of fresh new school year and a fresh new routine for my family. As September approaches, my three sons love picking out their favorite lunch items. A few years ago, while researching my first book, Green for Life, my opinion started to change on how my family packed school lunches. In my research I recognized the impact of what I call the three P's of school lunches – Prepared, Packaged and Processed. My family will be heading into our sixth year of packing waste-free lunches, and I wanted to share the health, cost and environmental benefits of going litterless.
Cost savings: Not only do Litterless Lunches help prevent huge amounts of waste but they also pack a tidy savings punch. Litterless lunches are 35 percent cheaper than their disposable counterparts. (On average, litterless lunches cost $2.65 per day, while disposable lunches weigh in at $4.02 per day.) Over the course of a school year, litterless lunches net hundreds of dollars worth of savings.
Health: According to Health Canada, avoiding pre-packaged, processed foods reduces your child's risk of obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and kidney disease. The majority of sodium found in the typical diet comes from processed food products, accounting for about 77 percent of Canadians' total sodium intake.
The foundation of a litterless lunch starts with swapping out common, disposable products, with eco-friendly, healthy and affordable options. Here are my top picks for waste-free lunch solutions:
- Reusable lunch carrier – The SnackTAXI, is a great option in place of the plastic bag in which many children and adults wrap their lunches.
- Reusable containers – Stainless steel, glass, or an alternative wrap like the Wrap-N-Mat in place of plastic wrap or foil.
- Stainless steel or glass drink bottle – Stainless steel, glass or an alternative like the Otterbottle instead of single-use cans or juice boxes
- Healthy snacks – Some of our favorite swaps are a water bottle instead of a juice box, a homemade sandwich instead of pre-packaged processed meat and cheese packs, and fresh cut fruit for fruit snacks. (Cost comparison: Packaged Lunch: $4.02 LitterLess Lunch: $2.65)
Watch how you wash:
Keep in mind that while you are making an investment in a healthy and more sustainable lunch, it's important to investigate what you are using to wash and keep your lunch containers clean. Wherever possible, look to wash your lunch bags and containers with plant- derived, non-toxic dish soap like Seventh Generation's Natural Dish Liquid.