During a lengthy phone catch-up this week with a girlfriend in Melbourne, she shared how her child's school had recently removed all rubbish bins from the school yard.
In an effort to reduce playground litter, studentsare now required to take all their lunchbox contents home with them at the end of the school day.
While this may seem a bit extreme, many of my teacher friends, from various schools, are quick to confirm the growing volumes of waste generated in the school yard.
What's causing these large volumes of school yard litter?
The humble lunchbox.... or more specifically, packaging from processed foods and drinks from children's lunches.
As more and more schools struggle to deal with the volume of waste generated at lunchtimes, parents are being asked to lift their game in the lunchbox department.
I know what some of you may be thinking.... both my partner and I work and packing lunchboxes is time-consuming enough as it is!
And if that's you, I hear you loud and clear!
The nightly ritual of packing school and kindergarten lunches can sometimes seem tedious and unrelenting, but it doesn't have to be hard and it doesn't need to take as long as an episode of The Bachelor.
In this post I'll share six tips to help you create a waste-free lunchbox for your school-aged child.
1. Forget the Juice
Not only are juices and cordials high in sugar, which is a leading cause of dental cavities, drink containers are a single-use item that can easily be eliminated from your child's lunch. Do your child's teeth, gut health and our environment a favour and pack a reusable water bottle filled with chilled water.
2. Embrace Bento-Style
The Japanese were onto a winner when they invented Bento boxes and lunchbox companies have jumped on to this trend in recent years to encourage healthy eating and portion control.
Bento-style lunchboxes like Yumbox Leakproof Lunchboxes enable a variety of foods to be included in a lunchbox, without the need for plastic or foil wrap. The leakproof feature is a win for kids who love yoghurts, fruit purees and dips, but hate soggy crackers or having to juggle an extra container.
3. Smarten Up Your Squeezie Pouch
If your child loves eating yoghurts, custard or fruit purees in squeeze pouch, opt for a reusable variety like Little Mashies and fill with homemade or bulk-bought soft foods. This switch alone will help shave a decent chunk off your grocery bill.
4. Re-think Your Wraps
Challenge your thinking that sandwiches and other foods need to be individually wrapped in plastic wraps to maintain their shape and freshness.
By using a Bento-style Lunchboxor switching the plastic wraps for reusable sandwich wraps or reusable food pouches (instead of plastic snap-lock bags), you'll ensure your child's lunch not only stays fresh, it won't contain any nasty toxins from the plastic wrap (HELLO phthalates!).
PLUS you'll eliminate waste. Just be sure to remind your child to bring the reusable wraps and food pouches home!
5. Pack REAL foods
The simplest way to ensure your child's lunch is a zero-waste lunch is to avoid processed foods altogether and pack REAL foods.
Real foods, or wholefoods, are foods that have had minimal processing and minimal packaging.
So instead of individually wrapped chips, biscuits, fruit bars and snacks, try to pack fruits, vegetables (cooked or raw), eggs, nuts (if your child's school allows), dairy, dips, meats, etc.
Of course, if your child is accustomed to a lunchbox full of processed foods, this transition may take some time for both of you to adjust. Start by replacing one item at a time and once embedded, move onto the next.
6. Compost the Leftovers!
A zero-waste lunchbox doesn't end when you close the latch or seal the lid.
For those days when your child doesn't eat their entire lunch, give the leftovers a second lease of life by turning them into compost. Our leftovers go straight to our chickens, but composting, worm farms or Bokashi Bins are also great at turning food scraps into nutrient-dense fertilizer for your garden.
Zero-waste school lunchboxes are possible and when you action the tips above and make the switch, you'll soon see the health, environmental and financial benefits.
Over To You!
Do you have some great tips on creating zero-waste school lunches? Please share below!
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