Baby Steps to Waste-free School Lunch Products

Child with Dabbawalla Monkey Lunch Bag

Every year we circle back around to reducing waste as our children go back to school. Waste from school lunch is visible and preventable, so we keep coming back to improve and come closer to that ideal of waste-free school lunch.

This year, look at your child’s school lunch bag to ask if anything is being thrown away. If it is, what reusable alternative can you find?

Take one step. You don’t need to look for perfection. Just look for this year’s baby step.


The Lunch Bag or Box

A single-use paper or plastic bag guarantees that your child will have a 100% NON-reusable school lunch. If you haven’t decided on a reusable lunch bag or box yet, start there.

Which lunch bag or box to choose depends on a child’s age. We have some adorable lunch bags that might be too cute for cautious older children, but we also have a variety of plain containers that won’t give anything away.

Dabbawalla Lunch Bags
Dabbawalla Lunch Bag Inside

Younger children will love Dabbawalla Lunch Bags because of the cute and bright designs, such as animal faces. These bags are insulated to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Best of all, they are fully machine washable. You will still need to pack the food in containers inside the bag, though.

Goodbyn Lunch Boxes
Goodbyn Lunch Box with food

With Goodbyn Lunch Boxes, the lunch box is also the food container. There is no need to have separate small container to include just enough of each food—and you won’t find yourself asking, “Where is your sandwich bag?” or “What happened to the glass container with the apples?” Your child won’t accidentally throw away your new, reusable containers. This lunch box simplifies lunch.

GreenSmart Lunch Bags
Green Smart Sifaka lunch bag

For an older child, the GreenSmart lunch bag is plain enough, but still stylish and easy to carry. The neoprene (or neogreene) material is insulating and machine washable. Just zip food containers into the two separate compartments.


The Food Containers

If you already have the lunch bag or box, work on food containers as your next step. Zippered sandwich bags are very easy to use.

An important step to reducing lunch waste is reducing portion size. Only include just enough fruit or crackers. Having small containers, each with a surprise snack can make lunch fun for kids. I like the Kinderville Little Bites Jars for small (3.5oz) portions.


The Lunch Accessories

Once you have the reusable food containers taken care of, make sure that utensils and napkins are reusable as well. At lot of lunches are just finger foods that don’t require utensils, but this can change as our children get older. We have stainless steel children’s cutlery and bamboo utensils (including chopsticks) in their own travel pack. We also have children’s napkins, but you might be just as happy including utensils and napkins from your family set—or from a secondary family set. Make sure to sit down and discuss what needs to come back in the lunch box, though, so your family set doesn’t shrink over time.

This year, just evaluate your child’s lunch and decide one step you can take to reduce waste.

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