Simple Ways to Greener School Lunches

I like to buy juice boxes now and then for convenience, but on a regular basis, I try to avoid them. One juice box isn’t much in the grand scheme of things, but one juice box per day multiplied by ten months of school (180 days, on average) is quite a pile of non-recyclable trash. Multiplied by the 24 kids in your child’s class is over 4300 empty juice boxes in our landfills per class. Add in the wrappers from individually wrapped snacks, yogurt cups, plastic Lunchable containers, plastic baggies, and so on and you’ve got a massive pile to contend with. If we could reduce that number by even half, that’s a huge improvement.

So, what’s a busy mom to do?

In lieu of plastic baggies and individually packed snacks such as crackers, cookies, fruit, applesauce, yogurt, and so on, I’d suggest going and buying some reusable containers that are also marked as recyclable, should they break. I like these twisty-lidded ones from Zip-Loc (Target makes a generic version) – you can put liquids in them and they don’t leak. Plus, they are easier for a small child to open than the standard pop-top lids. More importantly, they are easier for the small child to put the lid back on, should he or she not finish whatever is in it, so you are less likely to end up with a lunch box full of wet stickiness.

Instead of juice boxes or disposable juice or water bottles, invest in a couple of BPA-free reusable ones.
You can freeze them 1/3 full of water at night and then fill with juice or water so they will be cool for lunch. I’ve even frozen them with milk inside – by lunch, the milk has thawed, but is still nice and chilly.

And what about those granola bars, and other wrapped snacks? You know, it’s not important to me to produce absolutely no garbage. I do buy much less of that type of thing than I used to, but if my child has a wrapped fruit leather bar in with his reusable containers occasionally, I’m not going to lose sleep over it.

That said, if you can buy the product out of the wrapper, then I’d suggest you do so, but sometimes, there is no wrapper-free alternative. One solution, however, is to remove the item from the item, recycle the wrapper at home, and just slip it in one of the reusable lunch containers, next to Junior’s sandwich.
One added bonus to going green is that it saves money. Woohoo! After the initial purchases of reusable items, it’s vastly cheaper to fill your drink bottles with filtered tap water, milk from a gallon jug, or juice from a 64oz container than it is to buy little individual drinks. Similarly, you get so many more snacks for your money – the giant bottle of applesauce, the 32oz container of yogurt, and the huge bag of pretzels contain many more servings than the individual sized versions. If you have more than one child, then multiply those savings and it really adds up.

Another plus is that it’s a fantastic lesson to teach your children – the earth is ours to take care of and this is how we do our part. We talk about being kind to our planet, but this is a good way to show them how we accomplish that goal – something tangible. It’s a simple lesson, but an important one, regardless of your politics.

If you have any product recommendations or other ideas, please feel free to comment below.

P.S. Here’s some great school lunch ideas from Family Fun.


No, really. According to this article, “Urine-powered cars, homes and personal electronic devices could be available in six months with new technology developed by scientists from Ohio University.”

How cool and yet totally disgusting is that? But definitely cool. I love green innovations, though I suppose this one is more of a yellowish-green.

Go, Ohio University!

I Missed Earth Day

Well, I didn’t forget about it or anything, but we didn’t do anything special for it either. In a stroke of unfortunate irony, Beastling 2 had a field trip which required a fully disposable lunch rather than the completely reusable set-up he normally carries. I feel kind of lousy about that, but the truth is, it’s not what you do on that one glorified green day that counts, it’s what you do on the other 364 days that really matters.

There are some things that we do here at the homestead that are very green indeed and plenty others that need improvement, but overall, we are inching toward a greener lifestyle.

I am switching over to CFL bulbs as my traditional bulbs burn out. I love them – they take a bit of getting used to, sure, but after a few days, you don’t notice the difference in the color of the light. I actually appreciate the less-yellow cast they give off.

We recycle. Our home recycling takes aluminum, paper, and #1 and #2 plastics, so that goes out front on Friday mornings. My parents’ recycling pick-up takes all plastics other than #3 and #6 and tin cans and glass, so those items go home with my mother every Thursday. Our cardboard is packed up and taken to the big school recycling bin and our plastic packaging and bags is taken to the bin at Kroger. Batteries and used CFL bulbs are collected and taken to the hazardous recycling center once a year or so. Mr. Lawyer actually brings home all of his co-workers’ plastic bottles…I often think about whether our recycle pick-up workers wonder about our beverage habits. We probably come across as incredibly thirsty folk; he has a big office.

We reuse or rehome. I try to reuse items before putting them in the recycling bin and I try really hard to find a new use for items that cannot be recycled at all. Freecycle is a fantastic way to rehome almost anything – your junk might be another person’s treasure. Even broken, unmatched pottery could be a windfall to a local artist making a tabletop mosaic – you never know. Craigslist is another great way to sell or give away goods that others could use.

We avoid disposable lunch products. The kids’ lunches almost never contain baggies or other throw-away items. They bring back their plastic silverware, containers, lunch bags, and drink bottles and we wash and use them again.

We conserve where we can. We don’t leave the tap running, we turn off lights. We teach the children to do the same. It’s small, but it’s something.

We buy products in recyclable packaging over containers and wrapping that cannot be recycled. We avoid buying plastic water bottles and do not buy juice boxes, which are not recyclable at all.

We use greener cleaners. I now use vinegar on most everything as well as Oxyclean, both of which are environmentally acceptable. I now own a Shark floor steamer which takes only hot water. We are not completely virtuous in this area, but we have made some big strides over the past few years.

But there is more that we need to start doing…

Composting. I am this close to getting a composting bin. But I haven’t taken that plunge yet. I am almost certain that when I do I will wonder why I didn’t do it earlier.

Use Reusable Shopping Bags. Actually I have a number of them and I do try to use them, but I don’t always remember to take them in or have them with me when I make a pit stop at Kroger. I will say the plastic bags we do get are all recycled or reused, but that’s not really good enough. The paper bags we get are used for storing our paper to be recycled.

Avoid paper products. We do use paper towels and I doubt that will ever fully end, honestly, but we use less of them. We could use even fewer, though. Fewer paper napkins, too. I will say I have no intention of getting rid of toilet paper in this house. Yes, I know it can be done, but I have limits. We also use disposable diapers, which guilts me to no end, but it is what it is.

Truly the list is endless, there are so many things you can do to green up your life. Even seemingly tiny things add up over time. Multiply that effort by millions of people and it’s not such a small effort anymore.

Check out The Green Guide for more ideas on how to make your lifestyle more friendly to our earth.

This we know: The earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. This we know.

All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected.

Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth.

Man did not weave the web of life: he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.

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