Did you know that the average North American school-age child discards 67 pounds of lunch packaging per school year? That’s almost 1,900 pounds of waste for just one average-sized school. And, I’m assuming adults who pack their lunches aren’t faring much better.
It’s the price we pay for convenience. Individually packaged snacks, plastic sandwich bags, juice boxes, paper napkins, and disposable cutlery—it all adds up.
But it doesn’t have to! The litterless lunch movement has been gaining momentum over the past few years as people begin to realize the environmental implications of their lunch-packing practices.
While it definitely takes more work and investment up front—packing a lunch without waste isn’t as complicated as it sounds. And, it’s almost guaranteed to save you money in the long run.
We at Progressive Waste Solutions have committed to spending Waste Reduction Week—this October 19th-25th—taking waste-free lunches all week. And we would like you to join us.
So instead of contributing to that 1,900 pounds of waste, take the litterless lunch challenge this week (or month or year!) and change your habits for the better. Here are 10 simple ways to get started today:
Invest in a reusable lunch bag.
The bento-style lunch box makes packing easy (and fun!) and means you don’t have to invest in individual containers. Check out bentology.net for lunch-packing inspiration.
Source reusable containers in all shapes and sizes.
If you don’t have containers that will fit the foods you tend to pack, you’ll find yourself reaching for a disposable plastic bag instead. The solution: invest in all the shapes and sizes you could possibly need. Stainless steel and tempered glass are the most eco-friendly options. Check out WeanGreen lunch and snack cubes and LunchBots containers to get you started.
Never throw out another snack bag.
If you’re a fan of the versatility of a bag, don’t’ fret. There are tons of reusable snack bags like LunchSkins, which are easy to wash and come in all sorts of colours and patterns.
Say good-bye to juice boxes and plastic water bottles.
Get yourself (and your kids) a really good reusable water bottle and fill it with fresh water (or anything else you like to drink during the day). We like KleenKanteen, S’well, and THERMOS FUNtainer bottles, to name just a few. Find something that’s the right size, weight, and shape for you! If you like it, you’ll be more likely to want to carry it with you.
Whether you make your own coffee and bring it with you to the office or stop at your favourite coffee shop on the way, it’s time to invest in a reusable cup. Why? Because according to carryyourcup.org if you buy just one cup of coffee or tea in a disposable cup every day, you’ll end up creating about 23 pounds of waste in one year. A great plastic option is the KeepCup. We also like JOCO Cups that are made of glass.
Make snacks from scratch.
The most environmentally friendly and healthiest way to snack is on things you’ve made yourself. Packing whole foods like fruits and veggies is the cleanest and simplest way to ensure you’re creating a waste-free lunch that’s also healthy. Need some inspiration? Start with 100 Days of Real Food.
For convenience, buy in bulk.
Rather than individually packaged snacks that produce obscene amounts of waste, buy your crackers, cookies, and other munchies in bulk. Make your own individually packaged snacks in reusable containers and have them ready for the week in advance.
Opt for cloth napkins and reusable cutlery.
This one’s fairly self-explanatory. Save money and the environment by purchasing a few cloth napkins and sets of reusable cutlery that you can use, wash, and re-use.
Have some fun while you’re at it!
Use this as an opportunity to challenge yourself and get creative. You’ll feel so good at the end of your first week litter-free that you’ll want to continue this practice forever. Share your inspiration, favourite products, and creative lunch ideas with us via our Facebook page and be sure to tag your photos #IAmProgressive!