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Creating Waste-Free Lunches - Apr 7, 2014

By: Beth Ledvina, Sustainability Intern


In addition to recycling and composting, waste-free lunches are a great way to reduce your impact on the environment. According to the EPA, "every school lunch creates an averageof 67 pounds of trash per school year. That means, just one average-size middle school creates over 40,000 pounds of lunch waste a year”. But schools aren’t the only producers of lunch waste; adults can reduce their impact as well either by packing lunches instead of getting drive through food in disposable containers, or by switching from single use plastic baggies to reusable containers for the lunches they already bring. By only using items that can be eaten, reused, recycled, or composted, you can prevent pollution, conserve natural resources, save energy, and reduce the need for disposal. 


Some guidelines for packing a waste free lunch are:

  • Buy in bulk and repackage in reusable containers just what you can eat that day 
  • Use durable lunchboxes instead of brown paper bags 
  • Use refillable bottles with beverages instead of purchasing induvidual serving bottles. 

This initiative can help the environment as well as save you money. Wastefreelunches.org has provided a cost breakdown of a lunch prepared waste-free and one prepared with disposables. The breakdown shows the cost savings of buying in bulk and repackaging this food yourself compared to purchasing induvidually packaged products. For example, instead of buying induviual yogurts, buy a tub and use smaller washable containers to portion it out for lunches. Consider repackaging larger containers of carrots and dip. Instead of buying a pouch of juice or sports drink in a plastic bottle, buy juice in bulk and fill a durable plastic or glass bottle. Wash your utensils instead of using plastic, disposable ones.


Making these changes is an easy way to save money and plastics. While any lunch can be easily be a zero-waste lunch by making a few different choices in the grocery store, laptoplunches.com has a list of healthy recipes meant to produce zero-waste. Additionally, these recipes are sorted by season to encourage use of vegetables that are in season and therefore more likely to be locally available. 


Keep checking our blog for more tips on how you can improve sustainability!

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