Today at school, I helped a student with her homework. When she found out my name, the first thing she told me was "Oh! You're the one who cloth diapers your baby and cares about the environment." Well yes, I guess that would be me, but I didn't know it was so obvious! I asked her what she had been told and she responded that a friend of mine mentioned that my lunches were zero-waste. I don't know if I'd go that far, but I definitely try to minimize my consumption. Packing a zero/low-waste lunch is easy- here's how!
Begin with a lunch box
It really doesn't matter which, but I love Japanese Bento Boxes. Bento boxes are great because they are basically a lunch box divided into little sections. This is perfect for portion control and to make sure that your little ones get a balanced lunch. You can fill the compartments with a main meal such as leftovers or a sandwich, as well as add fruit and cut up veggies. http://laptoplunches.com has some colorful bento-style lunchboxes for a reasonable price.
Reduce package waste
Here you can use what you have lying around the house, such as tupperware, or you can invest in some snack bags. http://planetwiseinc.com/ has some cute bags, but you can also make these yourself if you are crafty, or find a mama who can sew this for you. I had someone make me several sandwich wraps, and these are held together with velcro. They're cute and do the job. I also find my http://www.lunchbots.com Duo stainless steel container to be handy. I know for sure that it's BPA phthalate-free.
The next way to reduce waste is to buy in bulk, as well as to buy food with zero or little packaging.
The bulk bins in grocery stores are great for this, especially when you bring in your own bag to fill, rather than use the plastic bags. Think about how much waste can be minimized if you buy a large container full of applesauce at a store like Costco versus snack-sized applesauce in plastic containers. This is also the case with veggies. You can cut up carrots yourself and pack them versus buying pre-made snacks. While this is more time-consuming, it will not only help the environment, but also save you money. Buying in bulk is cheaper because you're not paying for the packaging or the convenience of having everything pre-done.
There are a few more ways to reduce waste in lunches
Pack reuseable utensils
http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/30096906 has these, which are super cheap and colorful. You can also use silverware or wooden utensils. The benefit here is not only that you're not wasting discarded utensils, but this will save you money as well.
Pack a BPA-free water bottle
On the same note, rather than send box drinks or plastic water bottles, which get discarded, pack a BPA-free water bottle. http://www.kleankanteen.com has stainless steel water bottles that are cute and functional. My daughter's school is huge on reducing waste, and they have asked that each child bring his/her own water bottle so that throughout the day they can just fill that up with water. That way they can drink as much as their body needs without adding to landfills.
Pack a cloth napkin instead of a paper towels
The last way to eliminate waste would be to pack a cloth napkin instead of a paper towel. If you consider how many paper towels a child goes through in one day, it adds up to quite a bit. We switched to unpaper towels a few years ago, and are proud to say that we have little waste.
Packing a zero/low waste lunch is easy!
As you can see, packing a zero/low waste lunch is easy. There are various options, and you can start bit by bit. Before you know it, I bet you will be looking for other ways to reduce waste!