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Go Green and Save Green: 5 Easy Ways to Pack an Eco-friendly Lunch

Written by Mom It Forward
Published: August 19, 2013

The first day of school is fast approaching which means it’s time to start organizing yourself for school day routines, including lunch. While school lunches can be a hassle for parents, they can also be a hassle for the environment. A typical brown bag lunch packed with disposable materials generates 4-8 ounces of waste. Considering the average number of school days, this translates to nearly 100 pounds of lunch waste per person per year!

How to Pack an Eco-friendly Lunch

If we all take more small, green actions every day, together we will have a positive impact on our planet for future generations. Below are five easy tips to help you green your child’s lunch while saving money and maintaining your trusty morning schedule.

  • Use a Reusable Lunchbox—Recent studies show that only about 1 percent of perishable food items in children’s sack lunches were found to be a safe temperature before eaten. An insulated lunchbox is the perfect solution to keep your child healthy while also cutting back on lunch waste.
  • Step Away From the Prepackaged Food—This is a tough one. Prepackaged food is super convenient and fine when you’re in a bind, but as much as possible, try to pack fresh food for your child’s lunch. Not only will you cut down on packaging but you will also save money and dodge the less healthy ingredients that prepackaged foods typically contain.
  • Consider Packaging Alternatives—An estimated 8.4 billion pounds of plastic bags, sacks, and wraps are consumed and disposed of in the U.S. every year. There are several alternatives available such as small reusable plastic containers, and reusable sandwich bags like those from
  • Don’t Buy, Just Reduce—You don’t necessarily have to buy new products this year to be green. Simple things like packing reusable utensils and napkins instead of disposable ones can cut down on your waste immensely. For example, stop using disposable plastic straws. According to some estimates, more than 500 million disposable plastic straws are used in the United States every day—that would fill more than 127 school buses daily! This is also another way to save money.
  • Pack the Night Before—Packing lunch the night before can give you time to consider your options and prevent you from grabbing disposable baggies and prepackaged foods because you’re in a rush. It’s also one less thing you have to do in the morning, which could mean 5 extra minutes of shut eye.

To learn more about reducing lunch waste, check out

Kate Durkin is vice president of client services at Recyclebank, the company that rewards people for taking everyday green actions. Kate is passionate about wellness education and is a volunteer at Wellness in the Schools, which inspires healthy eating, environmental awareness and fitness as a way of life for kids in public schools across the country.


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