Make School Lunches Healthy and Green

By Lina Younes

Like many parents, I’ve been looking for bargains in school supplies to get my youngest ready for the new school year.  As we do our shopping, I’m especially interested in looking at lunch boxes and the like. This year, I want to make sure that I make healthier food selections for my child and reduce the amount of waste in the process.

When you come to think of it, disposable items might seem “practical,” but they just generate waste in the long run.  Picture an average school lunch:  a drink, a sandwich, some chips, something for desert all packaged in a brown bag. If your child takes this food to school in disposable containers and wrappings every day, how many pounds of garbage will be generated per month? Per year? Not a pretty picture at all.

Here are some Waste-Free Lunch tips for the new school year:

  • Use a reusable lunch box instead of a brown bag.
  • Package sandwiches and food in reusable containers.
  • Give your child whole fruits without packaging in their lunch box. Not only is it greener, but it is healthier too!
  • Purchase snacks in bulk and package them in reusable containers.
  • Include reusable forks and spoons in your child’s lunch box.
  • Don’t use disposable water bottles. Use a reusable bottle instead.
  • Use reusable napkins, not paper ones.

In fact, I found some napkins made of recycled water bottles! When I bought them I felt that they were truly green! Increasingly, you can find numerous school supplies and consumer items made from recycled materials. So, with planning you can make sure your child’s school year gets off to a good start. You can work together with your school and community to make waste reduction a part of their daily lives. Remember, environmental protection is everyone’s responsibility.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.