Planning a Waste-Free School Lunch

November 15, 2011 Two comments View all articles in Family

Prepackaged foods, plastic bags, juice boxes, juice pouches, paper napkins, disposable utensils: these are just a few of the waste items that end up in your child's lunchboxes and, as a result, our nation's landfills. If your child takes a "disposable lunch" to school every day, they will generate approximately 67 pounds of waste in a year. That equals 18,760 pounds of waste for an entire average-sized elementary school. The best way to reduce these "disposable lunches" is to start packing waste-free lunches.  Not only do these lunches reduce the amount of waste that's currently overflowing in landfills and that's being incinerated, they also help parents save money. In addition, waste-free lunches can educate students, parents, and school staff about where trash ends up and what steps can be taken to reduce the amount of trash we all generate. 


  • sandwiches, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, and other main dishes or treats sealed in reusable containers
  • cloth napkins
  • washable, reusable forks and spoons
  • reusable cups or other drink containers
  • reusable lunchboxes instead of paper bags


  • Children often take a few bites from uncut fruits and vegetables, and then throw the rest away. To prevent this, cut up fruits and vegetables and place them in a reusable container. If your kids don't finish all of the food, they can put it back in the container and take it home.
  • Children can't reseal juice boxes, cans, or pouches, so consider buying juice in bulk  and packing it in reusable containers. Whatever they don't drink can be brought home and put in the refrigerator. Better yet, fill up a reusable bottle with water!
  • It's estimated that buying food items in bulk and using reusable containers can save families as much as $250 a year.
  • Tell your kids to bring home any uneaten food items so they can have them as after-school snacks or so they can put them in the backyard compost bin at the end of the day.
  • Teach your kids about home recycling. 
  • Make sure your children take responsibility for putting recyclables in the recycle bin at home or at school.
  • Take your kids or encourage that their teachers go on a field trip to your local landfill or recycling facility. 
  • Pack lunches the night before and keep them in the refrigerator to save time in the morning. 
  • Make sure your older children know how to make nutritious, waste-free lunches too.


  • Visit LaptopLunches.Com for kits, packs, sets, carriers, totes, sleeves, bags, bottles, jars, cloth napkins, ice packs, forks and spoons, and more!
  • Visit MightyNest.Com to shop for safe, non-toxic, waste-free lunch sacks, stainless steel thermoses, reusable sandwich bags, organic napkins, and more. All MightyNest products are BPA-, phthalate-, PVC-, melamine-, and lead-free!
  • View and shop the large selection of reusable lunch bags and boxes available at


Karri on Dec. 21, 2011 at 6:54 a.m.

About to send this to our PTA Board & our city recycling department! Our PTA is trying to get our city's recycling dept to bring a recycling truck to our Feb PTA meeting & discuss the advantages of recycling. So glad I found this article in time to help promote the changes we want to see in our school!!

Chasing Green on Dec. 22, 2011 at 12:35 a.m.

Thanks so much for sharing our article Karri! It is staggering how much we throw away that could be recycled. And if you think about it what better place than a school to share the message of recycling?

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