Back to School Food & Nutrition

7 Tips for Packing an Eco-Friendly, Waste-Free Lunch Box

Food & Party 11

tiffen boxes indian bento lunch boxSome of you send your kids to school with a bagged lunch because the alternative hot lunch provided by the school is a little, well, a little wretched. However, sending a stocked lunchbox every day can mean lot of waste: paper bags and napkins, plastic bags, wrappers, forks, water bottles, and straws, and more! Send those items five days a week and your kid will fill his own corner of the local landfill in no time.

It's not hard to pack an eco-friendly lunch from home. Just follow our seven easy pointers. You'll end up with less waste and probably a healthier school lunch, too.

7 Tips on How to Pack an Eco-Friendly, Waste-Free Lunch Box

1. Use a reusable lunch box. Kinda ruins the whole "brown bag lunch" thing, but sending your child's lunch in box, tote, or container like the Classic Indian Tiffin Boxes ($22-$33) shown above is much greener than using and tossing a paper bag each day.

reusies reusable sandwich bag

2. Use reusable sandwich bags, like ReUsies ($8.95). No more plastic baggies or zipper bags. There are tons of styles, colors, and materials of these waste-free sandwich bags, as well as snack-sized bags, and many can be washed in the washing machine or dishwasher. Plastic sandwich boxes also work great!

klean kanteen yellow

3. Supply a waste-free beverage bottle or container: Daily juice boxes and water bottles create a lot of unnecessary waste. The BPA-free Klean Kanteen (reg. price $13.99; sale price $11.19) is a nice, affordable, and reusable drink container choice.

red gingham napkins cloth

4. Send a cloth napkin. There's a lot to be said for saving a paper a napkin a day for an entire school year. You can find miscellaneous cloth napkins on most sales racks and even in the thrift store. Get five and then wash them with your laundry at the end of the week. This set of four Everyday Red Gingham Cotton Napkins is just $10.50.

silverware flatware knife fork spoon

5. Pack real silverware. Forget the plastic utensils. Plastic = waste. Pack a real fork or spoon in their lunchbox. Don't give them your good silver, obviously. Pick up random odds and ends utensils at a thrift store or garage sale for cents and have your kids return them each day. That way, if they lose one, no one will cry.

6. Fresh food, whenever possible. Serving your kids fresh lunch items will automatically cut down on your waste -- and it's healthier for your kids too. There are going to be days where time only allows you to toss in something pre-made and packaged, but for the most part, make them simple foods (or have them make their own) and either way, send fresh fruit and vegetables. Check out these creative kid-friendly lunch box recipes.

7. Buy locally. Buying food items produced locally is super eco-friendly cause that means no one wasted a bunch of gas transporting your edibles all around the country before they got to your kid's lunch. Buy locally whenever you can: try the farmer's markets and local delis and bakeries and more.

How do you green your kids' lunches?


Images via Twine, ReUsies, Klean Kanteen, Home Deconomics, and Cookieater2009/Flickr.

kids nutrition, back to school, lunch, school lunch, going green, kid-friendly


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sodapple sodapple

thanks for the tips, i have yet to start packing up lunches. i will keep these in mind. i also like the bento box idea.

hotic... hoticedcoffee

I bought my son a Laptop Lunch kit, which comes with reusable everything, even silverware.  He's a bit of a Foodie (yay!!), and is very excited for school to start next week so he can have his cool bento-style lunches.  I hadn't considered sending him with a cloth napkin - I think I'll try it, but I'm willing to bet he'll throw them out without thinking.  

jeann... jeannesager

I love the Fabkins cloth napkins for little kids. Hoticed, they have cute little embroidery that's kid-centric, it might make him want to keep it because it's HIS!

Sultr... SultryLadyBug

My kid isnt in school but we will resume our volunteering and I will be packing my lunch again. Ive always used real silverware...I need to add a cloth napkin to the mix and I really want one of those tiffens.

mylov... myloveynK

I just ordered the laptop lunch box from! they are made in the us and come with the inside containers, the box, an insulated bag, water bottle, stainless steel silverwear- all I have to supply is the food and reusable napkin! I think that it's a great idea and plan on using it throughout his school life (he's in kindergarten)!

Carey... Carey2006

Don't get your kids in trouble!!!!! Make sure they are allowed REAL silverware...I can tell you most likely NO for knifes!!!!

I pack fresh veggies & fruit and use reusable containers

aj23 aj23

I send my son with a drink and a food thermos and a real spoon. the only thing that gets thrown away is the napkin.

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