(originally published in Optimyz Women's Wellness Magazine)
As offices and schools resume soon, it’s time to start thinking not only about what to put in your and your kids’ lunches, but how you’ll send them. And it’s a great time to start talking about it, as we’ve stepped into the New Year, months ahead of “Litterless Lunch Day”, which falls on September 16th in 2021.
Did you know that there are approximately 5 million elementary students in Canada who each potentially produce 66 pounds of garbage every year, just from their lunches alone? That’s a lot of unnecessary waste!
But here’s the kicker – even if you’ve already switched to reusable containers, you and your kids might still be consuming chemicals and microplastics from all the plastic surrounding your snacks and drinks. So how do you opt for zero waste lunch while ensuring that you are consuming food that is free of chemicals? Dalcini Stainless offers some useful solutions that are worth a try, whether it is work lunches for adults or school lunches for kids.
9 Easy Tips for You to Pack a Zero Waste Lunch that’s Both Litter- and Chemical-Free:
1. Send fruit in its natural packaging – bananas, apples, and oranges are great options, given their healthful attributes and high nutritional quotient. However, packing these healthy foods in chemical-emitting plastic boxes defeats the purpose of mindful eating. So consider sending fruits in their natural covering. And if your child’s school doesn’t have a green bin, add an extra empty container in their lunch box for the organic waste that can be returned home for compost.
2. Keep mornings simple by prepping your veggies ahead of time! Keep a container of cut-up carrot sticks and cucumber slices in the fridge for easy access during lunch prep. This also enables your kids to easily make their own lunches! More importantly, it’s an effective way to incorporate raw, fresh vegetables in your diet while simultaneously eliminating litter altogether. Say good-bye to harmful chemicals and retain the freshness of veggies and dips by packing them in stainless steel containers.
3. Batch-bake a week’s worth of mini muffins, granola bars, and fruit leathers. Made extra? Freeze what you don’t need and you’ll really be ahead of the game for the following week! These homemade goodies can be sent in your reusable containers and will avoid packaging altogether.
4. Invest in a set of stainless steel containers. Best plastic free lunch boxes that stand true to their claim of being BPA-free? That’s easy. Think stainless steel containers and boxes. Even if your plastic containers say they’re “BPA-free”, it just means they’re substituting one hormone-mimicking chemical for another and are shown to be no safer. Stainless steel is an excellent alternative that doesn’t have any hormone-disrupting chemicals, plus it’s easy-to-use, easy-to-clean, and easy-to-store!
5. Avoid buying individually-packaged snacks such as yogurt cups and crackers with cheese. Instead buy larger quantities, which prove to be not only more economical but also create potentially less litter as you can pack these foods in your own stainless-steel reusable containers for a zero waste lunch. In addition, this approach helps you combine these snacks with other food types, leading to a more balanced diet – a must especially for children of all ages who need to consume foods from each group to nourish and sustain their physical and mental development.
6. Try not to use ice packs – they may not be single-use, but they’ll still eventually end up in the landfill. Refrigerate your stainless-steel containers ahead of time to keep things nice and cool until it’s time for lunch.
7. Swap disposable cutlery for reusable, plastic-free cutlery like a stainless steel spork! Opting for stainless steel, right down to your spoons and forks gives you and your family an optimum dose of health with every mouthful.
8. No more juice boxes! if you want a zero waste lunch! Too many of these containers aren’t being recycled and are accumulating at high rates in landfills and oceans. Plus, the juice is really high in sugar anyway – try sending water with a few pieces of frozen fruit in reusable bottles instead.
9. Send food your child actually likes. If you involve them in the lunch-making process, chances are they’ll come home with empty containers! If they naturally gravitate towards the sugar- and sodium-laden junk foods as children are wont to, try substituting them with healthier versions made at home, with a dash of creativity and loads of love! Another effective strategy: consider involving your kids in the lunch-making process; chances are they’ll come home with empty containers!
More Inspiration: being on the subject of school, you might also find this article on reducing kids anxiety on returning to school helpful!
Author: Nita Tandon is a former pharmaceutical and biotech expert who realized the need for durable, easy to clean and chemical-free food containers, and so she launched DALCINI™ Stainless housewares in 2015. Nita is an advocate and trusted resource on topics of sustainability, health, toxic chemicals, microplastics, DIY home, and wellness alternatives.