(originally published in Optimyz Women's Wellness Magazine)
Back-to-school is almost here, and it’s time to start thinking not only about what to put in your kids’ lunches, but how you’ll send them. And it’s a great time to start talking about it, ahead of “Litterless Lunch Day” on September 19th.
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, your kids might still be consuming chemicals and microplastics from all the plastic surrounding their snacks and drinks.
9 easy tips for you to pack a lunch that’s litter- and chemical-free:
1. Send fruit in its natural packaging – bananas, apples, and oranges are great options. 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!
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. 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. Buy larger quantities instead, and put them in your own stainless-steel reusable containers to avoid excessive waste.
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!
8. No more juice boxes! 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!
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.