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7 Tips for Packing a Waste-Free Lunch

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7 Tips for Packing a Waste-Free Lunch

Whether you’re packing lunch for yourself or for your kids to take to school, it’s easy to make a waste-free lunch when you use these simple swaps and tips.

Packing a Waste Free Lunch

Summer is winding down, which means pretty soon school will start back, and you’ll be packing lunches again. While schools have made a big push to encourage parents to pack healthy lunches, they haven’t really focused on making sure lunches are also good for the environment.

Related: Best Children’s Books About Sustainable Living

Between plastic snack bags and single-use drink boxes, lunches can result in a lot of waste. Not to mention, more money coming out of your wallet as you replace all those single-use items again and again.

These tips for packing a zero waste lunch can help you save some money and help out the environment at the same time. Plus, these tips aren’t just for children’s lunch. You can use them to cut down on the waste generated from your own lunch as well!

Also, don’t forget to start your zero waste lunch on the right foot by picking out an eco-friendly lunch bag to go along with your eco-friendly backpack.

This waxed organic canvas lunch bag from Etee is an excellent option! It comes in several really cool colors and will hold up perfectly for both kids and adults.

1. Opt for Reusable Snack Bags

Single-use plastic snack bags have several negatives. First, the plastic bags aren’t biodegradable, so they clog up landfills. Second, you have to waste your money buying them again and again.

Rather than throw away money on plastic snack bags, opt for reusable snack bags instead. When you’re ready to make the switch, these reusable snack bags come in fun designs and have a grease-proof, moisture-proof lining that’s free of BPA, lead PVC, phthalates, and other toxic chemicals. Simply stick your food in the bag and wipe them out to clean them.

You can also use reusable beeswax food wrap to wrap up sandwiches, slices of cheese, pieces of fruit, and more. Here are several excellent options I’ve used and highly recommend:

If you’re not familiar with reusable food wrap, this post gives a great rundown on everything you need to know about beeswax food wrap. Plus, if you enjoy DIY, you can even make your own homemade beeswax food wrap.

Even better, some of these food wraps come from the best zero waste online shops, which means you know you’re making a truly sustainable choice.

Related: How to Care for Beeswax Food Wrap

2. Use a Thermos for Hot or Cold Items

If you’re packing something for lunch that needs to stay hot or cold, a thermos is the ideal option. I love this Foogo thermos because it’s durable and BPA-free.

It’s also vacuum insulated, so it can keep your food warm for up to 5 hours or cold for up to 7 hours. Plus, it’s dishwasher safe, which is perfect for those busy evenings.

3. Pack Real Utensils

Instead of sending your kids to school with a plastic fork and spoon that they’ll throw away every day, pack real utensils. If you don’t want to send metal utensils, bamboo utensils are an excellent alternative.

These bamboo utensils come with a convenient carrying case that you can toss right into the lunch bag. Bamboo is a great option for utensils because it’s heat and stain-resistant, it won’t absorb flavors from the food, it’s strong yet lightweight, and it’s dishwasher safe.

4. Use Washable Napkins

While it’s easy to include a paper napkin that your kids will throw away at the end of lunch, it’s also a waste of natural resources. Skip those disposable napkins and opt for washable napkins instead.

These reusable napkins are by far my favorite option. First, an artisan who lives in North Carolina makes them, and it’s always great to support handmade small businesses.

Plus, she has a wonderful selection of designs available. Lastly, after you eat, you can toss them in the washing machine to clean them instead of throwing them away and adding waste to the landfill.

Not only are washable napkins a great way to pack a zero waste lunch, but they’re also one simple way to reduce your paper towel use.

Related: Cotton vs. Microfiber: Which Is More Eco-Friendly?

5. Pack Dips in Reusable Cups

If companies market something as convenient, that usually means it’s pretty wasteful. Those snack size cups that come in everything from hummus to peanut butter are no exception.

Related: The Best Biodegradable Trash Bags

Sure, they make it really easy to just toss one in the lunch bag, but they also create a terrible amount of waste. Instead, buy your dips and spreads in one large container, and then scoop what you need into reusable storage containers.

If you need to use plastic, these containers are a good option because they have BPA-free lids and bases and are dishwasher, microwave, and freezer safe.

However, if you’re like me and trying to reduce your plastic use as much as possible, then I highly recommend ECOlunchbox. These containers come in a variety of convenient sizes, so you’ll always be able to find the one you need. Plus, since they’re stainless steel, you know they’ll stand up to bouncing around in a lunchbox.

Related: How to Quickly and Naturally Remove Rust From Stainless Steel

6. Pour Drinks Into a Reusable Water Bottle

Just like individual snack cups, individually packaged drinks are also very wasteful. Rather than buy single juice boxes or water bottles, purchase one large bottle and use it to fill up a reusable water bottle.

Once again, you’re cutting down on the amount of plastic that needs recycled and saving money by purchasing something that you can use again and again. My son loves his Polar Bottle water bottle, which is 100% BPA-free and insulated to keep his drink cold.

Plus, if you have kids who are transitioning from a plastic free baby bottle to a sippy cup, don’t forget to check out our post on the best non-toxic and plastic free sippy cups.

7. Use Clips to Keep Everything Attached

If your kids are anything like my son, they would lose their head if it wasn’t attached to their shoulders. If you’re worried they might lose their reusable lunch items, simply use mitten clips to keep everything attached to the lunch box.

I attach one clip to the snack bag, napkin, or utensil pouch, and then I attach the other clip to the inside of the lunch box.

Related: How to Help Kids Have a More Sustainable Summer

How to Pack a Waste-Free Lunch

Lunchtime doesn’t have to be full of trash that piles up in the landfill. When you incorporate these tips for packing a waste-free lunch, you’ll help save the environment and some money at the same time!

More Eco-Friendly Living Tips

Did you enjoy these easy tips on how to pack a zero waste lunch? Then be sure to check out some of our other popular posts for even more simple swaps you can make to a live a more eco-friendly life:

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Amanda @ Healthy House on the Block

Thursday 7th of March 2019

This is a really nice list of some great ways for packing school lunches to be a little more eco-friendly. I have never thought to add a reusable napkin! What a great idea. We actually bought some silverware from GoodWill that are JUST for school lunches....that way no one is too bummed when they accidentally get thrown out :)


Thursday 7th of March 2019

Getting silverware from Goodwill is a GREAT idea! You're exactly right. If a mistake happens and they accidentally get thrown out, it's not a big deal.

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