At Teatown Lake Reservation a couple weeks ago, I picked up a brochure titled “The Waste-free Lunchbox”. On the cover was this interesting claim: “a child taking a disposable lunch to school creates an average of 67 pounds of lunch waste annually.” Hmmm… technically speaking all lunch is disposed of once a kid puts it into his or her mouth, but I get the point. From paper bags to juice boxes to granola bar wrappers, the trash could pile up.
I’ve always found solid waste issues fascinating, so I decided to dig around (no pun intended) online. According to an EPA Fact Sheet, in 2008, nearly 31% of all municipal solid waste generated–77 million tons–was containers and packaging. While a significant portion of this is recycled, that still leaves millions of tons of ziplock bags, plastic applesauce containers and juice boxes lying in our landfills or burning in incinerators.
In a separate section of the EPA’s website, the agency challenged “all citizens to conserve our natural resources by committing to reduce, reuse, and recycle at home, in your community, and at the office.” I would add “and in your schools.”
So what can we, in our own small way, do to conserve resources? First of all, you can visit http://www.laptoplunches.com/ideas.html#waste for a list of ideas about keeping your child’s lunches waste-free.
In our home, we re-use plastic butter tubs to pack food. We’ve been back and forth on the drink issue. For a while Grace took water to school in a stainless steel sports bottle. Then she wasn’t taking anything to drink. Lately, because I wanted her to get more calcium, she’s been buying milk at school. But come to think of it, that brings us back to the waste issue. So maybe we’ll start putting milk in the stainless steel bottle. I dislike juice boxes not only because of the waste, but because they’re expensive and Grace doesn’t need the extra sugar. We use an insulated bag to carry it all in. And yes, the recent reports about the chemical BPA, which allegedly resides in certain plastic containers and can cause health problems, lurk in the back of my mind. So we may need to deal with that issue soon too. (I’ll keep you posted once I do more research.)
So the bottom line is, do your best. Reducing the resources we consume and the amount of waste we generate is never a bad thing, and we’re teaching our kids an important lesson at the same time.