Do you remember those McDonald’s styrofoam packages? The ones that kept the lettuce and tomato cold and the burger and cheese hot on your McDLT? Though my husband insists they did away with styrofoam in the early 80s, it took McD’s until 1990 to begin phasing out their styrofoam packaging (after activists spent three years bombarding mailboxes at corporate headquarters with used packaging).
During the anti-styrofoam movement, I remember writing letters to this fast food giant, pleading with them to choose biodegradeable packaging. There was an urgency in my tone; we were destroying the ozone layer, and styrofoam was, in part, to blame.
At the same, I slid into my seat at the lunch table every day with a Hawaiian Punch juice box, an Italian hoagie wrapped in aluminum foil, a Frito-Lay chip snack pack, individually-wrapped Halloween or Easter candy, and maybe a piece of fruit. My brown lunch bag was so choc full of c-r-a-p that my mom double-bagged it with a plastic baggie and a twist tie. (We should have owned stock in Reynolds and Glad.) I was the envy of the lunch table. I also generated a shameful amount of trash. But, at least it wasn’t “bad” trash.
I took me a while before I started to realize that trash is trash. And in truth, it’s taken me thirty years to feel uneasy about tossing Ziploc baggies. I truly believe that many Americans have good intentions to protect our earth and go “green,” although I use this term loosely. If we take an honest inventory of our actions, there’s an incongruity between what we say and believe (or say we believe) and what we actually do. I’m just as guilty as my neighbor.
Every year, parents send their kids off to school with brown-bag lunches and snack packs, individually-wrapped meals and desserts, juice boxes, disposable silverware, straws, and napkins, baggies, etc. According to the EPA, each child who brings a brown-bag lunch to school every day will generate 67 pounds of waste by the end of the school year – that’s 18,760 pounds of lunch waste for an average-sized school.
We, as parents, have the perfect opportunity to model environmental consciousness by packing waste-free lunches (or at least taking a step in that direction. According to Sandra Ann Harris, Founder and CEO of ECOlunchbox, an eco-friendly company based in the San Francisco Bay Area, here is what you need to pack a waste-free lunch:
1. A Reusable Fabric Lunch Bag. While most major retail stores carry plastic/vinyl lunchboxes, studies suggest that their manufacturing threatens our health and environment. ECOlunchbags are a beautiful back-to-basics solution for kids ages 3 to 103 who would like adopt sustainable, healthy, waste-free lunch habits.
ECOlunchbags are 100% cotton, machine washable bags, which can be converted from shoulder bag to sling bag to backpack to hip pack. Each fully-reversible lunchbag is sewn from fabrics that are hand block printed by artisans in India. This company is directly connected with the artisans and the sewing shop in Bombay that makes the bags. This is a fair trade project.
2. Cloth Napkins. Each ECOlunchbag comes with 3 matching napkins, measuring 16 inches by 12 inches. They are designed for use as placemats or napkins.
3. Reusable Containers. ECOlunchbox believes that non-leaching, stainless steel food containers are best. They come in two styles and are lead free and dishwasher safe. First, the oval lunchbox measures 6 1/2 inches long by 5 inches wide and 2 inches tall. It fits two halves of a sandwich stacked with room for sides. It also contains a stainless steel cup (3 1/2″ diameter) with a no-leak, BPA-free plastic lid for wet items.
Second, the retangular 3-in-1 lunchbox is great for packing a child’s lunch, which typically contains three items: a sandwich and two side dishes. Most children prefer their foods served separately, so this 2-layer stainless steel food container with upstairs inner box is a perfect fit. When closed, the lunchbox measures 4 inches wide, 5 1/2 inches long and 2 3/4 inches high. The small inner box, which contains 1/2 cup of wet foods, is good for applesauce, cut fruit and salads. (Please note: ECOlunchbox has chosen not to use any plastic or other gaskets in the pressure-fitting lid of these boxes, so they are not 100% leak proof.)
4. Bamboo Reusable Utensils. The EcoKidSpork is made out of sustainably grown bamboo and is designed for small hands. The utensil is 5 inches long, sized ideally for children age 5 and younger. The EcoSpork is a fun and healthy 3.5 inch alternative to disposables. You can toss it in your lunchbag, backpack, purse, or wherever.
We can’t do everything, but we can all do something to green our world. Sandra has generously offered to give away an ECOlunchbag (with matching napkins) to one turnitupmom reader. It is 100% plastic free, waste free, lead free, BPA free, PVC free, vinyl free, and sweatshop free. All you need to do is supply the lunch!
To enter, please leave a comment below with one thing that your family is doing to reduce mealtime waste.
If you’d like to earn extra entries, you can Facebook, twitter, or blog about ECOlunchbox and this giveaway. Then come back, and in a separate comment, tell me how you’ve spread the word!