Monday, February 13, 2012

Waste-Free Lunch Series

Since the beginning of 2012, I have been featuring eco-conscious companies and eco-friendly products. Over the next few weeks, I will continue this trend but focus specifically on waste-free lunches. This series will highlight some ways in which you can reduce waste while preparing lunch for the kids or yourself, and find some cool products too. I suppose I already started this series last year when I published a post on reusable glass water bottles.

Why go waste-free?

Reduce trash - The reduction in the amount of plastic I disposed when packing lunch was a big motivating factor to go waste-free. In 2010, 31 million tons of plastic were generated in the US but only 12% of plastic bags, sacks, and wraps were recycled.(1) Single use plastic bags, like sandwich bags, continue to fill landfills daily and I certainly did not want to contribute to that. For a family with 2 school age kids, an average week can involve approximately 10 sandwich bags and perhaps another 10 snack-sized bags for fruit or snacks. Multiply that by 4 weeks and then by 10 months, and you get 800 disposable bags used for the entire school year just for one family. That is a lot of plastic bags in the landfill. Of course, some families reuse their bags and reduce the consumption. However, not all families do.

Save money - Another motivating factor to go waste-free is financial savings. Single-use sandwich and snack plastic bags need to be replenished. Even if you can buy a box of 40 sandwich/snack  bags at the dollar store, the family above could potentially spend $20 a school year to restock. It doesn't sound like much initially, but over the years, it does add up. Although reusable sandwich bags/wraps have a higher up-front investment than plastic, in the long run, they do save money.

Environmental perspective - In my research for this post, I found other factors that I did not even consider, but am well aware of now, as to why I am glad to have gone waste-free. There has been a debate over paper vs. plastic (and this pertains mostly to grocery bags). Regardless, the same can be said about plastic sandwich bags and a brown paper bag. Other factors to consider when deciding to go waste-free include: natural resources need for production and transportation, pollution created as a consequence of production, disposal of the single use bags, and biodegradability. Both plastic and paper products that people use to pack lunch have advantages and disadvantages. The choice to go waste-free may be simpler for some families than others for a variety of reasons. As for me, going waste-free is money well spent.

Ways to being waste-free

My initial journey to a waste-free lunch began with reusable sandwich and snack bags. After using my first reusable sandwich bag, I was hooked. I began finding other ways to go waste-free. Below are just some of the ways my family does waste-free lunches:

Bags (vs. brown paper bag)
Food and condiment containers
Utensils (vs. plastic spoons & forks)
Sandwich bags/wraps and snack bags (vs. plastic bags)
Bottles (vs. juice boxes or plastic water bottles)
Glass straw (vs. plastic)
Cloth napkins (vs. paper napkins)

What are some ways your family does waste-free lunch? Do you think it's worth the investment?


Disclaimer: I was not compensated for this post. The opinions expressed in this post are solely mine.