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Pack a Litter-free School Lunch

These days, many schools require (or at least request) students pack a litter-free lunch, minimizing the amount of trash that must be picked up and transported to either recycling centres or the local landfill. When hundreds of kids a day bring lunch and snacks wrapped in plastic or foil, and plenty of wrappered and packaged foods, it can add up to a big pile of garbage. Here are some ways to cut back on the waste in your kids’ daily school meal.

  • Invest in a good-quality, reusable Bento box. 1 of 9
    Invest in a good-quality, reusable Bento box.
    This stainless steel version
    (available at Pottery Barn Kids) will last the whole school year - pack anything in its compartments, and toss it in the dishwasher at the end of the day.
  • Pack a reusable water bottle. 2 of 9
    Pack a reusable water bottle.
    Water makes the best hydrator, and it's free! Kids can refill their own water bottles at school, keeping them hydrated throughout the day with no need to add to the recycling bin.
  • Turn a fishing tackle or craft box into a bento. 3 of 9
    Turn a fishing tackle or craft box into a bento.
    Any hard plastic carrying case - there are many small, inexpensive ones available that are designed to carry fishing tackle, sewing notions and art supplies - are great to pack finger-sized foods in. Try cherry tomatoes, grapes, cheese cubes, hard-boiled eggs, mini pitas - use your imagination and come up with a DIY lunchable!
  • Reuse produce cartons. 4 of 9
    Reuse produce cartons.
    Tuck cardboard or plastic baskets - the ones your fresh berries or cherry tomatoes come in - into a sturdy lunch container to transport to school and double as a serving dish. Kids can bring them home to use again, or recycle.
  • Bring back the classic Thermos. 5 of 9
    Bring back the classic Thermos.
    Soup, spaghetti, even hot dogs can be packed in an old-school Thermos, keeping it warm until noon.
  • Pack reusable cutlery. 6 of 9
    Pack reusable cutlery.
    Pick up some inexpensive stainless steel cutlery at the dollar store, thrift shop or garage sale to use exclusively in lunches - they can stay in the lunchbox and go in the dishwasher at night, and it's no big deal if they get lost.
  • Invest in a sturdy lunchbox. 7 of 9
    Invest in a sturdy lunchbox.
    A good lunch box will protect all that's in it, allowing you to pack whole fruit and protect any Thermoses, bottles or containers inside.
    You can find this lunchbox here!
  • Use an insulated bag. 8 of 9
    Use an insulated bag.
    Available at most department stores, insulated vinyl bags zip up, protecting food and catching leaks. There's less need to wrap each individual item - if things get messy, throw it in the dishwasher or give it a wash in soapy water in the sink. Photo credit: istockphoto.com/monkeybusinessimages
  • Get creative with household containers. 9 of 9
    Get creative with household containers.
    Thermoses, jars, resealable plastic containers, and small hard plastic kits designed for sewing notions or beads make for perfectly portable lunches - tuck muffins, cookies, and other fragile items in the sturdy compartments and you're good to go. And everything can be tossed into the dishwasher at the end of the day!

Top photo credit: istockphoto.com/monkeybusinessimages

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