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Buh-Bye, Ziploc: Getting Your Child's Lunch Box to Zero-Waste

By amywindsor |

Lunch without the trash.

For the past two years my children have been given an annual Science Day challenge to bring a lunch to school that leaves zero-waste. The class that created the least amount of trash at the end of lunch won a prize, so the kids took it quite seriously– for the day. As their mom, I took it as a personal challenge to clean up the three lunch boxes I prepare daily and to see that the kids carry the ideal throughout the year.

As efforts to go green spread from the home to public initiatives, schools throughout the country are starting eco-friendly lunch policies to help reduce the amount of waste produced at lunch time. A little reading turned up the fact that the average kid can create up to 67 lbs of lunchtime waste a year, which is pretty scary when you think that they’ll be doing the school lunch routine for 13 years! Multiplying that out to every child in America (and beyond) and you can see how any change in habit could help. In our house, the kids pick a lunchbox at the beginning of the year that I clean, use a mishmash of reusable plastic containers for the food and send them with reusable plastic sporks every day, but I haven’t quite weaned myself completely off of the ubiquitous plastic resealable bag. They’re just so easy when the rest of the tupperware is dirty or I can’t locate a matching lid!

Light My Fire's reusable plastic sporks

Apparently, I’ve been getting off easy. Some moms are getting flack from their children to go green as peer pressure at the lunch table mounts at school. According to Julie Corbett, an Oakland, Ca. mom, the prospect of having to go to school with a ziploc baggy in their lunch box is enough to wreck her kids’ entire morning, per an interview with the NY Times.

One of the main concerns families may have about going green is the up-front cost of all the reusable gear, but in the long run it can actually be cost-effective as you no longer have to buy plastic baggies or brown paper bags (does anyone really still use those?). And, as with everything, you can spend as much or as little as your wallet affords. We put together a list that covers the latest in eco-friendly lunch bags, utensils, and containers that will make any parent happy to make brown bags and plastic baggies a thing of the past. In fact, you can get everything reusable, from the spork to the napkin.

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Buh-Bye, Ziploc: Getting Your Child's Lunch Box to Zero-Waste

Kids Konserve Insulated Lunch Bag

Available in great patterns, this bag makes a stylish alternative that even a tween would be happy to carry. Available for $21.95. Find it here.

Read more posts by Amy Windsor aka @theBitchinWife:
Humorous Toddler Tshirts: Merely Inappropriate to Downright Offensive
Why We Need To Encourage Our Boys’ Friendships
Ten Ways to Tighten Your Gucci Belt In a Bear Market

Improve your kids’ snack habits with these Healthy Kids Lunch Ideas!


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About amywindsor



Amy Windsor is an avid mommy blogger whose blog, Bitchin' Wives Club, was named one of Babble's Top 100 Mom Blogs in 2012. She was a contributor to Babble's Parenting channels.

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0 thoughts on “Buh-Bye, Ziploc: Getting Your Child's Lunch Box to Zero-Waste

  1. bob says:

    If your kid’s lunchbox isn’t made of organic gingerbread, you’re going to hell.

    1. amywindsor says:

      @bob – My kids would only eat the lunchbox every day!

  2. Melinda says:

    I bought the reusit snack bags for my kids this year. The first day, my son threw it in the garbage by accident. $10 down the toilet. They are great though!

    1. amywindsor says:

      @Melinda Ouch! That is a concern of mine, as well, I have to admit. Maybe practice runs at home before sending them into a “throw it all away” environment? I’m not sure even that would help, though.

  3. I love this. I admit I love the zero waste stuff because it’s so darn cute, but also, it really is something close to my heart.


    1. amywindsor says:

      It gets nearer to my heart with every passing year. I’m afraid I’m a follower, not a trailblazer, on this one.

  4. Sara says:

    We have big issues at our house with keeping our reusables. I have a ton of lids but very few bowls to pair them with! I prefer the reusables, but I will not spend a lot of money on them (no matter how cute), because I know about half will end up in the trash.

    This trend is totally 1930′s. My grandma’s generation is great about reusing and repurposing EVERYTHING!

    1. amywindsor says:

      @Sara Those silicone muffin liners are awesome. I just put them in my Amazon cart to get next time I place an order! And my grandma was the same, she never threw a container away so she’d never have to buy tupperware. :)

  5. Dawn says:

    Thank you for sharing. My kids have taken the Laptop Lunches bento boxes for the past few years and they’re great. I haven’t had to replace any pieces since the product is so high quality and since it’s zero waste, there’s no reason for them to throw anything away (including their lids!). I highly recommend this product! They also have a great online menu library and weekly menus:

    1. amywindsor says:

      @Dawn I LOVE online menu suggestions, I get stuck in a rut with the lunches and can’t think past PB&Js! Thanks for the link and the reco!

  6. goddess says:

    NOT doing reusable napkins. OR feminine hygiene products, for that matter.

  7. Sara says:

    I just bought the Stay Fit EZ Freeze snack containers today at Target:

    Very useful for foods that must stay cool so as not to spoil!

  8. lam says:

    If you like those silicone muffin cups, fred flare (also on amazon) has really cute robot, skull, and totem pole silicone cups. Also Lock & Lock make BPA free locking, divided containers in a variety of sizes.

  9. Melinda says:

    Great suggestions! PS: I’d like to have the person who made the food for the ‘Planetbox’ lunches make the lunches for my boys. And for me, too. *smacks lips*

  10. anon says:

    As someone who just spent three hours picking up the mountain of litter at my child’s new school so she and her friends aren’t welcomed by a giant trash heap the first day, let me say this. Most of it, from the ziplocs to the straws to the sporks – was lunch related.

  11. Marnie says:

    We use the reusable sandwich and snack bags from and cloth napkins. My daughter loves the bags and I love how easy they are to clean; I either wipe them out with a sponge or toss them in the wash. The fabric choices are some of the best I’ve seen, and I love supporting a mom who makes these out of her house.

    I couldn’t be happier!

  12. Jen says:

    You can get away with the cute colorful plastics until around 6th grade. Then it is paper bags or better yet money to go out. I live in suburbia so I imagine city kids go out for lunch too! At my sons school it is a rite of passage when you are old enough. In some ways I think biodegradable may be even better than reusable!

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