Parents: Don’t send waste to school.

Does your child bring a lunch to school? If so, he or she is generating around 67 pounds of waste per year. And that adds up – the average elementary school disposes of almost 19,000 pounds of lunch waste a year.

Waste-free lunches go a long way toward changing those facts. Learn more about them below. Today, many schools are trying to reduce their operating costs and teach good habits by reducing waste. Sending waste to school hurts both those causes.

What does a waste-free lunch look like?

A Typical American Lunch

  • sandwiches sealed in plastic bags
  • fruits and vegetables in plastic bags
  • prepackaged chips, cookies, fruit bars, granola bars, cheeses, and fruit leathers
  • prepackaged yogurts, applesauces, and puddings
  • crackers, pretzels, chips, and other snack foods sealed in plastic bags
  • disposable juice boxes, juice pouchs, soda cans, water bottles, and milk cartons
  • plastic forks and spoons
  • paper napkins
  • reusable lunchboxes and disposable paper and plastic bags
A Waste-Free Lunch

  • sandwiches and other main dishes, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, and treats in a reusable lunch container
  • cloth napkins
  • stainless-steel forks and spoons
  • reusable drink containers
  • reusable lunchboxes

*With this type of lunch, lunch food items can be bought in larger quantities. The packaging can be left at home for reuse or recycling. Waste-free lunches are not only a wise environmental choice, but they are less expensive as well.


Reducing waste throughout the year

No matter what time of year, it’s easy to throw away old papers, binders and pencils. Try doing something different. Start a waste reduction program at home for your child by following these easy tips:

  • Repair and reuse binders.
  • Use up notebooks that have good blank pages left in them.
  • If your child’s backpack is beginning to come apart, see if you can extend its life with some simple repairs. This could be a good time to learn to sew if you don’t already know how. To sew thick material, buy a sewing awl, such as a speedy sticker, at almost any outdoor supply store. Some hardware stores carry them too. A tool like this will come in handy for countless repairs and projects, and will last a lifetime.
  • Make a list of what you need before you head for the store, and stick to the list. Resist impulse buying.
  • Look for recycled content in paper, pens and pencils. Post consumer content is the best, but any recycled content is great. Ask the store manager if you don’t see it. If the store does not carry recycled content products, suggest to them that they should.
  • Look for nontoxic products, such as pens, inks, and art supplies.
  • Some, if not most, of your child’s “new” clothing could probably come from a thrift store. You might be able to find other items at a reuse store, or a school supply reuse program, if you have one near you.
  • Look for products that aren’t sold with a lot of packaging, and try to think of ways to reuse the packaging that comes with what you buy.
  • Buy durable items, such as strong packs, lunch boxes, and locks and tires for your child’s bicycle.
  • When you pack your child’s lunch, put sandwiches, small fruit, snacks, and other food in reusable containers and put juice or water in a reusable bottle. Send your child off to school with their eco-friendly lunch in a long-lasting reusable bag or box with reusable utensils and a cloth napkin.
  • Get your school to use washable trays if they use paper plates or wrappers.