Zero Waste Lunch

Zero Waste Lunch Bringing lunch with you to school or work is a great way to eat better and save money.While there are many benefits to packing your own lunch there is one major environmental concern: single use disposable packaging generates significant amounts of waste!

Regardless of whether it’s basic peanut butter and jelly or something more elaborate on the menu, every lunch is eligible to be a Zero Waste Lunch!

What does "Build a Zero Waste Lunch" Mean?

Simply put, to make a lunch that generates no (or very little) trash. In a zero waste lunch everything can be eaten, reused, or recycled.  Here are some tips to help get you started:
  1. Use a reusable insulated bag or lunch box instead of a brown paper bag, to hold your child’s lunch every day. A reusable ice pack can be used to keep perishable food items cold.
  2. Use reusable plastic containers that can be washed and used over and over instead of using disposable plastic sandwich bags for sandwiches and snacks.
  3. Use a thermos or reusable jug instead of a bottle of soda or a juice box.
  4. Use metal silverware or wash plastic utensils and reuse them instead of plastic utensils that are used once and thrown away.
  5. Buy in bulk and pack individual servings in reusable containers.
  6. Use cloth napkins that can be washed and reused instead of using paper napkins or paper towels.

Why is it So Important and What Can I Do To Help?

Taking the time to pack healthy lunches without disposable packaging addresses concerns about the environment and childhood nutrition, and it's easier on your wallet. For example, yogurt in single-serving containers requires a third more packaging than one large container—not only do you pay for the extra packaging, but it adds up to extra waste.

What Can Schools do To Reduce Lunch Waste?

Start local! Start a waste-free lunch program at your school. Many schools across the country have begun to do so, and they're truly making a difference!

Talk to students, parents, and teachers about the benefits of packing a waste-free lunch. Post signs in the lunch area and send informative notices home to families. Get students, parents, teachers, and administrators involved. If possible, schedule a field trip to the landfill or recycling facility so students will understand where their trash goes.

Perform a trash audit to find out what's in your trash. Is your trash made up of mostly food waste or packaging waste? Does it contain compostables or recyclables? If so, how can these be diverted? Is the bulk of the trash coming from home or from the school lunch program? What changes will help reduce the amount of waste headed for the landfill?

Start a waste-free lunch program at your school: www.wastefreelunches.org/

Cost Comparison

What does it cost to pack a waste-free lunch?

A disposable lunch
A waste-free lunch
1 egg salad sandwich
1 egg salad sandwich
1 yogurt
1 serving of yogurt
1 granola bar
1 serving of granola
1 apple
1 apple
1 package of carrots and dip
1 serving of carrots and dip
3 plastic bags
1 juice pouch
cloth napkin
1 plastic spoon
stainless steel spoon
1 paper napkin

disposable lunch
waste-free lunch
$4.02 / day
$2.65 / day
$20.10 / week
$13.25 / week
$723.60 / school year
$477.00 / school year
723.60 - 477.00 = $246.60 savings per school year per person