Green Ways for School Daysby Pima County News on Jul. 23, 2012, under Environmental Quality
It is nearly back-to-school time in the Southwest, which is a perfect opportunity to consider ways to be greener as we select school lunches and buy supplies. Durability and reusability are keys to saving money, preserving natural resources and reducing air pollution associated with manufacturing and transport of paper and plastic disposable items.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the average American school-aged child throws away 67 pounds of lunch waste every year. With a U.S. population of over 70 million children, that equates to more than 4.6 billion pounds of avoidable waste a year. Using reusable items is a simple, cost-saving solution to create a waste-free lunch.
Here are some helpful tips to increase the success of a greener school lunch:
- Talk with your children about the foods they like before going food shopping. Support local and organic farmers by shopping at farmer’s markets. Buy in bulk.
- Let your kids help you put the lunches together the night before. When they are involved in the preparation, there is a better chance of them eating the food instead of throwing it away.
- Pack nutritious foods that are low in fat, sugar and sodium.
- Cut fruit into segments, in case they don’t eat the whole thing at one time.
- Think water instead of soda, but use a refillable stainless steel container instead of plastic bottles. (Making plastic water bottles to meet Americans’ demand requires more than 1.5 million barrels of oil annually, enough to fuel 100,000 U.S. cars for a year.)
- Use reusable containers. A one-time purchase can last for years and save money and resources.
- Refillable bottles/containers – reduce, reuse, refill!
- Reusable utensils – purchase them at second-hand stores.
- Cloth napkins – kids can decorate the napkins themselves.
Homemade lunches are more nutritious than pre-packaged counterparts and cost less as well. You can save $246 a year – per child – by packing a waste-free lunch in addition to starting your children on a life-long path of healthy eating choices.
Other ways to go green include reusing backpacks and lunch boxes from the previous year; purchasing school supplies made from recycled content; carpooling, forming a walking school bus, or riding bikes to school; buying “new to you” or “vintage/retro” clothes at thrift stores; and, when buying new shoes, recycling old sneakers at shoe stores that accept them.