After a long pandemic pause, schools are getting back in session finally and the morning routine of packing a lunch is back. So with Earth Day around the corner, it’s the perfect time for a lunch reboot!
Let’s say goodbye to plastic and the single-use trashy habits that have cropped up during the pandemic. Did you know that waste has increased about 30% since the virus took root and families doubled down on using single use masks, gloves, hand wipes and other single use items?
With a little planning we can keep ourselves healthy and safe as well as protect our planet from the tidal wave of needless plastic. Here are some easy swaps to take your child’s lunchbox from EEK! to ECO.
EEK: BPA-Free Plastic
We’ve all heard about the dangers of BPA (bisphenol-A). This chemical widely found in plastics mimics estrogen, so it can cause all kinds of hormone disruptions. Plastic companies have done a switcher-o and in order to label their products BPA-free, replaced it with BPS. Is the replacement, BPS, any better? The letters stand for Bisphenol Substitute, and – you guessed it – it’s just a different estrogen-mimicking substance.
ECO: Reusable Stainless Steel
Non-toxic, metal containers are awesome for packing lunch, right? This is certainly true when it comes to stainless steel, which is lighter weight than glass, non-breakable, reusable, and easy to clean. Not all metal is created equal. Too much aluminum in your life can cause a whole host of problems, both short- and long-term. Also beware, because many pre-packaged foods, such as the juice pouches and shiny metal-looking wrappers used on energy bars, are not actually packaged in metal – it’s metal-looking plastic! Be eco-liciously safe and stick to stainless steel!
Consider purchasing stainless steel lunch containers for excellent eco performance.
EEK: Organic Juice Boxes and Snack Packs
Keeping the kiddos hydrated & energy packed is super important as a parent. Grab and go juice boxes and pre-packaged snacks seem like the perfect solution. But juice boxes end up in the landfill. Using a refillable bottle is much better for people and the planet. Plus, you can serve a lot of different drinks – not just juice.
Juice boxes and sacks are not recyclable. These single-use containers are trash because they’re made from either cardboard coated with plastic or layers of aluminum and plastic melded together. In more bad news, even if these containers are labelled BPA-free, beware that they may be leaching bisphenols into your child’s lovely organic juice. Eek!
ECO: Good Ole Fashioned Hand Washing
Most kids eat lunch with their hands, so it’s important, especially during pandemic times, to keep germs at bay by sending your child to school with antibacterial hand sanitizer. Whenever possible encourage your child to use good ole fashioned soap and water to wash up before lunchtime.
Avoid single-use wet wipes commonly made from polyester and other plastic textiles that cannot be recycled and end up the landfill. If you choose to use a hand sanitizer gel, keep a watchful eye on the ingredients buy in bulk. This way you can pack a small vial in your child’s lunchbox and refill it periodically from a larger container, saving from the landfill dozens of plastic containers. When it comes to ingredients, avoid triclosan since it’s a chemical that can lead to antibiotic resistance, hormone disruption, and can actually create a weakened immune system?
EEK: Compostable Bioplastics Cutlery
It sounds eco to choose compostable cutlery for your child’s lunch. Some of the organic, pre-packaged foods tout super cute bio-plastic utensils, which give parents a good feeling that by choosing bioplastics they’re doing the right thing.
But hold on a sec, plastic made from plants can’t be recycled. If the packaging says it’s compostable, find out more information because usually that means it can only be composted in a commercial facility. Who’s going to handle that? Choose to reuse instead. Pick out a stainless-steel spork or bamboo utensil set.
About the Author
Sandra Ann Harris is the author of “Say Goodbye To Plastic: A Survival Guide For Plastic-Free Living” published in October 2020 by Hatherleigh Press. Her passion is protecting the oceans by reducing people’s dependence on plastics. Her company ECOlunchbox, which she founded in 2008, innovates and sells high-quality, plastic-free food container solutions. She has a diverse background in business consulting, product development, investigative journalism, and digital marketing strategy, along with her work in the non-profit sector for a humanitarian aid organization. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family.