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5 Reasons to Go Waste-Free

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The little bit of trash generated from each leftover meal or packed lunch is easy to ignore, unless you can recall these reasons to limit your waste.

When you’re packing lunches or on-the-go snacks, wrapping up leftovers, transporting food for a picnic or a camping trip, it’s tempting to use individually packaged foods, plastic wrap, aluminum foil, and disposable plastic containers. But if you’ve ever had lunch in a school cafeteria, where you can watch how quickly the trash-cans fill up with everyone’s wrappers, empty milk cartons and other disposables, going waste-free seems like an increasingly important mission.

By investing in some key products to use in place of disposables, you can cut down significantly on the waste you generate packing lunches and leftovers. To see how quickly you make a difference, stock up on reusable plastic, metal and glass containers in various sizes, travel bottles, cloth or reusable plastic bags for packing sandwiches and snacks, and cloth napkins — you’ll find your pack of disposable sandwich bags lasts much, much longer.

Need more good reasons? Here are five:

  1. Save Money. Although buying good-quality reusable containers might initially seem like a big expense, you’ll quickly see savings over time. For instance, if you’re paying $1 for each carton of organic milk, think of how much cheaper it would be to spend $15 on an insulated bottle and be able to refill it from the tap, or the more economically priced gallon jug of milk at home. The packages of zip-top bags and plastic wrap also quickly add up, outweighing the initial purchase of a sturdy container that can be used again and again. Portioning your own snacks from a bulk package also saves money over buying individually-wrapped versions.
  2. Reduce Landfills. It makes perfect sense: The fewer wrappings, packaging and non-recyclables like juice or milk boxes you use, the less trash you’ll generate. The EPA estimates that every child who packs disposable lunches creates an average of 67 pounds of trash each school year1. If everyone did their part to incorporate at least a few reusable containers into their packed lunches, it could really make an impact.
  3. Better Nutrition: Getting creative about the meals and snacks you pack in reusable containers is also the perfect opportunity to eat healthier, since you can make foods from scratch, with healthier ingredients, rather than opting for the processed, prepackaged versions. Try making your own granola bars or cheese crackers for starters.
  4. Conserve Resources: The fewer disposable packages purchased, the fewer made. This means fewer raw materials and less energy used in production, less pollution and fuel to transport it, and maybe even one less car trip to the store for you to purchase it.
  5. Educate Our Kids: Help your kids develop green habits early by explaining to them why you’re packing their lunch in reusable packages. Show them pictures of the colossal garbage patches in oceans and explain the importance of conserving our resources and reusing things rather than disposing of them. They’re sure to get on board, particularly if you let them pick out their own reusables!

What waste-free habits do you have? Share your ideas in the comments.

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About the Author
Jessica Harlan
Jessica Harlan

I love finding new ways to green my family's life as painlessly as possible, and sharing those ideas with folks who want to do the same.