My child needs a new lunchbox for school, but I'm worried about health issues that have been raised specifically about plastic lunch bags and boxes. I want something that will be durable but as eco-friendly as possible. What should I look for?
Reusable lunch boxes are definitely the greenest way to go, but the health issues can be a legitimate concern. The Center for Environmental Health in California has tested a variety of plastic and vinyl lunch boxes and found lead in some of them. You can still be healthy and green, though. Here's how to keep your children safe — and throw away less lunch trash, too.
- Choose a reusable lunch box made from cloth or stainless steel. If you're handy with a sewing machine, try this Do-It-Yourself project that is made with fabric you already have at home.
- Serve food in reusable containers, like stainless steel jars or jugs and washable PVC free sandwich wrappers, instead of throwaway plastic wrapping and aluminum foil.
- Give kids whole fruits, like bananas, apples, and oranges, so you don't need to wrap them at all.
- Buy organic. You can find pesticide-free lunch meats, bread, lettuce, tomatoes, cookies, chips and milk in most grocery stores.
- Send drinks in reusable 12-oz stainless steel or BPA-free water bottles.
If your kids forget to bring their lunch boxes and water bottles home from school, give them some incentive. Use a stainless steel bottle as a "piggy bank," and deposit a dime or nickel when they walk in with their reusable lunch gear. At the end of the month, they can spend the money on a reward (preferably something with good environmental qualities), make a charitable contribution or just keep saving.
How do you keep packed lunches environmentally-friendly? Share your tips below!
Diane MacEachern is the author of Big Green Purse: Use Your Spending Power to Create a Cleaner, Greener World, and a popular blog, Big Green Purse.