Why We Should Adopt Rubbish-Free Lunches

Has your school signed up for ‘rubbish free lunches’?

There are a lot of great reasons that schools commit to rubbish-free lunches. Waste from lunch packaging not only makes school grounds messy, it goes to land fill and adds to the vast piles of rubbish that are creating many problems for the world – including carbon emissions. What better time and place to start educating our children about taking care of the environment?

There is no education that works so well as a practical challenge – and rubbish-free lunches are a wonderful opportunity to have conversations with our children about the environment, the importance of recycling, and all the simple ways we can create a better future.

It’s not about re-packaging

When your school first adopts a rubbish-free lunch program, it can be tempting to buy the same old products, remove the packaging and put them into takeaway containers. This is a step in the right direction. If we buy BIG bags of corn chips and put them into washable containers, we won’t be buying or disposing of quite as much packaging. There wouldn’t be much advantage if we kept buying little packets and popping the contents in reusable containers!

The re-packaging approach is understandable. Parents are busy people and our first priority is to make sure that our children have enough food to get them through a school day, while we’re getting ourselves ready for a thousand other responsibilities. However simply re-packaging food into reusable containers misses out on the deeper meaning of rubbish-free lunches.

Have the messy important conversations

From our point of view, the most important thing about rubbish-free lunches isn’t getting it right and ticking the boxes. They are an opportunity to have messy and important conversations with your children (and sometimes your schools) about what matters, and why. They are a way to enrol the whole family in taking responsibility for an eco-friendly household.

Why do we go to the trouble to minimise packaging and wash our reusable containers? It’s harder work. It takes time. But if we talk about the environmental cost of waste, then our children will understand that if we invest a little bit of time and effort at home we won’t all have to pay in other ways. Watch The Story of Stuff together, or episodes of War on Waste – but please remember to focus on all the solutions that creative people are coming up with. Hope is our most important commodity in this day and age.

Get everyone involved

If you talk through rubbish-free lunches with your kids, they can get involved. Do they like dried fruit? The family may decide to buy dried fruits in bulk and put them in reusable snack containers. You might even decide to invest in a food dehydrator. Kids love making apple slinkies and seeing them dehydrate into chewy dried apple. Many children enjoy taking leftovers in an insulated food jar. Just make that bit extra the night before and voila! Rubbish-free lunches are ready to pack and go.

Invest in products that make rubbish-free lunches easy

A few of our favourites are:

  • Insulated food jars
  • Reusable snack pockets and sandwich wraps. The wrap opens out to make a nifty placemat and best of all – no lid to lose!
  • Stainless steel containers with leak-proof lids
  • And of course, reusable water bottles

If your family is new to rubbish-free lunches, then that first phase of changing your habits can be an effort. But if you take the challenge on as a family, your efforts will be rewarded on all sorts of levels.

Better for your pocket – and the planet

In the long run, it is more economical to refill containers than to buy packaged serving sizes. Even more important, thinking about rubbish-free lunches will help your children think about sustainability in other parts of their life; it will become normal to care for the environment. Their school grounds will be tidier – and the world will be that little bit greener, thanks to your family and your rubbish-free lunches.

17th July 2017 by Lucinda Flynn & Elisabeth Bromley