Easy ways to green your child’s lunch box

Environmentally-kind lunches are earning top marks in the classroom. Here are our easy tips to “green” your child’s lunch box.

Parents have long strived to prepare tasty, nutritious and delicious lunch boxes for their kids as they send them off for a day of learning.

But increasingly, good nutrition is not the only focus of a winning lunch box, as many parents are now starting to consider the environmental impact of their kid’s lunch boxes.

Why make a “green” lunch box?

“Australia sends over 20 million tonnes of waste to hundreds of landfill sites around the country every year,” according to Liam Taylor from Planet Ark.

“Much of this garbage is composed of single-use items like plastic bags, plastic water bottles, disposable cups and plastic straws, all of which have readily available alternatives.”

Liam believes reducing plastic and packaging in kids’ lunchboxes not only helps to minimise the waste, but also offers an opportunity to teach kids how to make greener choices and why it’s important.

He says a little focus on lunch boxes goes a long way, especially if parents incorporate initiatives like “Waste-free-Wednesday” and talk to their kids about it.

How to “green” your lunch box

One of the first steps to greenifying lunches is choosing a lunch box, spokesperson for the Adelaide Sustainability Centre Paige Le Cornu says.

“One of the best things we can do is use what we’ve already got,” she says.

“You don’t have to buy a new one each year.

“Use last year’s lunch box and decorate it if it’s looking a bit tired.”

If it’s time for a new one, Paige recommends buying something that’s durable and made from an environmentally friendly material like bamboo or metal.

What to include in a green lunch box

When it comes to what goes inside an environmentally kind lunch box, here are some things to think about.

Minimal waste

“Avoid packaged foods whenever possible,” Total Environment Centre community campaigner Lisa Wriley says.

“Use containers you can put unwrapped food in, for example, sandwich-sized containers, snack containers and make sure your child can easily open and close them.”

If you need cutlery, Paige recommends plastic-free options.

“It’s about being plastic-free, especially single use plastic-free, as much as possible,” she says.

“There is compostable cutlery, cutlery made from wood, or you can have a reusable set that’s made from bamboo.”

Climate-friendly foods

What we choose to eat not only impacts our waistlines, but it also impacts the planet.

Cutting out meat and dairy is the single biggest change we can make to lunch boxes with these industries being the biggest carbon emitters in the food supply chain.

When choosing produce pick seasonal, locally grown options, as this reduces the need for transportation and refrigeration.

Green lunch box friendly tips

Use leftovers creatively 

Unwanted food is a big problem in Australia with food waste accounting for 3 per cent of the country’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.

So, reducing our food waste wherever we can helps a lot.

“When the kids bring those leftovers home – be creative,” Lisa says.

“Toast the cheese sandwich they didn’t have time to eat, use the tired banana to make a smoothie or banana bread by freezing it until you are ready, grate the rejected apple into apple cinnamon muffins, and as a last resort feed those scraps to worms or chooks or guinea pigs.”

Author George Georgievski, dubbed the “school lunch box dad” shared his tips for crust cut-offs with House of Wellness TV hosts Luke Hines and Luke Darcy.

“I throw them in the freezer for later use, like croutons, or breadcrumbs, otherwise I have a heap of other creations – I make banana bread using crusts,” George said.

Buy in bulk

“With lunch boxes, it’s important to reduce packaging as much as possible so try buying in bulk and then using smaller containers to store food,” Paige says.

“This includes things like chips, nuts, and dried fruit.

“It’s trick that saves money as well, which is great.”

For more healthy eating tips and great lifestyle advice, tune into House of Wellness TV, Fridays at 2pm and Sundays at 12pm, on Channel 7.

Written by Alex White.