Center for American Progress

It’s Easy Being Green: How to Pack a Zero-Waste Lunch

It’s Easy Being Green: How to Pack a Zero-Waste Lunch

Packing a lunch with reusable materials is a quick, easy, and cheap way of keeping trash out of landfills.

Read more articles from the "It’s Easy Being Green" series

Looking for an easy way to leave less trash behind? Pack a zero-waste lunch. Disposable food-packaging materials accumulate large amounts of waste quickly. The average school-age child who uses a disposable lunch creates 67 pounds of waste each school year, or an average of 18,760 pounds per elementary school. This is but a symptom of a U.S. throwaway culture that needs attention, especially in the area of food packaging. U.S citizens, for example, throw out an estimated 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour.

The graphic below helps you pack a reusable lunch with several items to look for the next time you head to the supermarket.

Here’s the basic things to remember:

1) Reuse your beverage container. Use a thermos or a reusable water bottle to carry liquids.

2) Pack a reusable lunch bag. Using the same lunch bag every day creates no waste and is an affordable one-time purchase. You can probably even reuse a bag you already have.

3) Buy in bulk. Buy family-sized packages of cookies, crackers, and chips, rather than individually packaged snacks, and then pack the desired amount each day.

4) Use reusable containers for food. Use Tupperware, or whenever possible wash out old food packaging for reuse. This is great for transporting leftovers.

5) Rise out of old food containers. Reuse old food packaging to avoid throwing it out.

6) Bring your fork from home. Remembering to pack reusable utensils will prevent wasting hundreds of plastic forks, knives, and spoons every year. You can also keep a set of washable cloth napkins on hand to prevent unnecessary use of paper ones.

It’s almost always easier, and cheaper, to replace disposable packaging items with reusable materials. And they’ll save you less trips to the store in the long run, as well as money on things such as plastic and paper bags.

Read more articles from the "It’s Easy Being Green" series

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