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Back to school season is the perfect time to up your game with the goal of having zero or reduced waste lunches. By planning, your family can greatly reduce the amount of food waste created. Here are a few tips from the Ohio State University Extension Sustainability Team:

  • Purchase glass, stainless steel, or food safe bamboo containers for your sandwiches or leftovers. There are a lot of stainless-steel bento style boxes available right now. Avoid using plastic bags or wrap, and aluminum foil.
  • Purchase reusable storage bags, straws, utensils, and cloth napkins that you wash and use over and over. If you use paper napkins, purchase 100% recycled paper napkins.
  • Make sure you use the oldest food in your cupboard, pantry, refrigerator first – as something gets older you may be able to freeze it for later use if you are watching (for example, you can freeze yogurt and fresh fruit for smoothies).
  • Bring your own condiments in small containers – rather than using or purchasing salad dressings or ketchup in single use packaging.
  • Compost your fruit or vegetable scraps. If composting isn’t available at your work or school, consider implementing a program.
  • Recycle what you can and keep up to date on the recycling program available in your community.
  • If you eat out, plan to take part of your meal home for lunch the next day. Eat at restaurants that use brown, eco-friendly to go containers, or better yet, bring your own.
  • The lunch bag options are limitless, so choose one that is easy to care for and fits your personality. Do you like Star Wars, Disney, the NFL, or our beloved Buckeyes? There are handy choices available for the whole family.

You may say that some of these sustainable products are a little pricey, so watch for back-to-school sales or buy these items as gifts for family members and friends gifts. I have been buying my friends glass or bamboo lunch containers the last few years and my daughter bought almost everyone in the family cool decorative mini-coolers last year for the holidays. The coolers work great for lunches or trips. We can’t wait to hear your favorite sustainable practices or lunch packing products.

Writer: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County.

Reviewer: Laura Stanton, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Warren County.

Sources:

Ohio State University Extension, Sustainability Team – https://fcs.osu.edu/programs/resources/sustainability

Stanton, L.M. (2021). Ten Tips for Packing Waste-Free Lunches, Ohio State University Extension. https://go.osu.edu/waste-free-lunches

United States, Environmental Protection Agency, https://www.epa.gov/recycle/reduce-reuse-recycle-resources-students-and-educators.

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