Waste-free School Lunches

By PSU EcoMerge Capstone - 9:07 PM

 If you're a child of the 1980s like me you can probably remember your plastic lunch box with the matching plastic thermos with your favorite cartoon character or hero pictured on the front. I remember the standard lunch menu: PBJ sandwich, an apple, a cheese stick, and a thermos full of milk or water. Lunch was pretty much waste-free for me except for the plastic sandwich bags used to house the sandwich and cheese stick. Once I reached junior high in the early 1990s the appearance of lunch drastically changed: a brown paper bag, a microwaved Hot Pocket, cookies in individual packaging, a soda or disposable bottle of water, and a piece of fruit if my mom was lucky. The difference? As I grew older so did the need for convenience for my mom I guess. What saved time created more waste!

However, schools across the country are adopting waste-free lunch requirements for their students' families to abide by and must obey their simple rule: no plastic sandwich bags of any kind. Schools are requiring students to have reusable aluminum water bottles as well as reusable containers to keep their food in. Others require an actual lunch box too. Schools love it, retailers are ecstatic, and students are more than willing to participate (in fear of being embarrassed or shunned by their peers). There's just one problem: parents don't like it...at least not a first.

Some schools are going so far as to buy bulk containers and resell them at low prices to families in order to get everyone on board. The problem is that it takes more time to prepare, costs more money for families who may already be struggling financially, and items are added to an already nearly-ridiculous supply list for each child.


Ultimately it's a great lesson in living green and sustainably for children to learn. Children feel like they are doing their part to reduce the waste produced in homes and in schools across the nation: it makes them feel good to go green.

Website:

NY Times: The Plastic Sandwich Bag Flunks
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/27/business/energy-environment/education-officials-and-retailers-push-for-environmentally-friendly-school-lunches.html?_r=1&ref=recyclingofwastematerials

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