Tips for making your child’s lunch box more sustainable

All across the country pupils are going back to school, things might be a little different with staggered start and end times, class bubbles and social distancing.

However, one thing that remains the same is the packed lunch, in fact with many schools not offering school dinners yet – more people than ever will be taking a packed lunch. In 2018 figures reported that there were 347,000 pupils in Northern Ireland schools, and that number goes up every year – that’s a lot of sandwiches and a lot of cling film.

With many of us thinking of our impact on the environment, are there ways in which we can make our packed lunches more sustainable?

First things first, what are you going to put it in? There are lots of attractive lunch boxes on the market, especially designed to appeal to children, but if you already have something at home – then make use of that. Using the same box every day is already a big improvement on throwaway zip lock bags.

Here are our top tips to make lunch more sustainable:

  1. Reusable/ refillable drink bottles – Drinks cartons come with plastic straws in little plastic sleeves, stuck to the carton with dollops of glue and then wrapped in more plastic packaging. A refillable bottle is a great way to cut down.
  2. Cling film alternatives – You can buy beeswax wrap online with a basic starter pack starting at around £10. A medium beeswax wrap is just the right size for covering cheese, sandwiches and leftovers. You can also buy beeswax bags to hold loose items like carrot sticks or grapes. They can be used many times and you simply wash them with soap in cold water, and leave them to dry.
  3. Avoid individually wrapped items – Pre-prepared bags of carrot sticks and grapes can save a few minutes in the mornings, but that is a lot of excess packaging. You could prepare grapes or vegetables the night before and put them in re-usable boxes or beeswax bags.
  4. Meat free Monday – Meat, yogurt, cheese and other dairy products tend to have a higher environmental footprint than plant-based foods. Consider packing at least one vegan lunch per week. You can also get creative with hummus wraps, pasta salads and a flask of soup.
  5. Consider organic or higher welfare meats – If your child loves a ham sandwich, keep in mind that processed meat can be high in sodium, nitrates and may have been produced less sustainably.
  6. Think seasonally – Not only is this most cost effective but it ties in with the idea of buying local. If a fruit isn’t normally in season where you live at this time of year, then that usually means it has come from far away. Following the seasons also means that the contents of the lunch box will change all the time, keeping boredom at bay.

We hope the tips above show that you can pack a healthy, tasty packed lunch without adding to the nation’s landfill.