What About The Kids?

Last week I mentioned that Grant and I visited the Glenbrook Zero Waste group in New Westminster.  What I didn’t mention was that it wasn’t all easy-peasy.  They actually had a few hard questions for us.

And one of those questions was about kids. The Glenbrook project has 14 participating families and about 50 participating people, so you do the math.  There are lots of kids.

People often infer that Grant and I wouldn’t be able to live anywhere close to zero waste if we had children.  I’ll admit, it’s one thing to live zero waste as an independent adult, and it’s quite another to try to do it with a house full of  kids.

Those Glenbrook folks are slowly proving that it can be done with a family, but they were hitting some hurdles. Like lunches.  One mom asked us what to feed her kids at lunch.

Up until then, I had always assumed that the reason kids’ lunches were crammed with pre-packaged food was that the parents were too busy to make stuff from scratch.  But apparently, that’s not the case.

This mom told us that when she sends tupperware containers to school with her children, it’s like they enter a black hole, never to return.  She said she can’t afford to keep buying supposedly reusable containers that disappear into the depths of the school cloakroom.  The example she used was yogurt.  She tried it in a reusable container, but her son wouldn’t eat it.  He was in such a  rush to get to the playground, that he couldn’t be bothered to sit down with a spoon and open the container.  What happened when she send yogurt this way was that he’d skip it altogether and then come home starving because he spent his lunch hour playing instead of eating.  She compromised by sending one of those soft plastic yogurt tubes.  It had packaging, but at least he ate it (sound familiar moms?)

Quite frankly, we were speechless.   We suggested wrapping homemade granola bars in parchment paper to avoid the plastic, but were stuck on the disappearing containers.

Now that I’ve had some time to mull it over, I wish I had mentioned having a bento box.   These  “all in one” lunch boxes keep the entire lunch in one large container, so presumably it’d have less chance of getting forgotten.  They can be filled with unpackaged finger foods which are fun and quick to grab and eat on the go (obviously this doesn’t work for yogurt).

  • LapTop Lunches makes a popular version.  They even have a sweet menu library with lunch ideas, or you can check out the thousands of lunches on the LapTop Lunches flickr page.
  • If you want to avoid plastic food containers, PlanetBox makes a stainless steel version that comes with fun magnets.
  • Of course, you could always make your own by taking a big container and nesting some smaller containers inside.

So Mom’s, Dad’s, nannies, and other kid-friendly folks?  How do you pack a waste-free lunch that will actually get eaten in a container that will actually be brought home?



Filed under food, food waste, reusable containers

9 responses to “What About The Kids?

  1. Lori

    What about labels? Wouldn’t they make their way back home eventually if labeled well?

  2. Mom

    We’ve really pushed greener lunches at our school and lack of labels is a problem. The kids with the more substantial boxes seem to keep track of them better and will identify them. It’s the ubiquitous small snack lighter weight ones that float around the coatroom – no one will claim them and no one comes looking for them. Besides which in some seasons they seem to procreate overnight!

  3. Mark

    A friend of mine makes these nice reusable sandwich/ snack bags. Unfortunately doesn’t address the yogurt problem, but it could be a nice option for the other stuff.


  4. Lori

    i was just on etsy purchasing a cloth trash bag for my car and i noticed that they make cloth snack bags too and i thought about this post. Maybe she could make them herself out of scrap fabric…?

  5. Kif

    I’ve been looking into co-housing and listening to Julia Butterfly and these two sparked something for me when I read this post.

    First – there is no “black hole” – these tupperwares must end up somewhere and second could these lost tupperwares be shared like in a co-housing situation.

    It would take a bit more organization but on the other end – what does the school do with all these tupperware when they find it?

    How about this:
    – after lunch kids just throw all their tupperware in a collective bin?
    – at the end of the day, each kid picks up one or two tupperware (or is given it by the teacher) and brings them home
    – or each week or so – if parents are picking up their kids – the parents just grab some.

    It might be strange to have someone else’s tupperware – the school could even have a fundraising at the beginning of a year and sell a set of tupperware (or some recycled material) to each family.

    I know it doesn’t solve “dirty” tupperware but there’s got to be a way – there could even be a kid who is the “tupperware monitor”.

    It does ask for some type of program but that tupperware is out there somewhere – not in a blackhole. If kids were the ones who were the stewards of recycling – the ones who showed the value of it to their families – perhaps they could embrace an idea like this. And just in writing this I thought of one last idea – go to the kids!

    Ask them to help solve the problem. When you give kids a responsibility like this – they can really embrace the situation and come up with solutions that they would like to implement!!

    • Stacey

      We use the Laptop lunch box containers. One medium container for snack, the main box with containers for the lunch and a metal water bottle, and I put it all in a cloth drawstring bag. If you use a lid on one of the containers inside the main box, yogurt does quite well. The small dip containers are great for ketchup (for grilled cheese) or maple syrup (for pancakes). Knock on wood, but my little one in kindergarten has yet to misplace a single item.

      It’s so exciting to read about families taking on waste! I have a very young family, and find that a little effort and planning goes a long way and that it is possible to drastically reduce your waste.

  6. Andrew

    I get this….I remember the terror I had as a kid that I would loose the highly valued tupperware container….how about using old margarine containers, etc., maybe get family/friends to collect them for you. Or, start washing and reusing plastic bags. Once again, easy to find used ones. Best to send things you don’t mind losing.

  7. Kirsten

    Yeah I agree with using the bento boxes or similar designs…I remember losing literally hundreds of tupperware containers, margarine containers and the like over the years! Keeping it all together in one large box practically guarantees that they make it home 🙂

  8. RebD.

    In know this is a year old post but I wanted to leave this option in case anyone was looking for an option… I LOVE this lunchbox!
    No packaging needed and its also recyclable.

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