How to Reduce Plastic Use: School Lunch Edition!

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How to Reduce Plastic Use School Lunch

A green back to school lunch is all about eliminating plastics. To accomplish this, we need to be aware of how to reduce plastic use in our school lunches!

As part of our back-to-school goals, we are planning to eliminate plastic waste and buy products that are sustainable. Sustainable products will save us money and will last for many years to come. However, with all the plastic products on the market it is hard to know where to start.

How to Reduce Plastic Use in School Lunches

As with most things, I tend to start simple. Creating a green back to school lunch is all about eliminating plastic. From food packaging to containers, it’s important to be aware of how much plastic we are actually using.

Reducing plastic waste is especially hard when you have little kids. Everything seems to come packaged in little plastic snack bags! Gummy snacks, fruit cups, granola bars… it’s all covered in plastic.

Furthermore, plastic utensils, plastic straws, and plastic lunch boxes always seem to break halfway through the year. They are flimsy and always end up in the trash.

Wondering how to reduce plastic use in your school lunch routine? This year I identified five ways to do just that. They are easy to follow and will end up saving you money too! What’s not to love?

1. Eliminate Plastic Packaging

Getting rid of plastic packaging is likely the hardest thing to do, but it is the most important thing when thinking of how to reduce plastic use and create a sustainable, eco-friendly school lunch. Instead of buying pre-packaged snacks, take the time to make your own. Some healthy back to school snacks you can use instead of packaged items are: Simple and Healthy Homemade Granola/Energy BarsBeef Jerky or Vegetarian JerkyHomemade Gummy Bears: A Healthy Snack Idea, or these Fermented Vegetables.

If homemade snacks are too time consuming, you can always check out your local bulk foods store for some zero-waste products.

2. Use Beeswax Wrap or Reusable Bags

Of course, some lunch items will still need packaging. A natural alternative to plastic wrap or snack bags is beeswax wrap. It is waterproof and clings well to glass containers. You can wrap sandwiches in it, make little bags with it, or even use it to cover containers. Reusable beeswax wrap can be bought here, or you can make your own with this easy tutorial. Another alternative to plastic zip-top bags is silicone storage bags, which can be thrown in the dishwasher for convenient cleaning.

3. Choose Glass

Another tip for how to reduce plastic use in school lunches is use a glass water bottle like this one. Since my kids are little, I  find glass bottles that have silicone sleeves. It gives a little extra cushion and some peace of mind. Plus glass bottles are dishwasher safe making clean up easy!

4. Go Stainless

Another way to eliminate plastic from lunches is to choose a stainless steel lunch box. It’s better for your health and better for the environment. Many stainless steel lunch boxes have their own compartments or come with smaller containers that fit together inside. Stainless steel lunch boxes are more durable than plastic lunch boxes. They also last a long time making them worth the initial cost.

Additionally, if glass water bottles are too heavy for little kids, stainless steel water bottles are lighter and very durable.

5. Ditch the Plastic Utensils

When learning how to reduce plastic use, the ultimate must for a sustainable school lunch is to ditch the plastic utensils! Alternatives like silicone straws, stainless steel straws, bamboo utensils, and stainless steel cutlery are all affordable and make a huge difference. This stainless steel bento lunch box even comes with cutlery included.

These five easy ways to eliminate plastic from your back to school routine are simple to follow. Your kids can also get excited to help the environment with their sustainable back to school lunch. Have them help you pick out items or make healthy snacks to bring to school. Getting the whole family involved makes this a change that will stick this school year!

What ways are you replacing plastic in school lunches this year? Please share your ideas!


About Katie Vance

Katie is a wife, mother, aromatherapist, and lover of all things DIY. She offers consultations and gives simple aromatherapy advice at Katie Vance, Aromatherapy Simplified. You can also find Katie on Facebook.

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  1. Aspen says

    I make many of our snacks from scratch, but I work as well and I find myself using plastic bags for the homemade snacks. ? Suggestions for non time consuming, inexpensive homemade packaging? What can I put muffins and granola bars in to keep as a grab and go item for my kids that doesn’t require me washing out baggies or spending a fortune on bees wrap or small glass containers? I’ve been unhappy with this for years, but my time is very limited and I won’t stick with something time intensive to use.

    • Crystal says

      I like to use the small reusable containers (like Rubbermaid) instead of the snack size plastic baggies. They are easy to find, easy to wash and if the Littles accidentally toss them out, it’s not too much of an expense to replace them.

    • Katie Vance says

      Aspen- if you buy a lunch box with compartments/containers, you can just place the granola bars or muffins in an individual compartment. Something like a bento box works well for this. Also if you can find glass containers (and if your school district allows them), they are easily washable in the dish washer.

  2. Juli says

    I have been using a planet box lunch box for years now. It is such high quality I am now, 3 or 4 years later just buying a replacement bag for the lunch box. I expect the actual stainless steel lunch box to last for years and years. We also throw in a reusable napkin (cloth). My daughters lunch rarely has anything in it that goes in the trash. Most things that create trash (juice boxes, packaged snacks etc) are things we just don’t eat or drink anyhow so it makes it easy for us.

    • Katie Vance says

      Juli! So glad to hear you are a fan of the Planet Box. Ours is still relatively new, so it makes me (and my wallet!) very happy to know it will last.

  3. Catherine Taggart says

    Just an FYI on the plastic free lunch ideas. Check with your child’s school before buying glass containers, even with the sleeves the school may not allow it.