a peek inside the fishbowl

02 Apr, 2008

did you pack a garbage-free lunch?

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Yaktivism

Our school encourages parents to pack litter-free lunches. You know me, I love this idea, and we adhere to it as much as we can.

This means:

  •  a reusable, insulated lunch bag
  • the main dish (sandwich, soup, hummus, whatever) is packed in a plastic food storage container (I would like to find an alternative to this.)
  • fruit (is packed in its own skin, or if it’s cut up it is packed in a small container.)
  • yogurt/applesauce is not purchased in small lunch-sized containers. We buy the bigger containers and take some out and put them into smaller ones for kids.
  • no juice boxes. We pack water in a SIGG bottle, sometimes milk in a sippy thing.
  • smaller desserts, such as cookies or raisins or goldfish crackers are also poured into smaller containers. Nothing comes individually packaged.

Naively, I thought all parents at our school were following the litter-free guideline as well. The last time I volunteered during a field trip I realized this wasn’t the case. I watched one kid in particular as she unpacked her lunch. Everything had a wrapper. The sandwich was in a zip-lock, she had a pudding tube and some chewy gummies and lor’ knows what else. By the time she was finished eating she had a pile of garbage that was bigger than her head.

I suggested (to the teacher) that we force the kids to keep their garbage in big clear bags to see how much accumulates by the end of the year. The class with the least amount of garbage wins. She didn’t go for it. ;)

Seriously, I don’t think packing a sandwich in a container is any more work than packing it in a baggie. What do you think?

Can you, or do you already, achieve a litter-free lunch for yourself and for your kids? 

23 Responses to "did you pack a garbage-free lunch?"

1 | megan

April 2nd, 2008 at 7:16 am


We have always done this and my mother did as well back, in the 70’s, long before it was in vogue (even before they invented zip-lock). I remember being very envious of the kids with brown paper bags and flip top baggies :).

2 | tali

April 2nd, 2008 at 7:17 am


This drives me nuts, too…especially the raisins in the little box, which are about 4 times more expensive than bulk raisins.

Have you seen this store? http://www.lifewithoutplastic.com/

They have stainless storage containers, but I wonder if they’d be too heavy.

3 | J.

April 2nd, 2008 at 7:40 am


I agree with you. I am guilty to putting veggies and cookies in plastic bags, because of convince and the limited amount of room in my bag for work. More often than not, I use plastic containers for A. and I’s lunches. But when A. forgets all his containers at work, I have no choice but to use those plastic bags… Even for 23 year olds you have to tell them to bring home the containers. :S

4 | Tiana

April 2nd, 2008 at 8:10 am


My kid’s not born yet so I can only account for my own lunched.

I re-use plastic containers or gifted tupperwares and even glass jars from things like mustard for my lunches. The only ‘disposable’ thing I use is a re-used grocery bag (from when I forgot to bring my canvas bags) for things that don’t fit in my containers (like slices of pizza) but then THOSE get re-used to line our in-office compost bins.

5 | Chantal

April 2nd, 2008 at 8:13 am


I am sorta middle of the road on this one. I am 100% for a litter free lunch (and follow it myself at work), but my sons school lunch presents some challenges for me. My guy is can be a very picky eater, especially at lunch. So I am limited to what I can pack for him. Some of his faves are lunch type things (cheese strings, pirates of the Caribbean gymmys). It drives me nuts to send this crap with him but it is the only stuff that doesn’t come back uneaten. I have a deal with him that he has to bring all his wrappers and bags home. I wash out any zip lock bags we use and dispose of the garbage myself. It is a work in progress for sure.

7 | andrea

April 2nd, 2008 at 8:58 am


Or you can go with something like this.

8 | Jenn

April 2nd, 2008 at 9:00 am


My son uses a laptop lunch box. I find with four seperate compartments it encourgages him to look for a nice balanced homemade lunch. He’ll even make his own pudding on Sunday afternoons.

9 | Tosca

April 2nd, 2008 at 9:06 am


I have been searching high and low for a reusable plastic container for sandwiches that is slim and trim AND easy to open. My son has some issues with fine motor skills, and all the plastic containers that I’ve seen are difficult for *me* to open, let alone him.

You can in fact get stainless steel food jars for hot stuff. Apparently ‘foogo’ containers are awesome- go google them- but they are only available in the States so far. I have a couple of stainless ones from Crappy Tire which suck- they’re hard to open, and they don’t keep stuff very warm, which is a pity because both of my kids love all manners of soup for lunch.

10 | mel

April 2nd, 2008 at 9:08 am


We’re litter-free on the lunches here, but like you, I would like to find a good (and not too expensive) alternative to the plastic containers. Let us know if you find one, eh?

Wouldn’t that be awesome if the teacher actually went for the save-your-garbage idea?

11 | tali

April 2nd, 2008 at 10:36 am


They have some of the Foogo ones at the extraordinary baby shoppe now….

12 | Tosca

April 2nd, 2008 at 12:06 pm


Thank you Tali, I didn’t know that! I go by there practically every day and I had no clue :)

13 | smothermother

April 2nd, 2008 at 1:18 pm


I’ve always gone the no-litter lunch. My mom was a big Tupperware fan in the 70s/80s so I have the Tupperware lunch box that fit about 6 different size containers in it and then I had a Thermos on the size. So now that I have a kid of my own, I image I will be doing the same for him, though probably plastic free!

14 | jenn

April 2nd, 2008 at 2:24 pm


It is a challenge to bring litterless lunches, but every little bit helps! Great ideas here!

while we are on the subject of littlerless things…does anyone know where to get mesh produce bags?? I have bins for grocery shopping but still use those pesky plastic produce bags (which are reused for kitty litter clean up, but still!)

15 | a peek inside the fish bowl

April 3rd, 2008 at 7:50 am


[…] Plastic produce bags (those small clear ones used for fruit and vegetables) are another one of those use single use “convenience” products that clog up the landfills, use precious resources, and end up in intestinal tracts of sea turtles. Jenn mentioned mesh produce bags in the comments of yesterday’s post. Her comment is timely because I’ve been thinking about this very thing. […]

16 | Jen_nifer

April 3rd, 2008 at 1:49 pm


My husband and I take litterless lunches almost everyday, but all those Rubbermaid food containers take up a lot of space. They take up more than half of the space in the top rack of our dishwasher everyday, and plenty of space in our bags each day.

I’m curious to see how it will work when our toddler starts going to school. Will his book bag be half full of containers? Will we start hand washing all those containers every night as we will have more than a full load for the dishwasher every day? I’ve seen those laptop lunch boxes before, and might have to try one out.

17 | andrea

April 3rd, 2008 at 2:10 pm


Jen_nifer: when you’re toddler starts going to kindergarten you’re not going to be packing much: a container of cut-up oranges or crackers and cheese. When they’re older the amount of room in a typical lunch-box is kind of a non-issue. All they really need is a sandwich, a fruit, maybe one other thing (cheese? yogurt? crackers?), and a container of milk or water.

And if you’re lucky they’ll eat it. ;)

18 | andrea

April 3rd, 2008 at 2:22 pm


re: the laptop lunchboxes
It’s modular tupperware :)
I love this:

19 | LO

April 3rd, 2008 at 4:59 pm


The Container Store (not yet in Canada) has some kick ass (can i say that here?:) lunch containers. We have one that holds a sandwich on one side and has two or three other divided spaces on the other side and then you snap it together. I is WAY cool.
At my daughter’s school they promote litter free lunches and her teacher, from Ireland (i find European nations are more advanced in recycling-Germany especially) is very much a ‘recylcer’ and any garbage brought to school has to go home. It’s great incentive. Also, if the kids see and feel the value of litterless lunch they provide pressure to their parents so that they won’t be the only one not bringing litter free lunches:)

20 | jennP

April 3rd, 2008 at 5:21 pm


i ended up buying a Lap top lunch system and it is awesome.


we have the pink one on that picture. there is a lot of room and the lunchbox is not overly bulky. I bought it through a lady in Ottawa (she is a distributor i guess). I think it was 35$ but well worth it!

21 | Jen_nifer

April 4th, 2008 at 10:05 am


andrea: Last night I realized that hubby and I have a little more bulk with our litterless lunches as we are also bringing breakfast to work (we start work at 7am).

You’re probably right about kindergarten, but our two year old has been known to out-eat his teenage aunt. He will probably have to bring a seperate duffle bag for his lunch come high school! :)

22 | Freakazojd

April 4th, 2008 at 8:33 pm


I think it’s great they’re encouraging that at your kids’ school! I don’t like plastic containers either…I got a few containers at Ikea that are ceramic with glass lids – but that’s not really practical in terms of kids bringing them to school. I use them at home to store leftovers in the fridge. :)

23 | Stefanie

August 25th, 2009 at 12:08 pm


Re-usable waterproof sandwich bags make a good
garbage free option, and their cute too!

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