Earth-friendly lunch bags
Sure, it's not a big plastic Superman
lunch box, but The Lunch Bag by Eco Bags has natural, plain and
simple down to a science. Made with organic cotton, your kids will
feel proud of their waste-free choices at the lunch table this
year. $9.99, ecobags.com
Reusable snack bag
Kids will love the Snack Happened
reusable bags by itzy ritzy, made right here in Chicago. The
colorful washable, zippered and water-resistant bags will let your
kids express their own style and care for the environment by
shunning those plastic baggies that always end up in the trash.
Approved by the FDA as food safe, these cool bags are great for
many purposes and all ages (even you, mom!) $9.95, itzyritzy.com.
Forget the plastic spoons, knives and
forks. To-Go Ware's bamboo utensil set is a great zero-waste option
for school. The reusable spoon, fork, knife and chopsticks come in
a handy carrying case that clips onto a lunch box so it doesn't get
lost. Plus the slogan, "Reduce your forkprint," is just plain fun.
When Holmes Elementary School in Oak Park kicked off its
no-waste lunch program, the kids were so excited, it ended up being
the biggest hot lunch day of the year. The lunch program was part
of the Zero Waste Initiative the school undertook in 2008, which
included replacing Styrofoam serving containers at lunch with
reusable items and planting a school vegetable garden.
"The kids took to the changes like ducks to water," says Julie
Ledogar, a Holmes parent who helped with the project.
The school was guided in its efforts by Seven Generations Ahead,
a local organization that works with schools to create zero-waste
programs. Seven Generations worked with Holmes on waste
assessments, developing plans to move toward zero waste and helping
with grant proposals to get the program under way, says Gary
Cuneen, executive director of Seven Generations Ahead. (The
Illinois Zero Waste school grants help buy composters, industrial
dishwashers, reusable cafeteria wear, hand dryers for bathrooms and
"Paper is one of the biggest areas of waste and we're trying to
increase recycling within the schools," Cuneen says, "and then
reducing the use of paper through a double-sided copy policy and
replacing paper towels in the bathroom with electric hand
Another big source of waste, probably 25-35 percent for schools,
is food scraps, Cuneen says. Schools that have begun recycling
their food scraps have separate bins for food and liquid waste,
which are separated from regular garbage. The material is then
transported to composters or worm bins on school grounds.
Not only are schools like Holmes reducing the amount of garbage
hauled to Dumpsters, they're also saving money on things like
disposable lunch trays, plastic silverware or paper towels, Cuneen
says. Plus, the program lets kids learn to look at materials not as
waste but as resources that can be reused and reintegrated.
"Obviously the biggest benefit is that our students have all
become ambassadors of the earth and are sharing what they learned
at home," Ledogar says. "And we're sending significantly less to
Liz DeCarlo is the former senior editor at Chicago Parent.
See more of Liz's stories here.
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