Packing a Litter-Free Lunch

More and more schools these days are turning their focus toward the environment, and to that end, they are requiring their students to pack litter-free or nearly litter-free lunches. But what does that look like in practice, as a parent?

First, let’s look at what a “typical” lunch looks like, such as those we probably had in our own lunchboxes as kids, and then we’ll look at how we can transform those lunch box staples into a litter-free version.

Typical lunches include things like:
Sandwiches, fruits, and vegetables in disposable zip-top bags
Packaged cookies, granola bars, gummies, chips, and other individually portioned snacks
Juice in juice boxes, bottles or cans
Disposable cutlery and paper napkins

It’s easy to see the problem, right?


A lunch like that results in so much waste. And that’s just one lunch! Imagine the issues a school faces with several hundreds of students all bringing in that kind of lunch. So, what is the answer? A litter-free (or reduced-waste) lunch.

Here’s what that might look like:
Instead of a plastic bag for sandwiches and vegetables, etc. opt instead reusable containers. There are lots of options available, including “bento” style boxes that are designed with compartments to accommodate a sandwich (or other “main dish”) as well as snacks and sides without any waste.
Reusable, heavy-duty plastic or stainless-steel cutlery. Don’t forget to remind your children to bring them home!
Swap out paper napkins for cloth
Reusable drink containers that can be filled daily with water, milk, or juice from a larger container
Reusable lunch boxes instead of paper bags

easter lunch

By making these small changes, it’s very easy to reduce the amount of waste generated by a school lunch. By buying things in larger bags and dividing them up into smaller, reusable portion containers, you will still give your children the treats they love but without the waste. Any uneaten portions can be repacked and brought home, instead of throwing it away along with the packaging. As a bonus, by buying food in larger packages this way, you’ll also be saving money along with saving the planet. A win-win!

I know what you’re thinking: It’s so much more work to divvy up larger bags of products into smaller portions, instead of simply buying the smaller proportioned bags, right? Although it’s true that packing a litter-free lunch isn’t as easy as simply grabbing prepackaged things and being done with it, but there are things you can do to lessen your load. Here are some tips for making litter-free lunches less time-consuming and more convenient:

Plan ahead
On one day per week (Sunday is typically a good day for many people) cut up the fruits and vegetables for the whole week. Place the cut-up pieces in a large container in the fridge and add them to the bento box or other reusable container as needed. You’ll save time overall.

Make things homemade
Instead of buying prepackaged cookies, bars, etc. that come with lots of waste, bake a big batch of homemade treats to pack into a lunchbox each day. It’s healthier, waste-free, and delicious!

Buy some coloUrful napkins and cutlery
As we’ve said, one of the things you can do to reduce lunchbox waste is to provide your child with reusable cloth napkins and cutlery in colors and styles that are uniquely theirs. They’ll love the chance to use something fun in their lunches (that are apart from the “regular” cutlery, etc. used at the dinner table, for example). Anything you can do to get your kids on board for packing litter-free is always a good thing!

salad lunch

Litter-free lunches can be challenging at first, but with a little preparation and changing your mindset a bit, you can save time, effort, and money while saving the planet.

This is a collaborative post

One thought on “Packing a Litter-Free Lunch

  1. This is great, I love the look of their healthy, colourful lunches! We don’t use disposable things for their lunches except that they love Bear Yoyos which do create a bit of waste what with the wrapper and the yoyo card. I think I’m going to buy one of those bento box style lunch boxes though, they look brilliant!
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