Some schools are adding a few more supplies to parents' back-to-school shopping lists. According to a recent report in the New York Times, paper bags, plastic sandwich bags, and store-bought bottled water are out; kids should tote their lunches in reusable containers, including BPA-free water bottles (for our recommendations on these, see our report in the October issue of ShopSmart).
There are plenty of places selling eco-friendly lunch gear, but these things aren't cheap. So look around your house to see what can be recycled to help you pack a greener tote. A few examples that I've been using include:
Raid your camping gear: Those reusable utensils, cups, dishes, and water bottled can also be packed into a lunch box. And all those bandanas can be recycled into napkins. I'm pretty neat, and get away with washing mine once a week.
Check your pantry: I've got reusable containers in every shape and size tumbling off my shelves. I even found some that are perfect sandwich-size.
Buy snacks in large sizes: Individual servings are handily sized for lunch boxes, but the packaging creates waste. It's greener to buy snacks in larger sizes and portion them into reusable containers.
Recycle a tote: Everybody has totes hanging around the house; I cart my lunch back and forth in a cute one that's also just large enough to squeeze in a work folder or two. I also change them to the season. Kids, of course, may be fussier about what they carry. Whatever you pick out for the new school year, make sure your child really loves it to save you from buying another one.
Pack organic: It's also a good idea to pack organic versions of the Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen list of foods found to have the post pesticide; these include lunch-box favorites like apples, grapes, berries (strawberry, blueberry), peaches, and nectarines, as well as celery and green pepper sticks, and lettuce for sandwiches.