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Mom to Mom Challenge: Waste-Free Lunch

A typical American school kid generates 67 pounds of discarded lunchbox packaging waste per school year. That’s more than 18,000 pounds annually for an average-size elementary school, which adds up nationwide to more than 1 billion pounds annually. A typical U.S. family using disposables generates more than 4,000 pieces of lunch trash unnecessarily each year, according to our ECOlunchboxes Lunchbox Waste Study 2010. I’d be interested to know what those numbers would be if you included those of us that pack lunches for our child care aged children. I’ve been packing waste free lunches for my boys since they began to eat finger food (and for my first even longer since I made his baby food) and I find that it’s not terribly difficult. I have two of these for each child (so one can be in the dishwasher while the other gets packed the night before) and think they help me be a bit more creative and provide more variety than I otherwise would. They’ve also allowed me to discontinue using plastic baggies, or foil or plastic wrap to contain things. I even picked up a couple of these to pack my preschooler’s morning snack in his backpack.

A typical lunch for my boys generally looks something like this:

Since around the world we use more than 1 million bags per minute, I thought it would be fun to challenge my fellow mom bloggers to drop the plastic baggie habit and pack a waste free lunch for 5 days (a school/work week). Here were the groundrules:

  • Most important rule: no container should go to school/child care that will be thrown away (anything that goes should come home)
  • No Ziploc bags
  • No individual-size packages
  • No juice boxes, water bottles, etc
  • EXCEPTION: can use a “non reusable container” if you do in fact reuse it (ie using the same Ziploc bag all week)
  • The challenge will last for one school/work week (Monday-Friday)
  • BONUS CHALLENGE: If you also pack your own lunch, you can challenge yourself to pack your own waste-free lunch as well


Want to see how the other moms did with this challenge? Read their posts:


  1. Marlina March 3, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    Great idea I need to purchase some of those, for my child’s school lunch. However the school says I need to put her food in cold or hot packs. Hot packs because they are not permitted by law to heat up the food brought from home. As for the cold packs I can just place the cold items in the refrigerator so there is no problem with cold food items. Does any of your products come with a pack or container that will keep the food hot or cold. Say for example I made pasta and I wanted to make sure it was reasonable warm when my child ate it the pasta. Do any of your projects keep the food warm/hot ?

  2. Jennifer March 4, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    I typically pack soup and chicken nuggets for my daughter’s lunch in stainless steel thermoses made by Thermos. I have been told by my daugher’s teachers that the soup is sometimes so hot by lunchtime that they have to pour the soup into a bowl to cool off. I really recommend Thermos stainless steel products. I also think it helps to then pack the thermoses in insulated lunch bags to ensure that the food stays warm!

  3. Brenda March 7, 2011 at 10:31 am

    This is so difficult with an infant. I buy organic baby food; I don’t make my own. But, since I am a breastfeeding mom, I do try to be earth friendly and buy bottles (instead of the bags) to store my breastmilk.

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