(Guest post by Dana Govern)
Back to school season is here once again and as parents prepare their kids to return, we have healthy, non toxic and green lunch gear on our minds here at Wild Mint. Why? Because we want to make sure parents are aware that many lunch-packing materials have chemicals that could negatively affect the health of their children, not to mention that disposable items are contributing to waste and polluting the air and oceans.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a school-age child using a disposable lunch generates an average of 67 pounds of waste per school year, which equates to almost 19,000 pounds of waste for only one average-sized school. That’s a lot of garbage! And the EPA also states that packing a litter-free lunch can save an average student a whopping $250 a year.
Hitting even closer to home are chemicals that could be lurking in some lunch-packing materials. Some well-known chemicals in items including lunch bags, plastic containers, utensils, plastic baggies, and water bottles are Bisphenol-A or BPA, phthalates, and lead. These chemicals can have a short term, immediate effect on people’s health, or long term health effects that may not appear for years. Although research is still ongoing, some health concerns associated with these chemicals include diabetes, obesity, heart disease, worsening of allergy and asthma symptoms, impaired intellect, and some cancers.
In preparation for a safe and healthy back to school that is good for the environment and families, we’ve put together the following suggestions for a cleaner, healthier lunch (because no one wants chemicals as a side dish with their meals!):
1) Reusable Lunchbag: Look for a tote that is free of toxic chemicals including lead, PVCs, phthalates, and BPA. For the most eco friendly choice, opt for a bag made from 100% organic cotton, which, compared to conventional cotton growing methods, has lower environmental impacts and doesn’t use pesticides. In general, reusable bags are easy to carry and help reduce waste. Replace any brown bags, plastic grocery bags, and toxic reusable bags with these smarter, safer options.
2) Healthy Food in Reusable Containers: Avoid disposable containers of all kinds and replace them with reusable, non toxic options. Glass, stainless steel, and organic cotton are all toxin free replacements for plastics that also promote healthier eating by conscious food preparation. Pack healthy sandwiches, meals, veggie sticks, yogurt, fruit, and more nutritious options in the safer storage. Replace plastic baggies with reusable sandwich and snack bags which will save money in the long run and help reduce waste!
3) Sustainable Utensils and Napkins: Reusable bamboo utensils are an eco-friendly alternative to plastic and extremely lighter then packing silverware. With napkins, opt for reusable 100% organic cotton instead of costly paper napkins that add unnecessary waste to landfills.
4) Reusable Beverage Bottles: Plastic water bottles, juice boxes, soda cans, and other disposable drinks can contain unhealthy ingredients, toxic chemicals, and contribute to waste. Instead, use reusable glass or stainless steel bottles filled with water and other healthy beverages that will help reduce waste and exposure to toxins.
To complete your successful kid and earth friendly lunch, our Wild Mint team has prepared healthy snack ideas and green packing tips at Healthy Snack Ideas for Kids for quick, easy, nutritious and affordable snacks that are good for your family and the planet!