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Packing Trash-Free Lunches

I’ll admit that the convenience of ready-to-go items has sometimes trumped our best intentions, with single-serve beverages (juice boxes and foil pouches) being our biggest downfall. And those items are even worse than many other pre-packaged products, because their containers are not usually recyclable (although Tetra Pak packages, produced by the world’s largest food-processing company, are widely recycled in Europe, few convenient options exist for reusing or recycling them in the U.S.).

As we prepared our household to transition back to the classroom, we decided to analyze the cost of this habit. Whereas a 64-ounce bottle of Trader Joe’s Apple Grape Juice costs $3.49 (5 cents per ounce) and comes in a recyclable plastic bottle, a package of eight 6-ounce boxes of the same juice costs $3.69 (8 cents per ounce). Ta-da! A lesson in economics as well. My great-grandfather, who often lectured on the per-unit cost vs. profit in a cup of coffee, would be proud.

So, as I scurried around doing Back-to-School shopping with my girls, we decided to invest in two new, fun reusable bottles, and to try to kick the juice-box habit. As you pack your first school lunches of the year, what small steps will you take towards reducing your lunch-time waste? There are many resources available to help you, your kids, and your school make different choices.

It’s surprising that, with the economy as tough as it is, more people haven’t embraced the thrifty ways of past generations – it’s good for the wallet, the waistline, and the planet. In other words, it’s common sense—or cents, as the case may be!

Sarene Marshall is managing director for The Nature Conservancy’s Global Climate Change Team.


Photo credit: Flickr user jodigreen via Creative Commons

Read more: Children, Eating for Health, Environment, Food, Green, Green Kitchen Tips, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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11:53AM PDT on May 19, 2013


9:20AM PDT on May 19, 2013

Good tips,thanks for sharing

8:03AM PST on Feb 15, 2013

Very important matter, thanks.

2:39PM PDT on Oct 13, 2012

you are doing well! great ideas and thanks!

6:51PM PDT on Sep 19, 2012

ty for the idea. I am totally a re-cycle hound

3:15AM PDT on Sep 8, 2012

Makes sense.

9:08AM PDT on Sep 6, 2012

There are so many types of lunchboxes now, many that come filled with their own plastic containers. It makes sense to make use of them

12:10AM PDT on Sep 5, 2012

Great advice. I hope this idea spreads far and wide.

8:32PM PDT on Sep 4, 2012

i wish more people were like this...

9:41AM PDT on Sep 2, 2012

thanks : )

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