Here is a back to school math problem: How many sandwich bags does a typical American public school class of 20 students throw out during their school years (Kindergarten–12th grade)? Let’s say the homemade lunch/snack consists of a sandwich, a few cookies, some pretzels or chips and a cut-up piece of fruit. That’s 4 bags a day times 5 days per week (20 bags) for a school year of 40 weeks (800 bags per child a year). Now multiply that by the amount of years the child is in school (13 years), and you’ll get 10,400 bags used per school child. Go on and multiply that by a class of 20 students and each class would throw out 208,000 bags during their schooling. Let’s stop here before we storm the lunchrooms.
Even if you’ve glazed over the math problem, here are the facts: It has been estimated that the average American school kid also generates 67 pounds of discarded school lunch packaging waste per year. That is more than 18,000 pounds yearly for the average-sized elementary school. While some plastic can be recycled or reused, most sandwich and snack baggies cannot. Not only do these single-use bags add to landfill waste, they create havoc on the eco-systems and hence, the health of wildlife.
Want to bag the single-use bag and show kids how they can help the environment? A DIY sandwich bag alternative is an everyday green and fun lesson to teach kids. Best of all, it reaches them right in their lunchbox (or bag). Let kids discover for themselves how small changes can make huge impacts.
Craft author, Betz White shares her reusable sandwich wrap template with step-by-step instructions from her book, Sewing Green here. The directions and template are fabulous, but she suggests using a material called, PUL. This is a durable, water-repellant polyurethane laminated fabric. It is the type of fabric often used to make diaper covers. I chose to make my sandwich wraps out of cotton fabric scraps, as I would not want the non-renewable, petroleum-based PUL fabric cozying up to my kid’s food (or bottom). An alternative may be to line the inside of the PUL fabric with cotton. Another suggestion would be to upcycle a stray wipeable or washable placemat. Any other thoughts on what materials to use that would be safe and green?
For more green lunch ideas check out this Care2 article.
Ronnie Citron-Fink lives in New York with her husband, two children (when they come home to the nest), two dogs and a cat. Ronnie is a teacher and a writer. She has been a contributing writer for Family Fun magazine. She currently writes articles about education and home design. Her writings are in four books including Family Fun Home and Some Delights of the Hudson Valley.