What if we changed our consumption habits this year and make our lunch boxes more eco-friendly? We spoke with Florence-Léa Siry, zero-waste expert, on how to make practical tips fun for everyone.
Granola bar wrappers, cheese sticks, small packages of cookies, yogurt containers, pudding, applesauce… On average, a school lunch box generates nine pieces of waste. Multiply that by the number of school days and the number of students and you’ve got a mind-blowing number! “Everything that is processed generates waste,” says author, columnist, and speaker Florence-Léa Siry. “You can eliminate one at a time by choosing the one you feel is most accessible, for example granola bars and cookies that you can make yourself.”
To eliminate many types of waste, nothing beats buying food at the source. Choose fruits and vegetables by the unit rather than packaged by weight. “I recommend creating a habit of stocking up on grains, nuts, seeds, and flours as needed at bulk grocery stores,” she suggests. “To reduce waste, we need to be consistent from the moment we buy. We can then store our fresh food in eco-friendly bags. These bags are excellent for preserving carrots, lettuce, and fruit.”
Commit an hour of your weekend, put on some music, pour yourself a glass of wine or chai latte, and prepare your food and meals ahead of time (raw vegetables, cooking protein, pre-cooking pasta, etc.) so they’re ready for assembly. The result? “We eat better and are less likely to buy prepared and processed foods.”
Getting the Kids Involved
By getting them involved early, by explaining our eco-friendly actions to them, children will become aware of these issues and understand their importance. “Do it in the form of a game or a challenge. Later, they will be the ones to challenge us on these issues.”
“Food is where we have the power to reduce waste. In the Drawdown project, a group of researchers analyzed over several years 100 individual actions one can take to have a global effect on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The best action is to reduce food loss and waste.” Source: Drawdown
Rome wasn’t built in a day. By setting a goal to start with lunch boxes, you are taking action on something you do every day. “We don’t have to eliminate everything on day one, but we can set a goal to get there by Christmas. And from January to June, we can challenge ourselves to cook in zero waste mode. The important thing is to set goals that are not radical but sustainable.”
“Reducing waste is rewarding! It’s realizing that we don’t need processed and packaged foods to eat healthy, efficiently, and ecologically. It’s about living up to our values.”
To replace the plethora of individual snacks (cookies, yogurt, pre-packaged cheeses), we make large batches of snacks for freezing. “To replace cheese sticks, we learn to cut our block of cheese differently. You can also skewer them with grapes on a toothpick for a fancy cocktail-style snack.”
“Another option is to organize a chore with friends to bake large quantities of cookies, bars and meals for reheating. The kids participate and it turns into an activity!”
ECO-FRIENDLY LUNCH BOX ESSENTIALS
Before buying new containers, look at what you have on hand or what you can recycle. Containers with dividers are great for putting multiple ingredients (even dessert) in the same container. We can also create compartments in our regular containers by using silicone muffin liners.
For all those meals (soups, chili, spaghetti) that we can keep warm and that our little ones love.
To replace single-use plastic bags such as Ziploc. Choose bags that are reusable, eco-friendly, and sustainable.
“Once you learn how to make homemade juice, you can’t get enough of it! From one week to the next, you can vary the spices and flavours.” Click here for Florence-Léa Siry’s lemonade recipe.
Use the ones from home or get metal or bamboo two-in-ones.
Choose those made from non-toxic gel
“Learning how to make bag bottom granola bars is working with what we find. Get your child involved and see what new flavours you can create.”