You may be concerned with all the waste that seems to go with the territory of packing school lunches.

Packaging, plastic flatware, juice boxes, and other sundries have some parents concerned about how much waste they are generating on a daily basis. Here are some tips for packing a lunch bag with zero waste.

1. Bring back the old-fashioned lunchbox. Don’t use brown paper bags that get tossed each day. Use some kind of reusable container. These days, such containers are easy to find at your local retail store.

2. Reusable drink bottles help cut down on waste tremendously. From little water bottles to mini colas to juice boxes, drinks can be a very wasteful item in a lunch. Instead, invest in a stainless steel or safe plastic water bottle that can be used over and over.

3. Thermoses should never have gone out of style! In these days where food can be heated instantly in a microwave, thermoses became almost obsolete; but they are back as people try to cut back on their waste. A thermos can be used many times over, and keeps foods hot or cold. Get several sizes for your family’s lunches.

4. Plastic flatware is right out. Just pack a fork and spoon from your kitchen flatware drawer, then bring them back and wash them.

5. Paper napkins are also wasteful. Go for cloth napkins instead. Making cloth napkins is not hard, and buying them new or second-hand at antique stores is not much trouble.

6. Ditch the zip top sandwich bags. We have grown so conditioned to use these types of bags for everything from cut-up carrots to ham sandwiches. But reusable sandwich containers are easy to find and cheap to purchase, or you can simply use a flat food storage container for veggies, sandwiches, and other foods.

7. Make your own food as much as possible. Buying pre-made, pre-packaged lunch foods is not only unhealthy; all the packaging that goes into such foods is very wasteful. Make up a batch of potato salad and pack it in a thermos; put salads in covered glass containers; peanut butter, cheese and crackers can go in a flat food storage container. If your child likes pre-packaged cakes for dessert, send along a homemade cookie or cupcake in a food storage container. You can make a batch of these ahead and freeze them. Pack them in the morning while they are frozen and they will be ready to eat by lunch.

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