NES Green Team

Waste-Free Lunch

Back to School 2021

Nottingham Knights are you up for the challenge to go waste-free at lunch time? As we practice safe and healthy habits, let’s see if we can reduce our school lunch waste, too!

What is a waste-free lunch?

A waste-free lunch is a lunch that creates as little trash as possible. Instead of single-use items, like plastic water bottles, paper napkins, and disposable sandwich bags, a waste-free lunch will prioritize reusable alternatives.

Why a waste-free lunch?

Nearly half of plastic is single-use - it's used once, often for minutes, and then discarded. While single-use products are convenient, our current rate of consumption is unsustainable - we've produced more plastic in the last decade than in the entire 20th century, and, unless we reduce demand, production is expected to continue to grow exponentially.

In schools, half of waste is generated during lunchtime. A school the size of Nottingham, on average, will create nearly 30,000 lbs of cafeteria waste each school year (67 lbs/student)! Fortunately, there are readily available reusable alternatives to some of the most common single-use lunch items. Over time, and with everyone's participation, these small changes can add up to make a big difference!

What does a waste-free lunch look like?

Reducing waste at lunch can take many different forms, and every action makes a difference. What works for your family? Here are some ideas!

Pack your lunch:

  • in a reusable lunch box or bag

Choose to reuse:

  • use reusable containers, reusable bags, or beeswax wraps for sandwiches and snacks instead of single-use plastic bags and plastic wrap

  • use a reusable water bottle or thermos for water, juice, or milk

  • pack a cloth napkin and skip the paper napkins in the cafeteria

  • if needed, pack an extra set of utensils from home

Buy in bulk:

  • Check out the bulk dispensers at MOM’s Organic Market or Whole Foods next time you’re shopping. You’ll find nuts, raisins, trail mix, and a variety of other healthy snacks. Try bringing your own jar, container, or cloth bag for a truly zero-waste snack – just make sure to have your container weighed before filling up, so you're only charged for the weight of your purchase. (NOTE: MOM's Market actively encourages customers to bring their own containers, and staff are accustomed to the process. While Whole Foods doesn’t, we’ve never had a problem using our cloth produce bags, which have the “tare weight” – the weight of the empty bag, which the cashiers can subtract – printed on the tag.) If you forget or don't have your own container, use a paper bag and reuse it the next time you fill up!

  • choose large bags of chips or other packaged snacks, and pack single servings into reusable containers - this decreases packaging waste, and even better if the packaging is recyclable!

  • instead of juice boxes/pouches, buy a larger (ideally recyclable) bottle and pour single-servings into a thermos

  • slice a large block of cheese into cubes and pack into reusable containers instead of plastic-wrapped string cheese; keep the larger block fresh with a beeswax wrap instead of plastic wrap

Get the kids involved:

  • Cut food waste by grocery shopping with your child. Let him or her make their own healthy choices and take their likes and dislikes into consideration.

  • Ask kids to help prepare lunch. They can also help to wash, rinse, and dry their reusable containers for the next day’s lunch. Preparing the night before helps to avoid choosing pre-packaged food in the rush to get out the door!

Questions or comments? Let us know!

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