How to Create a Waste-Free School Lunch

Updated: May 30

Hey kids (big kids too), want to have fun while helping the health of the planet and the health of you and your family? Take the challenge of packing a waste-free lunch! A waste-free lunch means that you have nothing to throw away in the trash when you're finished eating lunch. To learn why this is important and how to create a waste-free lunch, keep reading.

Why is a waste-free lunch so important?

According to the EPA, an average student will produce 67 pounds of packaging during lunch in one school year. That is around 20,000 pounds of trash produced in a year for one averaged sized elementary school. That's a lot of trash going to the landfills from just one school!

Let's paint another picture—the national average public school size is 526 students. Let's say each one of those students gets a carton of juice or milk every day during lunch. Multiply 526 students times 180 school days in a year and you get 94,680 cartons in the landfill a year by just one school. And that's just one drink, not to mention other packaging that may be discarded from school lunch.

By reducing the number of items in your lunch that must be thrown out, you can:

  • Prevent pollution in the air, on the ground and in the ocean

  • Conserve natural resources like water and air (essentials that we need to survive)

  • Save energy to help the planet

  • Reduce the need for disposal to prevent more trash in landfills

  • Be an environmental leader so that you can influence other kids (and adults!)

  • Create a better future for the environment, you and your family

What creates waste?

Pre-packaged convenience foods create the most waste, such as Lunchables, juice pouches, granola bars, bags of chips, and snack wrappers. Other items that create lots of waste include plastic wrap and baggies, utensils, plastic cups, and straws. Even food that ends up in the garbage is considered as waste! In fact, a recent report showed that 27 to 53 percent of food was wasted from kids' plates in the United States (with 50 percent of that waste being fruits and veggies).

School-served lunches can also create waste and may pose a risk to children's health. Plast