A plastic-free lunchbox
So it’s plastic-free July this month; have you made any changes to the way your family uses plastic? One aspect of everyday family life that depends on plastic, especially single-use plastic, is lunchboxes. Plastics have been shown to be damaging to our children’s health and our own (see last blog post for more on this) as well as the obvious environmental problems associated with plastic waste. And so it just makes sense to join the plastic-free July movement and reduce your family’s exposure and use of plastic.
To get you started, here are my four top tips to reduce your family’s use of plastic in your lunchboxes.
1. Choose a plastic-free lunchbox
There are a huge range of lunchboxes on the market. But the majority are made of various kinds of plastic. Whilst many state they are BPA-free, the alternative plastics are likely to be damaging to health too. So, instead, I recommend that you avoid plastic altogether where possible. Fortunately, non-plastic options such as stainless steel lunchboxes are increasing in availability and popularity. A few years ago, there were only one or two kids that would have turned up to school with a stainless steel lunch box, whereas now there are at least a few more. Stainless steel lunchboxes may be more expensive than plastic ones but they are usually way more durable. Another disadvantage of the stainless steel ones are that they tend to be heavier but for me this disadvantage is offset by the advantage of avoiding plastic toxins. You may also like to invest in the small insulated containers and send your child with a hot lunch. Another alternative if your child is a big sandwich eater, is to use reusable sandwich wraps. These are made from cloth and beeswax. And, lastly, for adults, there’s always glass containers too (but not advisable for use by children at school).
2. Choose a plastic-free drink bottle
If I was to put these tips into order of importance, then this would be my number 1. Yep, the humble drink bottle. Why? Well, it concerns me, especially here in Australia, that many drink bottles are left sitting around in the sun. With this warming up, the plastic and water heats up making it easier for the toxic chemicals within the plastic to leach into the water, meaning that when your child takes a gulp of water, they are also taking a gulp of these chemicals. And, so, whenever possible, and especially in summer, I encourage you and your children to take a stainless steel drink bottle. Yes, they are heavier and more expensive but they too are more durable. And, fortunately, are also becoming more readily available in some pretty cool colours as well. Alternatively, for the adults, there are also glass water bottles available, which is an even better option than stainless steel.
3. Make your own snacks & lunch-box foods
Let’s think about the foods in your family’s lunchboxes for a minute. Are they predominantly packaged foods? Perhaps, you add a packaged snack alongside their sandwich and fruit? The packaging is most likely to be made of plastic, or at least lined in plastic, making it difficult to reuse or recycle. By making your own snacks in bulk on the weekend for the week ahead, you will be reducing the amount of packaging waste and also the foods’ exposure to plastic toxins. Alternatively, buying foods, such as yoghurts, in bulk reduce the amount of packaging. Some great ideas for lunch box snacks include bliss-balls, muffins, and cheese and crackers.
4. Buy fruit and vegetables that aren’t wrapped in plastic
Have you noticed how many of our fruits and vegetables are unnecessarily packaged in plastic, often as part of their marketing campaign? It may seem trivial and probably highly unlikely that plastic chemicals will get into the fruit or vegetables, but it is completely unnecessary, and contributes to the huge plastic waste problem. And so, choose well and avoid produce wrapped in plastic where possible. Buying your veggies from your farmer’s market is a great way to avoid this.
Many of the plastic-free options are available in regular shops these days, especially during ‘Back-to-School’ season. However, there are a number of good online sources too (join my plastic-free challenge to find my favourite brands and retailers)
With so many alternatives available, it really is possible to reduce your family's exposure to the potentially damaging chemicals in plastic. Will you be aiming for a plastic-free lunchbox for your kids?
What else can you do within your family’s every day life to reduce their plastic use and exposure?