Reusable Lunchables

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By Martha Lee

It’s that time of year again, and as our kids head back to school, we’ll be packing lunch after lunch in plastic baggies and sticking juice box after juice box in a brown paper sacks, right?  But does it really have to be that wasteful and expensive?  I don’t think so, and neither should you. There are a few small steps that we can take to limit our impact (and that of our children) of lunch waste and save us money too.  We can teach our kids that by embracing the three Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), we can easily implement a smaller footprint on our planet by doing something as simple as slightly tweaking our lunchbox.  Baby steps, people. Baby steps!

A few saddening facts about plastic & lunch waste (source: reuseit.com):

  • Over 1 trillion plastic bags are used and disposed of every year worldwide.
  • About 1 million plastic bags are used every minute.
  • Plastic bags are the second most common type of ocean refuse. Cigarette butts take first place.
  • Plastic bags remain toxic even after they break down.
  • Every square mile of ocean has about 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in it.
  • The average family accumulates about 60 plastic bags in only 4 grocery trips.
  • The average American school-age child throws away about 67 lbs. of lunch waste each year.  With over 70 million kids in the US, that is the equivalent of over 4.6 billion lbs. of lunch waste that could easily be avoided.
  • Many juice boxes cannot be recycled due to inseparability of cardboard, plastic, and aluminum foil used in the product.
  •  

So what can we do to limit our impact of this waste?  Simple. We can embrace a new idea and start using reusable items as a routine in our daily lives.  The use-and-toss mentality is incredibly wasteful, and if we all did a little bit to help this pandemic cease to exist, then we would be doing our part globally.  Our children learn from us, and if we teach them to reduce, reuse, and recycle and respect our planet a little bit more than we already do, then we are helping to pass on a better mentality to our next generation.  Who doesn’t like to help be a part of the solution? 

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Reusable lunch products are available all over the web and increasingly so in more and more stores worldwide.  I love the idea behind a lot of these products as they eliminate unnecessary plastic bags, baggies, and utensils.  There are also many water bottles, thermoses, and cups that can be used as a trade-off from wasteful juice boxes and the likes.

We can make changes at the super market too.  Big retailers such as Target, Kroger, and Whole Foods offer customers a nickel back per reusable tote bag that you use at check out.  This discount may not sound like a lot, but over time, you are saving more and more money (and plastic bags from hitting the landfills).  This incentive is a great way to encourage shoppers to bring their own bags and save resources.  Also, by purchasing these $1.00 bags, many retailers give back some of the proceeds to charities and other non-profits.  We can all learn to love that aspect of the game!
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If you keep an eye out on discount websites, you’ll quickly find deals at 50% off retail (or more) for reusable goods along with other great hot commodities for kiddos.  Some of my favorite websites to find these deals are zulily.com, mamapedia.com, and totsy.com.  My friend at hipmountainmama.com also has a slew of reusable goods for your liking like bamboo utensils. Won’t you join me in the effort to lessen the amount of waste this school year?  What types of steps do you and your family like to take to be more environmentally friendly? 

Martha Lee and her husband began working for Paula Deen Enterprises in 2006 until Martha left to pursue a degree in Special Education. She takes a cue from her 1-year-old daughter, Naomi, leaving tiny footprints on the planet. Her blog shares practical, earth-conscious ways to live and parent in the 21st century. Born and raised in beautiful, soulful Macon, GA, Martha and her family now lives in Savannah, where she can be found outside hula-hooping and performing handstands daily.
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Reader Comments:

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To quote Paula "Always cook with your children ". My kitchen has always been a source of comfort and fun in times of stress. I wanted to make my mother in laws birthday dinner extra special, she has been caring d for my father in law who has grade 4 brain cancer for over a year. Both of my sons Collin 18 and Connor 15 took to the kitchen and created a lasagna that was a masterpiece. The funny part of my story is, is the carrot cake. Connor had the mixture in the mixer while I was sautéing the garlic in the butter for the garlic toasts. I left the kitchen to answer the phone and when I came back my Butter & Garlic was GONE! At first I thought I was gone to long and it scorched. NO the butter and garlic all 8 cloves was in my homemade carrot cake! Well Connor and I laughed so hard. I had tears. Then I told Connor" Paula Deen says always cook with your children ". Jen says it may not be as perfect as I want it but we had great fun! Oh and watching Connor in my apron is the best. He was even a good sport and let me upload the apron picture to FaceBook. Nani's birthday dinner was a success and we wished her a Happy Birthday with brownie sundaes instead of carrot cake. Jennifer Avery

By Jennifer Avery on October 29, 2011

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It was only in the past couple of years that our beautiful city of Savannah introduced curbside recycling programs, and we are grateful for it! Every little bit helps and can make a positive impact!

By Martha Lee on September 15, 2011

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Everyone wants to save the whales. Too few want to sort their garbage. We live across the river from Oregon and as strange as they behave over a lot of things they are expert recyclers. We do what we can and everyone has garbage!

By sa on September 15, 2011

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I LOVE the idea of re-using lunch products! Last year I volunteered at my kid's school and I couldn't believe the amount of trash from lunch! Ya'll should check out www.MOMables.com : a company geared towards helping parents make healthy fresh lunches in your own re-usable containers!

By Laura @SuperGlueMom on September 15, 2011

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Paula Deen
Paula Deen
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Susan Greene a.k.a BUBBLES
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hi! wink i was wondering if you could share the recipe for the chiken/grape salad-the one that is pictured on the croissant above? thanks! wink sandra
Sandra Neuheimer-Huller in Chicken Salad: A Southern Staple on April 19, 2014 at 9:37 am

Where do I buy these magazines
in A Basketful of Traditions on April 19, 2014 at 7:22 am

I WISH I COULD COOK. COULD I COME WORK FOR JUST ROOM AND BOARD AT YOUR NEW RESTURAUNT IN PIGEON FORGE FOR THE SUMMER? I WENT TO COLLEGE NOT FAR FROM THERE - HIWASSEE COLLEGE. YOU WOULDN'T HAVE TO PAY ME, I WOULD WORK FOR FREE JUST FOR THE EXPERIENCE. TAMMY LEVAN 19 SPENCER WAY KINGS PARK, NY 11754 HAPPY EASTER! CHRIST IS RISEN!
TAMMY L LEVAN in A Basketful of Traditions on April 19, 2014 at 3:31 am

Hi Bubbles, You have some great tips. Can't wait to read your other blogs! Please give Aunt Peggy a big hug from me and here is one for you! (((HUGS))) See you in May!
Jaci Pardun in 10 Quick Household Tips on April 18, 2014 at 10:05 pm

Paula, I am glad to know that I am not the only person who makes Easter Baskets for their adult children and mail them across the United States. My Daughter lives in Long Beach, CA and I not only sent her a basket but her husband and my granddaughter Reese. We also buy special Russel Stover Bunnies for each child too. My husband has the list in his phone... Sara .. Cookies 'n Crème.... Sidney and Stephen.. Peanut Butter Etc. It one of my favorite things to do for my kids.. no matter how old they get. And passing it along to my Grandchildren. It's even more special to me knowing we share a family tradition. Blessings and Happy Easter!!
Sharon Cason-Card in A Basketful of Traditions on April 18, 2014 at 10:03 pm