Back To School: 5 Tips for Packing a Sustainable Lunchbox
With the school year just beginning yet again, the intimidating task of packing lunch looms overhead. In the midst of the hectic morning rush, it can be difficult to keep sustainability in mind or even know where to start when it comes to assembling a lunchbox that is right for your family and for the world. The pull of convenience hides the underlying toxic preservatives, unsavory business practices, and environmental costs of the most common products on grocery store shelves.
But lunch doesn’t have to be as difficult as long division. From finding the best fruits and vegetables to saying no to plastic, HowGood has all the tools you need to pack a sustainable lunchbox like a pro.
1. Ditch the brown paper bag
While it’s true that paper bags are recyclable and biodegradable, they emit high levels of greenhouse gases and consume large amounts of energy and resources during production. Help to stop the damage to the environment and get a reusable lunch bag instead. Look for one with few or no plastic compartments! You can find fun patterns and colors that your child will love and that environmentally friendly element that you will love.
2. Always go the reusable route
Did you know? If you use 1 plastic bag in your child’s lunch every school day, there will be about 1.6 kg more CO2-equivalent gases floating in the atmosphere by the time the year is over! When packing snacks, avoid aluminum foil, plastic bags, and plastic bottles, as they generate copious amounts of waste and damage the environment during production and when they are tossed in the garbage bin. Instead, try reusable options like glass or stainless steel.
3. Think organically and seasonally
At HowGood, we reward brands that implement practices that meet or exceed organic standards, and we think you should, too! When you are stocking up at the grocery store, buy organic so you can be sure you are doing the best for your child and the world. It’s also important to buy produce that’s in season, as seasonal produce is tastier, fresher, and helps support local small farms. Remember, apples are great in the fall (go pick them from a farm after school!) and citrus fruits are a good pick in the winter. And if you are ever unsure of what to buy, use the ratings on our app!
4. Beware the pre-packaged meat monster
Those handy individual slices of sandwich meats are hiding something...stabilizers and added flavors to be exact. Carrageenan, a very common ingredient in sandwich meats, is used to bind fats and proteins, which improves the smoothness and mouthfeel of dairy products and meats. However, some studies have linked its consumption to gastrointestinal inflammation and colon cancer in rats. Many brands also boast “natural flavors,” but this is a vague term permitted by the FDA that allows companies to include all kinds of ingredients they’d rather not print on the label. Look for meats that are grass-fed; these are associated with lower methane emissions and lower overall inputs and outputs. Also, try to avoid pre-packaged meats produced by the agroindustrial giants, as they have very dangerous domestic labor sites in their slaughterhouses.
Try instead: The Piggery Deli Ham-- Rated GREAT
Try instead: La Quercia Sliced Salami-- Rated GREAT
5. Be choosy with chips
Most chips and crackers are very highly processed and generally contain long lists of unnecessary, industrially manufactured ingredients. Most flavored chips contain maltodextrin and MSG, and while these ingredients are not necessarily bad for you, they are industrially produced and are a sign that the primary ingredients in your snack are of inferior quality and lack flavor. Steer clear of chips containing palm oil, as this ingredient is linked to deforestation, biodiversity loss, and poor labor standards in Malaysia and Indonesia.
Try instead: Wasa Crispbread-- Rated GREAT
Try instead: Brad’s Raw Kale Chips-- Rated BEST