4 Ways to Turn a Brown Bag into a Green Lunch

Green LunchI have been a blogging slouch, big time, this summer, as my kids have been in full vacation mode and we have taken several summer roadtrips. But this week, as kids everywhere head back to school, parents everywhere are thinking about how to pack healthy, safe lunches that their kids will actually eat. So these are my top four tips to make sure your kids a green lunch. Ones that are eco-friendly AND kid friendly when they head back to hit the books. .

The Norm: Plastic bags for sandwiches and snacks.

The Problem: More than 20 million sandwich bags from school lunches go into landfills every day.

The Swap: It's been estimated that on average, a school age child using a disposable lunch generates 67 pounds of trash a year. Save money and the planet with reusable bags, like these super chic and cute ones from Etsy or Lunchskins (thanks to 3 green moms to sending some my way!). Feeling crafty? Grab the kids and make a fun project out of it using directions like the ones found here so they can add their own personal sense of style and creativity.

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The Norm:Brown paper lunch bags.

The Problem: One reusable lunch container can take the place of more than 200 brown bags over the course of the school year.

The Swap: Hello, retro! Invest in a reusable lunchbox and recoup your money well before the holiday season. There are tons of great new products to help keep your kids' lunch (or even yours!) eco-friendly. Laptop Lunch Boxes are an eco-chic brown bag swap out that your kids will love – I know mine sure do! These colorful recycled, food-safe plastic containers were created by two eco-friendly moms looking for a way to cut down on waste while still keeping lunch convenient and fun. Planet Box also makes a great alternative to plastic lunchboxes, with separate containers for each food item, making clean up a snap.

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The Norm: 100 calorie snack packs for snack time.

The Problem: Convenience costs you. These snacks cost about 3x as much as buying the regular size and portioning out yourself. Plus, the amount of petroleum based packaging increases dramatically.

The Swap: It's tempting for busy moms to load up on these convenience foods, but meet snack attacks a smarter way; slash your grocery bill and the level of packaging waste by making your own snack packs. Set up a "Do-It-Yourself" bar for kids loaded with whole grain crackers, dried fruit, pistachios, almonds, walnuts, seeds, and even a few 70% cacao chocolate chips so they feel the splurge. Let them pre-portion snacks into reusable containers or reusable fabric bags on Sunday night, and your kids will have eco-friendly snacks ready to grab-and-go all week long.

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The Norm: Bologna sandwich.

The Problem: Processed meats are linked with higher rates of heart disease and cancer, and about 50% of our "foodprint" comes from the amount of animal products in our diet.

The Swap: Lunch like a flexitarian! Swap your typical deli meat sandwich for a roasted red pepper hummus and veggie sandwich, like cucumber, spinach, sprouts, or zucchini. Or try cooking up a Sunshine Veggie Burger in a wrap – talk about delicious meeting nutritious! Not only will you be saving on your carbon footprint, but you'll also be cutting back on sodium and artery clogging fat – a delicious win-win.

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Looking for more ideas? Waste Free Lunches is a superb, one-stop shopping website for information and resources to build waste free lunches from home or get your school going a deeper shade of green in the cafeteria. Or check out Sara Snow's article on "Picking Your Greener Lunch Box" for more tips and tricks to send your kids back to the school cafeteria packing green.

What green rules do you live by for your kids' school lunches? I would love to hear your ideas! In the meantime, I'll be busy on my next blog!