Green Quiz Answer - School Lunch Waste School_lunch

As the kids head back to school, it’s a perfect time to consider the impact and added cost of “convenience” foods and the packaging used in school lunches. It can be difficult to resist kid-sized throwaways -- especially when kids buy into the colorful advertising targeted to them and beg you to buy these products. But all those packages multiplied by hundreds of thousands of students and schools nationwide adds up to a lot of extra waste!

Last month we asked you: How much waste does the average student carrying a packed lunch produce each school year?

A. 67 pounds    B. 54 pounds    C. 38 pounds    D. 97 pounds

The correct answer is A. 67 pounds. Congratulations to this month’s Green Quiz winners!

Sixty-seven pounds of waste per student adds up to a whopping 18,000+ pounds of waste produced by an average-sized elementary school in one year. Reducing that number would make a huge impact!

Here are some tips to get started:

  • Get a long-lasting lunch carrier. For bonus points, aim for products made with eco-friendly materials and added insulation for keeping food chilled in hot weather.

  • Invest in a BPA & PVC-free reusable drink bottle and stock up on safe reusable food containers. For more information on keeping poison plastics out of your back-to-school shopping cart, check out The Center for Health, Environment & Justice’s latest guide to PVC-free school supplies.

  • Opt for durable, washable cloth napkins and real silverware. Sure, kids might lose a fork or two, but in the long run this is a better option than tossing all that paper and plastic.

  • Choose food that your child is less likely to waste. No surprise here - food waste is a big problem too. Try taking your kids with you to your local farmers market to find healthy items they enjoy and that need no added packaging. For a great farmers market resource, check out American Farmland Trust’s list of top rated markets, or check out Local Harvest's database.

  • Consider buying some food items in bulk. This is not only a great way to reduce packaging waste, but can also add up to significant savings on your grocery bill, especially for big families.

Why it matters.

  • Landfills across America are reaching capacity, creating the need for new facilities to be built farther away. This is leading to higher disposal fees, more wear and tear on local roads, and increased emissions from truck traffic.

  • More trash incinerators = more air pollution. Creating less trash cuts down on the harmful emissions caused by this process.

  • Plastic waste can take more than 1,000 years to degrade and it is estimated that 10% of the plastic produced worldwide each year ends up in our oceans.

  • Money set aside for disposal costs at schools could be used instead for education programs, books, school activities, and more. Plus, waste-free packed lunches save an average of $246.60 per person per year – that can add up to some serious family savings!

Just as importantly, packing a healthy, waste-free lunch is a great opportunity to teach kids good green habits and smart nutrition.

Teachers, you can help raise awareness in your school by suggesting field trips to recycling and disposal facilities, and by encouraging students to start their own waste-free lunch program! For even more great ideas, visit!


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