Monday, September 27, 2010
Over 76.6 million children look forward to lunch and recess. It's when they get to chat with friends, refuel with lunch, and get some fresh air and exercise. These children consume homemade lunches and cafeteria food, and when they are done, they produce an astounding amount of lunch related trash. On average, school-aged children eating disposable lunches generate about 67 pounds of waste per year. For an average sized elemenatary school that translates to about 18,000 pounds or 9 tons of lunch waste that ends up in the landfill.
So what ends up in the 9 tons of trash at an average school? Just think about what you send you children in their lunch, or what they eat in the school lunch they buy, and then consider what they don't eat and what goes in the trash...
It's estimated that 380 billion plastic bags (about 1,200 plastic bags per person/per year), and about 2.7 billion juice boxes are thrown away each year. (Earthworks Group, 2009) When I read the statistics about plastic bags I quickly calculated that my family would use on average 7,200 plastic bags made from non-renewable petroleum products per year. YIKES! So over the course of the last year, I've switched the family over to using reusable sandwich and snack bags. Via a school fundraiser, I bought wrap-n-mat www.wrap-n-mat.com which I like because it provides a clean surface for the sandwiches to set on instead of the germy lunchtable. Then I discovered snacktaxi.com http://www.snacktaxi.com/, and resnackit.com http://resnackit.com/. I bought a few of each brand and was hooked on them! They are easy to clean, and can be reused over and over, and are made of food-safe materials. We also use small glad plastic containers instead of plastic bags for muffins, and other things that stand up better in a rigid container (and to appease the pickiest of all..the teenagers in the family who are not easily swayed by my eco-conscious reasoning...they just find it hard to be "cool" using my awesome eco-snack and sandwich bags). I must comment that the kids, hubby, and I have had many positive comments about our fun, colorful reusable bags, and we are often asked for info about the bags, which we readily share. Recently my sister sent us some new bags called Lunchskins 3greenmoms.com and those have been a nice addition to our collection as well.
To transport our lunches, we've never used paper lunch bags (except on field trips when we can't stow the reusable items). Instead we have a variety of lunch "boxes". We have pretty, stylish Vera Bradley lunchbags for my fashionistas http://www.verabradley.com/product/Lets-Do-Lunch/154875/defaultColor/Blue%20Rhapsody/p/154875.uts, LLBean lunch boxes http://www.llbean.com/llb/search?storeId=1&catalogId=1&langId=-1&init=1&freeText=lunch&Go=, and Built BYO lunch bags available at Target, Kohls, etc.
So it really couldn't be easier to bring a waste-free lunch...with sturdy lunch bags from LL Bean, or pretty choices from Vera Bradley, taking your lunch can even be a fashion statement! There are many waste-free, accessories such as reusable stainless steel or aluminum water bottles that can be used to keep hydrated throughout the day http://peaceloveplanet.blogspot.com/2010/08/k-is-for-kleankanteen-or-similar.html, reusable, non-plastic snack and sandwich bags, and cloth napkins. Instead of plastic utensils, encourage your family to take regular silverware and return it. With all the various reusable items, there are so many options for decreasing our waste, and the costs associated with it.
As for food waste, much of it could be composted, and recycled into "brown gold" by the humblest of decomposers, the Earth worm. Greening of school lunches could easily be integrated into the school curriculum. Setting goals to reduce waste, bring waste-free lunches, sorting out recyclables, composting, graphing waste reduction and disposal savings could all be integrated into science, math, and even writing curriculum. I wholeheartedly believe that providing children with opportunities to learn about positive environmental habits will lead to lifelong attitudes about sustainability and environmental stewardship.
The new 50 Simple Things Kids Can do to save the Earth, Earthworks Group, Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC, Kansas City, 2009
Sunday, September 12, 2010
The back-to-school supply lists that come home are usually pretty classic, including scissors, pens, pencils, notebooks, crayons and markers. Even before my family had school supply lists, in fact as soon as each child was old enough to hold a pencil, they've been scribbling, doodling, and creating with Crayola products. I guess you could say, they've always been a family favorite. This year when it was time to sift through the supply lists for my kids, it brought a smile to my face and warmed my heart when I learned about Crayola's new "Eco-Evolution" and the greening of their products by using renewable energy, protecting the rainforests, and by reducing waste. http://www.crayola.com/green/
Sweet Pea was the first to notice the new initiatives by Crayola. She brought me her crayon box and showed me that they now are using solar power to make 1/3 of their crayons, which is equal to about a billion crayons each year made with solar power. To accomplish this, they built a 15-acre solar farm with 26,000 panels. Pretty impressive! Wonder if they'll name a crayon, "solar panel blue"?
And black is now in vogue at crayola...you may have noticed that Crayola colored markers have black barrels instead of white. Crayola is now using recycled plastic bottle caps to make the marker barrels. In addition, plastic scraps from making marker casings are crushed into tiny pellets and put back into the system. The black color of the barrels allows more recycled plastic to be used, in turn keeping 1 million pounds of plastic bottle caps and scrap plastic out of landfills.
During my back-to-school supply shopping, I found a "green" highlighter by Pentel. It is part of the new Recycology™ the Science of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle program, which Pentel developed "to enhance its mission of helping the environment by creating less waste and increasing recycling activity" through innovative product design and manufacturing. With this line of products, Pentel's goal is to "protect natural resources and the environmental at all stages of the manufacturing process" and it is accomplished by using a minimum of 50% recycled content (excluding consumable content and refills).
The Handy-lineS, ultraslim highlighters I found are made from 54% post consumer recycled plastic. I also like that they are retractable and refillable, creating less waste. Even the packaging is made from cardstock that is 100% recycled, and the plastic blister front piece is a minimum of 25% recycled material!
There are many outstanding products in this line, including the popular mechanical pencil leads which come in 100% recycled plastic case, many pens, white board marker, and permanent markers made with 50-80% recycled plastic www.pentel.com . I like that Pentel is recycling products that would otherwise end up in the landfill.
Paper Mate also has green products that are impressive. Their line of biodegradable pens and pencils, have barrels that unscrew and are made from corn-based material. After removing the interior plastic/ink piece that is not biodegradable, the barrel decomposes in the compost or landfill in about a year. They also have products made from recycled materials such as their correction film (67% recycled material), ball point pens made with 70-80% recycled materials. I found the Earth Write pencils and added that to our back-to-school supply pile. These pencils are made from 100% recycled cedar. They also participate with Terracycle one of my favorite eco-entrepreneurial companies that up-cycling materials using innovative designs http://papermate.com/Pages/terracycle.aspx.
So while there may have been a tad bit of back to school blues that banished quickly as our daily pace quickened ...we also found some back-to-school green to start the year off write ;) I'm sure you found many green school supplies in your travels too. Leave a comment to let me know what you've found!