I’m a mother of two young boys who attend schools intent on lowering carbon footprints, incorporating school gardens and teaching eco-friendly living practices. Cool right?
Well part of the program involves having “Trash Free Tuesdays” with the hope that every day will become more trash free. Tuesdays are dedicated to reducing landfill trash and increasing awareness. The kids are encouraged to bring a lunch with zero trash. No baggies, paper napkins, juice boxes, wax paper or single-use wrappings are allowed. Even aluminum foil is forbidden because it is considered “single use” and it produces emissions if processed.
Every child who shows up with a trash free lunch receives a hand stamp and is entered in a drawing for eco-friendly prizes. The kids also sort their trash (compost, recycle, landfill) and take the compostable items out to the school garden composters. All good.
Well, now that I am taking part in Rodales No-Plastic Challenge, lunch making for my family has become a daily hurdle for me. This past Tuesday, the task became even trickier.
How do I make a lunch with zero trash AND zero plastic?
Let’s start with the lunch boxes shall we? In our house, they are all plastic. Even my eco-friendly, “trash free” lunchbox is plastic. (It makes sense. Parents want to be able to wash, clean and disinfect a slimy lunchbox and plastic is everywhere.) Sure, I could track down a metal box, but when I discovered my dilemma at 7 AM on Tuesday morning, I just had to deal with it.
Second, the ice pack for each lunch is made from…you guessed it. Plastic! Strike two.
I did have metal beverage containers, metal flatware and fabric napkins that I use each week. Yeah mom! But this past Tuesday, I stopped dead in my tracks when I went to pack the food. I always have used plastic containers or the plastic compartments of the “trash-free” lunchbox. What now?
When it comes to things like applesauce and yogurt, I can’t send my kid to school with a glass jars! (That won’t work with rowdy boys.) Yes, I could wrap sandwiches and fruit in aluminum foil or wax paper on the other days of the week, but on Tuesdays my kids would get dinged for not being “trash-free”! (And trust me, getting that hand stamp on Tuesday is a big deal.)
So, which is more important? Being plastic free or trash free? That is a toughie.
This week, I opted for being trash free so that my kids could still get their hand stamp. But the rest of the week, I try to be more plastic free – even if that does mean their food is packed inside a plastic lunch pail.
This challenge really illustrates our lack of options, which is frustrating. Seriously, being plastic free AND trash free are equally important, don’t you think? What is a mother to do?