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Let’s Do Lunch, Responsibly: Sustainable, Earth-Loving, Kid-Loving Lunches

Every school day brings a chance to send a message of love: for each other, for ourselves, for our environment, and for the earth as a whole.

Each snack and dessert and dinner out and grocery shopping experience was infused with choices and meaning. But did they really mean to teach us the secrets of the ages via a bowl of corn flakes? 

Maybe they didn’t mean to. But these subliminal messages happened anyway, during lazy weekend breakfasts and the bunches of bananas on the counter and the secret stash of Grandma’s brownies in the freezer. Through food, we came to understand what it means, not just to be nourished, but to be nurtured. 

And maybe, without realizing, we’re passing similarly powerful messages down to our own children. We show them through our actions what’s important about what and how we eat, that food is for health and nourishment, that meals can bring people together, that cooking and tasting and eating can also be fun, and even exciting to the point of pure joy. 

With that understanding that food can wordlessly translate messages directly into our kids, we find an incredible opportunity to intentionally nurture and love them, as well as to model behavior, responsibility, and positive choices within the world’s bigger picture. Today, we know what an impact decades of choices in our food and farming industries have had on land, water, and air, as well as on human health. We, along with our children, can be agents of change to that history through a few simple steps and conscious choice. 

What better way to do that than through the packed lunch we send to school with our kids daily? Every school day brings a chance to send a message, one of love: for each other, for ourselves, and for our environment and the earth as a whole. 

So, what’s the best way to talk to our kids about family health and earth health using the language of lunch? It’s all about choices, from what we pack to what we pack it in. Sustainably-sourced food and containers for sandwiches, drinks, and snacks reduce our carbon footprint, increase our well-being, save on waste, and teach our children how to think bigger when it comes to care, compassion, and responsibility. 

Here’s how to make every lunch a love-note to the earth: 

Choose to Reuse 

One of the biggest impacts we can make on the environment is to eliminate single-use packaging like plastic sandwich bags, plastic water bottles, even juice boxes. Convenience is tempting, but a cleaner, longer-lasting world to live in holds much more appeal. Your kids probably already see you bringing your own reusable totes to the grocery store. Take your commitment a few steps further with a sustainably prepared packed lunch. 

All of these earth-friendly lunchbox bits are dishwasher or laundry safe and easy to use…and reuse! 

Opt for Organic

Did you know that organic eating benefits the earth’s health as much as our own? Organic foods are grown according to strict USDA regulations and includes the restriction of chemical pesticides. Pesticide ingestion is definitively linked to a long list of conditions, from asthma and learning disabilities to cancers, reproductive dysfunction, diabetes, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. It also leaches into groundwater, strips nutrients from the soil, spreads through the air, and kills off wildlife including bees, birds, and aquatic species. The more we shop organic, the higher the demand, and the healthier our families and our environment will be. And be assured organic options aren’t simply limited to kale and salad greens. Organic foods include everything your kids love, even things you wish they didn’t, like cookies, oven fries, and lollipops!

Ponder the Power of Plants 

While going vegan isn’t for everyone, consider the fact that plant-based diets are not only beneficial to most of us, but to the earth. The more plant-based meals we choose, the less we contribute to the polluting effects of the dairy industry and factory farming, which takes a huge toll on the environment. 

Whether or not you and your kids want to take on the idea of going vegetarian, the currently vast market of veggie options is growing on a daily basis, from ready-made meals, snacks, and desserts, to restaurants and delivery services, not to mention websites and blogs full of veg-friendly recipes. And choosing plant-based lunches need not be limiting or challenging for a busy family. You’ll find lunch and snack choices of all kinds at places like Mom’s Organic Market, Whole Foods, and Amazon.

Thinking about vegetarian kids getting enough protein? From hummus to veggie “meats” to vegan spreads, protein-rich sandwich options are endless, including deli slices, veggie dogs and burgers. Non-dairy yogurt is another great pop of protein to add to a vegetarian lunch. Choose yogurts made from almond milk, coconut milk, soymilk, and more!

With so many ways to show our kids how much we care about the future world they’ll live in, we show them what’s important to us, we’re reinforcing how much we love them, and how to pay it forward to the world at large. We keep passing on the messages we learned during our own childhoods, with a modern-day update and a reminder that we each hold the possibility and responsibility of a better future in our hands… and in our lunchboxes. 

Contributing Writer