Small Changes #1: School Lunch Waste

January 13, 2009 at 4:09 am Leave a comment

How successful are New Year’s resolutions?  Why not  have resolutions all throughout the year?  It seems that the dawn of a new calendar inspires us to sweep away our old, undesirable patterns, taking aim at habits we are not proud of.  Why not do this more often than December 31st?  In fact, why go with the ginormous, sweeping resolutions that most of us can’t live up to?  Can small, mundane resolutions add up to something significant?  This is part of an ongoing journal of my family’s experience in making seemingly small changes in our habits and lifestyle with the bigger environmental picture in mind.

Each morning, I have a brief, bleary-eyed struggle with the task of getting lunches packed for my three elementary school boys in record time.  I have to be perfectly honest here and admit that my need for single-mom, crazy-busy-life-efficiency in this most painful morning task had led me down the dark path to disposables, no matter how much I know this was not environmentally correct (EC).   Don’t say it – I know I should be packing their lunches the night before.  Better yet, have the boys do it themselves.  That will follow shortly.

I found myself with this ugly confession to make to the planet, that I had resorted to disposable juice boxes and way too much plastic on sandwiches and snacks.  I tried to be diligent, buying rubbermaid containers and making sure the boys bring their lunchboxes home every day. Somehow the little plastic baggies and cling wrap clung their way onto my daily routine and each morning I found myself looking away as I grabbed yet another ziplock.  This might seem to be a tediously mundane topic, but consider this:  a typical American school kid generates 67 pounds of discarded lunchbox packaging waste per school year. That’s more than 18,000 pounds yearly for the average sized elementary school.   

Plastic stinks, we all know this.  But what about tinfoil?  While it is 100% recyclable, Rumpke doesn’t take it!  See their list of acceptable materials for details.  Not to mention that a study conducted by EPA indicates that the refinery processes generate about one ton of solid waste during the production of a ton of aluminum.    What’s the solution?  For the boys and myself, we’re looking to plastic as a necessary evil – not the throw-away baggies, but reusable plastic containers for everything that goes in their lunch box.  We’ve added stainless steel bottles that they take filtered water in each day.  As if the accumulation of water bottles in landfills isn’t frightening enough (28 billion bottles produced a year, 80% of which end up in landfills), bottled water companies do not have to release their water-testing results to the public.

What about paper napkins?  Naw, that’s what jeans are for.  I have boys after all.

As a new member of the Cincinnati Public Schools Sustainable Schools Committee, I find myself particulary drawn to the zero-waste schools initiative, “Sustainable Design Initiative #10.”  I can’t show up to the next committee meeting with my self-respect in tact if I were still tossing a disposable juice container x3 in the school’s dumpster each day (BTW… you can buy a mini messenger bag for kids made from recycled juice boxes by a women’s co-op in the Phillipines…very cool).   These are small changes we’re starting with at home, but let’s see where they lead… and how we can inspire each other to make a commitment to these seemingly small changes that can add up to a tremendous positive impact when done en force

Next time – Getting the Kids Involved (or, “Pack Your Own Freakin’ Lunch”).  As an aside, those of you with kids and TV sets should really check out the Planet Green show with the incomparable Bill Nye, “Stuff Happens.”   I’m something of a screen-time Nazi,  no TV Monday through Friday.  The boys tape this show during the week and I find them sitting totally rapt in front of the screen on Saturday morning, eschewing Saturday morning cartoons for The Science Guy Goes Environ-Mental.  It’s great.  I was a Pink Panther Saturday morning fan, myself.   Let us know about environmental change in your households –  from the top-down, kid-driven, pet-inspired, whatever – we’d love to hear from you.

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Entry filed under: Cincinnati Green Initiatives, Cool Links, Green Homes, Uncategorized.

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Who Are We?

Libby Hunter and Jami Stutzman are local Cincinnati Realtors and members of the U.S. Green Building Council who have a passion for sustainable living. Environmental responsibility lies at the core of our business practice - let us show you how we can help with ecologically-minded real estate needs. Please browse our blog, visit our local green vendors' websites and if you are in the market to buy or sell a home, let us show you how green features can make all the difference in your experience!

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