It happens to the best of us. Speeding through the supermarket, we grab the staples of the “kid lunch”: string cheese, small bags of chips and cookies, single serving applesauces and puddings, Lunchables. Uncrustables. Maybe a package of brown lunch bags, plastic spoons and paper napkins. It’s easy. It’s convenient. And sadly it’s, oh, so typical. But not if one school in Austin has its way.
Walk into many a school cafeteria in this country, and you’ll see kids settling down to those hastily packed lunches. By the end of the meal, each child has a small handful of garbage: chip bags, plastic wrap, aluminum foil, juice pouches. Every year, one child can produce an amazing 67 pounds of lunchtime trash per year. This, according to wastefreelunches.org, an internet site run by a group of “green” California moms who are getting the word out about the trash generated by the nation’s schools. Over a 13-year school career, the mounds of garbage produced by a single person can reach more than 870 pounds! How many plastic baggies does it take to produce a pile of trash that heavy? It’s a mind-boggling amount of waste being dumped into our landfills on a daily basis. By some estimates, an average size elementary school can generate more than 18,000 pounds of lunch waste every year.
Karen Grinstead packed waste-free lunches for years before they had a name. Her work has appeared in Parent:Wise, The Charlotte Observer and on local television newscasts across the country. She and her family live and recycle in Leander.