Monday, March 22, 2010

Field Trip Lunch

Today, my daughter was supposed to have a field trip to a farm... but as the rain fell and the sky was alive with lightening... I questioned whether or not they would go. I looked at the radar and made the decision to go ahead and pack my daughter a "field trip" lunch.

What's a "field trip" lunch, you ask?? It's a bag lunch from home. Oh, but not just any bag lunch... a completely disposable bag lunch :( Yes, I'm cringing.

When my son was in Kindergarten... I thought that a bag lunch was a lunch in a bag...seemed logical enough for me... so I packed him a typical "waste-free" lunch-- reusable containers, napkin, refillable water bottle, bag. Then I got a letter home saying that due to cooler space the kids needed to bring a completely disposable lunch or buy a bag lunch from the cafeteria. Now, I wasn't about to buy the bag lunch from the school cafeteria because it consists of an "Uncrustable", string cheese, some kind of (partially hydrogenated) chips/cheetoes, cookies, either an apple or prepackaged baby carrots and non-organic milk. Having always packed waste-free lunches, I didn't have the know how or products necessary to pack a disposable lunch for my child. I panicked. How in the heck was I supposed to pack a disposable lunch??? I don't buy juice boxes, bottled water...I think ziplock/plastic bags are a waste... as well as individually packaged/wrapped products (chips, cookies, fruits, etc) AND I was not going to buy any one of those products just to throw them away.

After I stopped panicking...and got over my frustrations realized that like many things, this was one thing that I was going to have to figure out. I'm a pretty RESOURCEFUL girl... :)

I looked at what I had in my house that I could REUSE to pack a disposable lunch. It took my brain awhile to wrap my head around it all... BUT this is what I came up with (but remember that the possibilities for Reusing/Repurposing are endless):

  • Sandwich: I used to wrap it in parchment paper or aluminum foil. OR, if I have a ziplock/plastic baggie that I've saved... I'll use that. Lately, I've been buying "Liz Lovely" cookies... while they are amazing... I do think they are over-packaged... but I've been saving the wrappers and they are the perfect size for everything :)
  • Chips/Pretzels: I've reused a little candy bag or any other bags that would typically be tossed. I've also used a bit of parchment paper to make a little "envelop".
  • Fruit/Vegie: Banana, orange, apple, pear...they come in their own packaging... this is the easiest. EXCEPT for my son who likes things like watermelon, canteloup, strawberries... things that need containers... so back to the saved baggies.
  • Water: This is the hardest for me. My son's first field trip we had rootbeer in the fridge. I panicked and threw it in his lunch... with strict orders to his teacher to make sure the can was recycled. Even so, I hated sending it. SO... I made the decision that a reusable water bottle takes up no more room than a disposable one... so the school the school is just gonna have to deal.
  • And then I pack it all in a bread bag.

So, today, as I sent my daughter to school... I said to her, "If you don't go on your field trip... make sure you bring all of this [the disposable lunch bag & contents] home. And if your teacher tells you to throw it away... tell her I told you to keep it." They didn't go on the field trip, and when I picked up my daughter from school she told me she kept her lunch stuff, but her teacher told her that she couldn't do it again. There was also a note about how she [the teacher] understands the recycling, but they can't be taking trash out of the cafeteria... e.g. banana peel. Ok, so I get it... I know that I'm difficult. I'm having my kid haul her trash from the cafeteria to bring home. I, honestly, only had her do this so that we can REUSE it when she goes on her field trip on Wednesday. Do I want to say that "I'm sorry for being a complete pain"?? Kind of. But then I think what would I really be apologizing for?? I really want to pack a waste-free lunch, but am limited by the constraints of the system.***

I know it may seem odd to some... but if you look at the whole picture... I'm teaching my daughter something that is not being taught in (her) school such as being RESPONSIBLE for her waste by REUSING (as many times as possible), saving her banana peel to be COMPOSTED and REDUCING her impact on our environment (she may not realize this yet... but she does it every day).

On average, it has been estimated that one school-aged child creates 67 pounds of lunchtime waste per school year!!!

Want to pack a Waste-free lunch and don't know where to start??

And for's the newsletter that I did last April: Sustainable Schools Initiative Newsletter: April 2009

***UPDATE!!: I sent a note to school thanking the teachers for being understanding with us as we try our best to reduce and reuse, how my daughter has a habit of bringing home her food scraps (without my asking) because we compost at home AND how I would really prefer to send a "reusable lunch" on a field trip. I just got an email from my daughter's teacher letting me know that she doesn't mind if Claire brings a REUSABLE lunch on field trips because she's very good at remembering!!! AND... she asked me about composting because she's interested in doing it at her home!!! YAY!! My daughter has the most awesome teachers!!

Lesson learned: Every teacher is different!! Speak up... ask questions... never assume :)