The other day eight-year-old N’s lunch box came home from school and everything inside it was covered in yogurt. No, the yogurt container did not explode; no, she did not deliberately smear yogurt everywhere; no she is not THAT messy of an eater. The yogurt had come from the remains of the yogurt lid and container, and this empty lid and container were in her lunch box because at her school, children are not allowed to put anything from their lunches in the garbage. Hence, all the wrappers and the waste come home for us tired parents to discard, and after that we scrub out the lunch box so that it is ready for the next day’s food and waste.
The idea behind litterless lunches is that children learn to be less wasteful with packaging and garbage; or is it that the school has to pay less for garbage disposal? I’m not really sure.
Now I like the idea of reducing waste. Though we are not perfect, we are not a wasteful family. However, I just cannot get behind the idea that one giant tub of yogurt dispensed into Tupperware containers that later need to be washed in hot soapy water and rinsed, is definitely more environmentally friendly than buying the individually sized tubs. Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t, but I suspect there are no real data that prove this.
Relatedly, if we all baked our own granola bars, the amount of energy used by all of our ovens working individually is likely much more wasteful than if we all bought our bars from an efficient factory that pumps them out in a streamlined process. Leaving nutrition aside for the moment, the environmental impact of everyone baking must be much greater than if parents bought items with wrappers around them.
One last impact to bringing home all of this waste is that the lunchboxes become pretty nasty smelling pretty quickly, despite regular washing at home (more soap and water). I discard more lunch boxes than I might need to if they came home nice and clean every day.
I want to be clear that the environment is important to me and that I want to teach my daughters to be good to the earth, but sometimes I think we jump on new policies without thinking them all the way through.