Have you ever sat in the lunchroom during your child's lunch break at school? Whether preschool or elementary school, I have really noticed the "convenience" packaging offered by food manufacturers is a big hit with busy families. Individually bagged snacks, pre-packaged apple slices, juice boxes, water bottles....And then there's the ziploc baggies for everything else in between. Yes, those products make lunch-packing a bit quicker in the morning, but the waste that's generated in just one lunch is incredible!
There are MANY cute, colorful, cool options (or more sophisticated for older kids) available to have a completely waste free lunch. For us, it doesn't take too much time to put some chips in a container, grapes in a reusable bag, and wrap up a sandwich in a wrap-n-mat. My kids love having their own lunch packaging, and it has always come home (which is pretty impressive for a 6 and 4 year old).
Check out reuseit.com for some great tips on packing a waste-free lunch. Also, there are many great Etsy sellers who sell reusable items. Here's a list of lunch items from Team EcoEtsy. Also search for things like: cloth napkins, reusable snack bag, lunch kit, etc. There are also many options if you are trying to avoid all plastics (even BPA free ones). (Try to stay away from things lined with PUL that would go next to food - they have not been tested for food safety, though a lot of sellers use them for their waterproof nature.)
Here's another idea: You can get pre-made name labels from places like Mabel's Labels or Name Bubbles which work great to identify snap top containers, sandwich wraps, reusable snack bags, thermoses, and drink containers.This ensures your investment doesn't get stuck in the lost and found bin! (See examples on my son's water bottle and wrap-n-mat above)
Here's to a great school year; and healthy, waste-free lunches!