Packing Green School Lunches

Last year as the school year was starting, I wrote about my conversion to “green” lunches. We’d been buying local and organic fruit and vegetables for some time; the change of heart was more about how we wrapped, bottled, and containered Ursula’s and Virgil’s lunches. After gentle prodding from Jim, who as chief lunch-packer and bottle washer had been pushing for safer and more environmentally sound school lunches for the kids, I bought recycled lunch boxes, stainless steel containers, and reusable snack bags before the start of last school year.

A year later, I can say that our purchases have held up well. In fact, Ursula will again use her lunch box made of recycled juice boxes. Only one of the cloth snack bags disappeared over the school year, and the stainless steel containers were a huge hit.

Now that I think about it, what I should really say isn’t that I had a change of heart but that I finally stiffened my spine. When I wrote about last year’s purchases, I confessed to not wanting to know about chemicals like BPA, phthalates, and PBDEs. Once I was aware of their role as endocrine disruptors — in fish and other wildlife as well as in humans — I started to realize how pervasive they are. And in knowing more, our actions continued to change. A study I came upon later in the year identified the kids’ favorite soups as especially high in BPA. We started making our own soups. I learned that Maine had banned the use of plastic pallets because of concerns about food contamination by the PBDE form called DECA. We became even more careful about washing all produce and fruits.

For this school year, we’re trying not to use plastics or containers coated with toxic chemicals for any of our children’s lunches. We’ve disposed of most of our plastic storage containers and have added glass containers to the stainless steel ones.

Currently six states have banned BPA from baby bottles and baby toys. (And Denmark earlier this summer became the most recent country to enact a ban.) Legislation to ban BPA from children’s food and drinks has been introduced in the Senate. This bill replaces an earlier proposal to ban BPA from all food and drink packaging, which was pulled after intensive lobbying by industry groups.

I shouldn’t have to distrust our food safety system and our manufacturing. But until I have a better sense that the companies that supply so many of our household products care about the longterm health of my children, I’ll continue to follow the news and purchase their lunch supplies very carefully.

Learn more

• “Going Green Back to School” (2009)
• I found Ursula’s recycled lunch box, Virgil’s cotton lunch bag, and other lunch supplies at
• Vermont, Connecticut, and New York have banned BPA in certain products, including children’s bottles and toys. A bill currently being debated in Maine could result in BPA being phased out in products for use by children.

Great Kids, Great Outdoors” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Kristen Laine.