Greening The Zoots

We made it!

The school year ends here on Friday which means I survived a whole year of lunches with our “less waste” system. We have these little storage containers we use to try to encourage us NOT to buy tons of prepackaged stuff, or use sandwich bags, so that we could maybe reduce our waste associated with lunches at least a little bit.


It wasn’t/isn’t perfect. We never found a water bottle/container that really – HONESTLY – didn’t leak. I have an idea of one that will work – they make them in “adult sized” and they work – but never found a “kid’s sized” one. I’m going to look again before next year. SO! We settled on small gatorade bottles which the kids were bringing home to throw in the recycle bin.

Other things we never did well with:

Granola bars
Cheeses sticks
Yogurt Squeezes

Sometimes we didn’t do granola bars, but we would often do something similar. The kids just LIKE that kind of thing and it’s hard to find it in bulk like I can their chips/crackers. I tried putting yogurt in small containers from big/bulk containers but they only do that in one flavor which the kids don’t like.

SO! The challenge for NEXT year will be to

1) Find a good granola ball recipe I can do on the weekends and give the kids in their lunches
2) Test out different blocks of cheese to see what the kids lick so I can just cut it up for their lunches
3) Continue to look into other flavors of yogurt in bulk
4) Try to find a kid’s size of the drink containers I think might actually be leak proof

Par of the problem is we’re not members at anything like Costco or Sams so our “bulk” options are limited. That’s something else I might do for next year. Go ahead and get a membership there. Or maybe talk to family about trying theirs out for awhile. It’s not close or convenient to me and the last time we tried it we bought stuff we wouldn’t normally buy – just to buy SOMETHING. So I think I’d probably rather test it out for awhile first.

Either way – I know for sure we spared at least 3 sandwich pages or packages per kid per lunch every day. They only got hot lunch about 20 days total between the two of them this year, so that’s a lot of waste we prevented with our lunches. I think back to years prior and am almost embarrassed by how much garbage we created every day. And truthfully – packing lunches didn’t take too much longer. If you really time yourself, it’s still only a few extra minutes every day and once I got a good system it didn’t seem to be a big deal. Also key was finding the right containers. I want to buy another set for next year and maybe even some more ice packs.

I’m proud of us! It probably didn’t make a big dent on our carbon footprint as a family, but it’s a step in the right direction at least! And if you count all of the steps we’ve made in the right direction over the last 7 years? Then there has DEFINITELY been a change in our footprint.

Less Waste Lunches

This photo was taken at the beginning of the year. The lunch boxes look MUCH more tattered now. That’s another thing. Our lunch boxes never make it more than a year. We keep them still because I use them for keeping stuff cold for after a run, but they are BEAT UP.

20 thoughts on “We made it!”

  1. One of the Costco sample folks was mixing frozen blueberries into their plain or vanilla yogurt. Once that was done it looked just like the blueberry kind with the chunks in it. I bet you could do something similar with different fruit and get different flavored that way. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I know our Sam’s Club (and BJ’s does, too) offers 30 day trial memberships. Can you ask a friend who has a membership to take you with them just so you can wander around?

    Also, while our membership fee is $75 (I think?), we use a Sam’s Club Mastercard which we upgrade (again, I can’t remember the exact charge to upgrade, but maybe $50?), and then we get 2% back on EVERYTHING we charge (not just at Sam’s Club). Last year we got a check for $1,450. I know some people prefer airline miles, but it seems like they’re very hard to redeem. I’d rather take the cash!

  3. We like camelback eddy water bottles. My son’s eventually leak but he chews on the bite valve. I can get replacement bite valves and replace his once the get chewed. My girls’ are fine with theirs. Our lunch box always takes a huge beating too.

  4. A have 2 granola recipes you might want to try. This first one tastes just like Quaker granola bars. I’ve even made them with cinnamon and raisins instead of the chocolate chips.
    The kids really like this one also.
    For yogurt I use plain yogurt, whatever fruit I have on hand, frozen or otherwise. Then I put it in the freezer in these reusable ice pop container I got on amazon. Before school I put a rubber band around the top and send them off to school. The defrost by lunch.

  5. In the past I’ve seen either a Living Social or Groupon deal for a Sam’s membership that was very reasonable (maybe $25).

  6. Echoing the “stuff in plain yogurt” comment. We buy big tubs of the plain stuff, then get creative with the mix-ins. Fruit (fresh or frozen – the frozen stuff will thaw in the yogurt, making it a bit more syrupy), granola, nuts/seeds, tiny cereal or candy bits, jam, honey, etc. It’s a bit like making an ice-cream sundae, but somewhat healthier.

  7. Second the Camelback Eddy Kids bottles. We’ve tried a bunch of different versions, including the ones you pictured, and they all leaked. The Camelbacks are the only ones I’ve found that don’t leak and that the kids like drinking from.

    Also, I’d suggest using Amazon as an alternative for bulk foods if a Costco isn’t close by. Especially if you already know what you buy often, it’s easy to find, and you could even put it on auto-ship. They have a new thing called Amazon Prime Pantry which groups your shipment & has pretty good savings.

  8. a) you don’t have a costco membership???
    b) if you are even considering a sam’s one over costco’s…let me know, and i will inundate you with news coverage, member’s homemade videos, internal communications, etc….ALL EASILY showing how far superior costco is in all ways…but especially ones i know mean a lot to you (e.g. same sex equality, employee work/life balance, supporting local/mom&pop businesses, organics, giving to and taking care of your local communities..and all those in need, recycling, reducing waste, etc.) . and that’s not even mentioning the excellent prices on quality products… ๐Ÿ™‚

    actually, knowing you as i do, i’m positive all research you’d do into the companies before purchasing a membership will provide you with all the findings i just mentioned and then some…but i’m still happy to share a lot more with you. ๐Ÿ™‚ love this company! ๐Ÿ™‚


  9. My kids like this granola ball recipe and keep an eye on Groupon and living social, they run a deal every so often on memberships. We got ours on groupon last year and we got a plus membership (extra discounts and we can go in earlier when businesses go in) plus a gift card and rotisserie chicken for what we would have paid for a regular membership.

  10. We pack lunches and try to have limited trash too. The Contigo cups are pricey but really don’t leak.

  11. In 2007, I bought my son a Laptop Lunchbox for preschool. He’s in 3rd grade and is still using it. It includes a water bottle and the plastic is VERY durable and resistant to smells — as tested by the infamous Forgotten Pomegranate Seeds – Christmas Break 2008 (OUCH).

  12. YIKES. I just checked their prices and they have gone up — I paid about $25 back in the day for ours (I bought my daughter one in 2009).

  13. If you find a granola bar, ball, recipe that you like please share! I have been wanting to find one myself. And I have a Costco membership….You are welcome to go with me sometime this summer and scope it out. Just let me know!

  14. We like the nalgene on the fly water bottles. They come in different sizes and there aren’t any straws or valves to get gross. They will spill if knocked over when they’re open but we haven’t had any leaking in the 6 months we’ve been using them. I have older kids so the knocking over isn’t as big an issue as when they were smaller.

  15. Congratulations on a waste-free year of school lunches. It’s HARD, isn’t it? We do pretty well, but we also have individual containers of applesauce that just aren’t available in larger sizes, or cheese sticks that have packaging that is unavoidable (they love the string cheese and won’t really eat other kinds. Sadly, I can’t buy string cheese in bulk either.)

    I bought a bunch of reusable sandwich bag things at Target and those work well, but are expensive enough that there’s an annoyance factor to deal with when a kid loses one.

    My kids use a Contigo coffee cup as a water bottle. It NEVER leaks and it’s just the right size for the kids. It’s insulated, so the water stays cold for a long time; there’s a button you press with all your fingers while you hold it and that opens the seal. The kids find them easy to use, even with their little fingers; Lexi’s been using it since she was three (she’s now 6.5). We’ve been using these ones for years: I got them at Costco initially as a set of two, and they look pricy but my god if I don’t love them.

    I notice they have kids bottles too but the reviews on those aren’t as good – and I’ve seen one of the flip-spout ones and thought it didn’t look great, plus it didn’t look easy to clean. The mugs we have go in the dishwasher, lids and all.

    I’m beginning to sound like a Contigo ad, but we also have 4 of these: and we use them for hiking/camping, etc. They hold a lot, easy to carry (although our older version has a larger carrying hole in the lid & that hole has a built in carabiner, so it seems more useful.

  16. Another vote for the stuff in plain yogurt. We do plain greek yogurt with honey or agave on top. It took me about a year to train myself to like the plain yogurt though, it can be a little tart. Buying vanilla yogurt in bulk and adding flavoring might be an easier way to go. I highly recommend using either jelly or those fruit syrups (strawberry or blueberry) to flavor and sweeten them. (I can’t abide any fruit or other texture in my yogurt, so I’ve found the syrup or jelly to work best for that.)

  17. I love the Nalgene brand bottles. Full quart or half quart for kids screw tops never leak. The on the fly ones are also great, and my 5 year old uses the 24 ounce like I do and can open and close by herself.

    My mom used to make us peanut butter balls, which was peanut butter, honey, graham crackers all mixed up and rolled into little balls in a little tupperware. We loved them at every lunch, and they would probably be better with some oatmeal mixed in.

  18. You must must must get a Costco membership. Just the savings on veggies will pay for the fee. Also if you need any electronics, it’s our first stop. It can be a huge $$ pit if you go into the center aisles–movies, books, fancy snacks. We try to stick to veg, dairy, wine, oil/spices, nuts, gas.

    RE yogurt–I buy giant tubs of plain yogurt (at costco, of course) and include a tiny container of honey, frozen fruit, or jam and a container of granola or chopped nuts (each kid has different favorites) They get to ‘assemble’ at school. Apparently, that is all it takes to be the ‘cool’ mom of a first grader.

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