Lizzie Martinez

It boggles the mind if you think about it too much: one child, one lunch a day, for 13 years.

A typical kid can produce 67 pounds of lunch trash each year, easily ending their school career with their own personal landfill of trash produced only at lunchtime.

Our school, the Austin Discovery School, has no hot lunch program. So children must bring their own lunches. Faced with the prospect of that much waste—we headed in the opposite direction—a Zero Waste Lunch Initiative.

Our school is a free, public, charter school in Austin, Texas. We have multi-age classrooms and team teachers. On 200 wooded acres, the site of the old state school, children take hikes, garden, compost and learn in outdoor classrooms. A Zero Waste Lunch Program fit right into our mini-ecosystem.

A typical American school kid's lunch is full of Ziploc baggies, juice boxes, paper napkins, and plastic wear. Most of which ends up in the landfill if the school does not have a recycling program. A common lunchbox item, the Ziploc baggie, cannot even be recycled because of their mixtures of plastic textures. So, how to reduce the waste?

At first, after we announced the initiative, parents groused that it could be expensive or more work to make a waste-free lunch everyday. We realized the first thing we needed to do was educate ourselves and other parents at the school about how to make a zero waste lunch.

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