Thursday, October 8, 2009

Guest Post: Adria Vasil author of Ecoholic

Adria Vasil, author of the book Ecoholic, stopped by to share with us a piece she wrote.

Save Cash and Trash: Packing Healthier Waste-Free Lunches
By Adria Vasil
Author of
Ecoholic: Your Guide to the Most Environmentally Friendly Information, Products & Services

I won't lie. I loved my juice boxes, pudding cups and classic cream-stuffed snack cakes as a school kid -- but they were all wrapped in plastic destined for the lunchroom garbage can (not to mention totally unhealthy!). Add them all up and a typical student trashes a whopping 70 pounds of lunch packaging every year!

Now, what if instead of reaching for pre-packaged munchies, parents everywhere bought snackables in bulk and placed them in their own reusable containers? By god, we'd have a lunchtime revolution! In fact, if every student packed a zero-waste lunch, we'd save 1.2 billion pounds from landfill a year. You'll also be saving some serious coin (since individually wrapped foods tend to cost more) and coincidentally cutting out many of the not-so-healthy heavily processed ingredients that often come with pre-packaged snacks.

So how do you lighten your lunch load?

  • Say goodbye to disposable plastic baggies. Get reusable sandwich-size sacks like Lunch Skins ( They're perfect for, yes, sandwiches, as well as chopped up veggies like carrots, peppers and celery.
  • Buy yogurt, dried fruit, snackables like pumpkin seeds or even organic cookies in bulk, then pack them in reusable food containers (just not the kind made of clear, shatterproof polycarbonate plastic since those contain hormone disrupting bisphenol A -- the same stuff that made headlines in clear plastic baby bottles).
  • Pass on pricey, packaging-heavy drinking boxes and buy juice in large cartons/jugs. Pour a single portion into a polycarbonate-free drink canister like Thermos' Foogo (keeping in mind that a stainless steel container of tap or home-filtered water is way healthier than a shot of sugary, nutritionally dead boxed OJ).
  • Pour last night's soups and even stews in an insulated thermos for a homemade meal on the go.
  • Don't forget to toss a cloth napkin and, if necessary, washable cutlery into your lunch box.
Keep the lead out of lunchtime

Speaking of lunch boxes, stay away from anything made of vinyl, aka PVC. Back in 2005, California's Center for Environmental Health filed a lawsuit against some big-name makers of soft PVC lunch cases (including Toys"R"Us, Warner Brothers, DC Comics and Time Warner) after testing revealed that their products contained high levels of lead.

Better to go for all-natural cloth or even nylon.You'll find a bunch of alternatives online at sites like (think funky organic and recycled cloth bags, stainless steel containers and compartmentalized bento-box-style Laptop Lunch kits).

Move the message school-wide

Once you've got the knack of trash-free lunches, why not spread the message throughout your child's school? Consider forming a zero-waste lunch committee. If you've got a keen teacher on your side, you might even get students to kick things off with a garbage audit (think garbology 101). That means measuring how much trash goes in bins before and after lunch hour. The mini researchers can put on rubber gloves and note what kind of disposables are taking up the most room.

Raise cash for trash

Whatever you do, don't let any disposables that you and other parents might still use end up in landfill. Talk to your kid's school about saving them up and sending them packin' to be made into purses and pencil cases! Once you've collected a bunch of branded drink pouches, candy/cookie/energy bar wrappers, chip bags and yogurt cups, ship them off to TerraCycle and the upcycling company will give you 2¢ to 5¢ per package for your trouble ( Call it a cash-for-trash fundraiser and you'll be garbage-free in no time!

©2009 Adria Vasil, author of Ecoholic: Your Guide to the Most Environmentally Friendly Information, Products & Services

About the book:

Ecoholic is an eye-opening guide to separating the green from the greenwashed in the maze of products lining our shelves. Unlike other eco guidebooks, Ecoholic names names and gives you the dirt on what not to buy and why, as well as the dish on great clothes, beauty products, home supplies, and more.

We all know that the earth is in trouble, but we’re often left scratching our heads over how to change things. How do we avoid poisoning the planet and ourselves with the products we slather on our scalps and squirt onto our floors? And what safe alternatives actually get the job done?

Filled with tips on everything from which seafood is safe to eat to getting the hormone disruptors out of your kids, your carpets, and your love life, Ecoholic is a witty and indispensable guide to the small ecochoices that make the biggest difference.

About Adria:

Adria Vasil has been writing the ECOHOLIC column for NOW Magazine since the spring of 2004 and has covered environmental and social justice issues for NOW's news section for eight years. Vasil has a degree in political science and cultural anthropology from the University of Toronto and a degree in magazine journalism from Ryerson. An advocate for the earth, women's issues and human rights since her teens, Vasil has appeared on CTV, MTV Canada, TVO, MuchMusic, Book TV and CBC's Newsworld as well as countless print and radio publications to promote green living.

If you'd like to pick up a copy of Adria's book Ecoholic click on the cover image below.


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