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by Alexandra Gilliand

September is the start of so many things. The start of football, the start of Fall, and the start of school, and back to school means back to school lunches.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that each school lunch on average creates 67 pounds of waste a year. A combination of uneaten food, sandwich bags and juice boxes make their way into landfills each year. Fortunately, there are methods to making school lunches more sustainable.

Here are some quick tips to upgrade your lunch for a healthier planet and self.

Bring your lunch from home

The first step to making a meal more sustainable is to make it at home. Not only will this save you money, but it also cuts down on packaging and allows you to determine the exact contents of the meal.

Rethink your lunch containers.

Don’t stop at subbing out brown paper bags for a lunchbox; replace your plastic resealable bags. There are now large selections of steel containers, mason jars, bento boxes, and alternative reusable wrap mats available for purchase that you can use in place of plastic bags and tupperware.

Shy away from the individually packaged snacks, and instead buy or bake items in bulk. Not only do homemade baked goods reduce packaging, but they also tend to be healthier and tastier.

Short on time in the mornings? Think about getting a week’s supply of containers and prepping for lunches as much as possible during the weekend.

Rethink the contents.

It doesn’t matter how sustainable a lunch is if it goes uneaten. If you’re making lunch for someone else, take note of what comes back home in the lunchbox, and talk to that person about what they do and do not like. Experiment and play around with the amount and type of food to figure out a balanced combination.

When selecting lunch options, remember to shop locally and seasonally. Go to your local farmer’s market and build lunches around the items. Select vegan and organic options to reduce the environmental impact your food makes.

Here are some quick and easy vegan lunch ideas for a more sustainable lunch:

*Nut Butter and Banana Sandwiches (substitute the banana for pumpkin or apple butter for a different take on a classic sandwich)

*Cold Pasta Salad (pesto and vegetables)

*Avocado and Hummus Sandwich with lettuce and tomato

*Buddha Bowl (Grains, vegetables and beans)

*Hummus and Crackers

*Homemade Trail Mix (nuts, pretzels, dried fruit and chocolate chips)

*Homemade Baked Goods

*Raw Fruit and Vegetables

*Popcorn

Take these tips and enjoy a fresh start with a fresh lunch this September!