It may not be apparent, but school lunches are a huge source of plastic waste. That’s why the organization Cafeteria Culture has teamed up with the Urban School Food Alliance to bring us Plastic Free Lunch Day, which challenges schools to reduce the use of plastics in school meals. Seven Generations Ahead’s (SGA) Zero Waste Schools (ZWS) program encourages all schools to participate in this event by choosing one day the week of April 17th – 24th to reduce or eliminate plastic waste during lunch periods. 

Why go plastic-free? Well, U.S. schools serve 7.35 billion meals annually, which means billions of single-use plastic items are used every year, most of which ends up in landfills. Plastics are made of fossil fuels, so generate greenhouse gasses when they’re manufactured. When plastics break down, they become microplastics. These microscopic bits of plastic stay in the ecosystem forever, and have been found everywhere from oceans and lakes to even human bodies. A great resource to learn more is the movie Microplastic Madness, Cafeteria Culture’s award-winning student-focused movie. It will screen FREE for all K-12 schools that lead a plastic-free action before April 30. Registration is open now.

Helping schools go green is one of SGA’s specialties. So, we want to share five tips and tricks for celebrating Plastic Free Lunch Day that we hope will lead to more plastic free actions.

  1. Replace single-use condiment packets with bulk condiment dispensers.
  2. Cafeteria Culture suggests covering sandwich pans with one piece of foil or wrap instead of wrapping each sandwich individually.
  3. Eliminate plastic utensil packets and replace them with bulk utensil and napkin holders, which could be as simple as offering utensils and napkins in baskets or other containers.
  4. Serve finger foods, which eliminate the need for utensils.
  5. Put the utensils behind the serving line and make them available upon request.

Looking for even more resources to help you or your school go plastic-free? The ZWS Toolkit is full of useful resources to get started on your waste reduction journey. For a quick reference for Plastic Free Lunch Day, check out “Turn a Wasteful Lunch into a Zero Waste Lunch.”

Join us the week of April 17th – 24th as we work to eliminate plastic waste, create more sustainable school lunches, and build a healthier planet!