Get All Creative-Reusey About School Lunches

By Patti Johnson, Education Coordinator at SCRAP Humboldt 

 It’s that time of year when we equip our budding young students with a “bag” lunch as we send them off to school.  Here at SCRAP Humboldt we have a few ideas to help you meet their need to blend in, stand out or make a statement during that most important social hour – lunchtime (all the while appealing to your desire to be less wasteful).

No need to bust open the piggy (bank that is) with these Simple Creative Re-Use Lunch Ideas:

A Stamp A Day Keeps the Bag in Play. Attached to those Brown Lunch Bags? No worries- many are made with sustainably harvested and recycled fibers. Encouraging your kids to bring the bag home each day instead of tossing it away will extend the life of the bag and the natural resources used to make it.  Many schools have paper recycling in the classroom but not in the lunchroom so more often than not the bag gets tossed away when lunch time is over. Keep the bag in play by offering a stamp a day.  It is exciting to see how many stamps can be added before the bag falls apart and must go into the recycling.  For extra Creative Re-Use bonus make those stamps out of wine corks!

Jazz up a cup.  Turn a single-serving yogurt container, which you already bought and paid for, into a snack-on-the-go cup with a little colorful duct tape and a few stickers.  Kids love to personalize the decorations on these sturdy #5 poly propylene plastic containers.  What was once a container that may or may not have ended up in the recycle bin (many of Humboldt Counties lunchroom do not have container recycling) is now a jazzed up cup little ones want to hold on to and re-use. For extra Creative Re-Use bonus use the stickers from promotional address labels you receive in the mail.

Line Dry the Baggie.  For those of you having a hard time weaning yourself from the plastic baggie we suggest you, at least, wash them out and use them again.  Spend a couple of hours on Sunday making this baggie stand out of dowels and mill ends.  Your kids will be proud to display washed bags to be used again.  Caution: it is best not to re-use bags that held meat or oily foods; these items are best suited for hard sided re-useable containers.

For the independent young person we suggest these Alternative Creative Re-Use Lunch ideas that, well, think out of the box (the lunchbox that is).

Snack Bag Make-Over (or rather flip over). Practice your geometry or perhaps origami when you turn snack bags into shiny silver snack pouches.  If you buy bagged snack food then chances are you have a wealth of bags just waiting for a make-over.  Most of these bags are made of stretch polyester film or foil called Mylar.  This material is made durable yet light and pliable.  This enables it to be washed, flipped inside out, cut and folded and taped (duct tape works best, it doesn’t take much) into one ultra-cool space age snack pouch.

Crack Open the Egg.  You can share a snack surprise every day when you pack it away in a food grade plastic “Easter” egg.  These perky containers are just aching to be used more than once a year.  Invite your little peep to decorate it with permanent marker (in a well-ventilated area) or as shown here.  For extra Creative Re-Use bonus use the designs on edge of a postal stamp sheet.  Postal stamps are fantastic stickers and often colorful. The edges of these sheets are often an over-looked creative re-use resource.

Aseptic Bento Box.  Show off your re-use fashion sense when you bust out this hip lunchbox. Rectangular and tough (and not recyclable in our community.)  Aseptic containers, with a few cuts, a button and ribbon transform instantly into bento style boxes.  These boxes are created by several layers of paper, plastic and foil adhered together. The result is a water resistant foil lined box; the impeccable material for a bento box.


Make the Tin Man Proud.

You can be the Queen of Re-Use Hearts if you rescue a steel cookie tin from the back of
Grandma’s cupboard and use it as a shabby chic lunch container.

The tops of most tins sport lovely pictures and designs.

They store well in a backpack or book bag, washes up nicely after each use, and doesn’t require regular oiling (the Tin Man would be so proud).

Keep the focus clear. New linen is often purchased in vinyl bags furnished with zippers.  Attach a short wide ribbon (or reclaimed old dress belt) with a quick stitch for a handle. Personalize the face by using the back side of the cardboard label that slides easily in and out of its sleeve. You’ll be stepping out in style with this clever fashionable bag!

These fast and easy Retro Creative Re-Use Lunch Ideas do not involve altering or decorating, just a little soap.  Offer these to the student seeking daringly innovative ideas or the one who express a love of all things past.

Marquee Sandwich Box.  Tucked neatly in this book bag is what appears to be the video of your once upon a time favorite movie.  Class mates will find this remarkably retro-trendy when you slide it out to reveal the contents.  VCR cases are made of hard poly propylene plastic.  With the advancement of technology and lack of recycling/disposal options these cases (complete with videos) can be found everywhere!  For the best fit look for cases without hubs (posts that held the cassette wheels in place).   Take the time to wash the inside thoroughly before using; metal from the magnetic film may have deposited residue on the plastic. The cover on these cases is usually a vinyl sleeve in which an altogether different picture could be slipped into to change the look.

A Barrel of Monkeys.   Poke around and you will undoubtedly find these little red barrels all over; thrift stores, the back of your closest (SCRAP Humboldt). Often times the monkeys have long escaped leaving behind a cool red barrel that snaps shut.  Chips, trail mix, crackers all fit nicely in this little hard sided barrel.  Fill the can of monkeys snack barrel with a favorite snack; toss it in your backpack and feed your body with the contents after you have been monkeying around.  If you find a barrel that still contains the monkeys for extra Creative Re-Use bonus string the Monkeys into a garland attached arm to arm with produce twist ties!

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