Hawthorne Elementary School

Waste Free Lunch


What is a Waste-Free Lunch?

A waste-free lunch is simply a lunch with nothing that needs to be put in the trash or recycling bin at the end.  Packing a completely waste-free lunch may seem daunting at first, but every little bit we do to be waste-free helps!


Why is a Waste-Free Lunch Important?

Much of the trash we generate comes from food packaging, and lunch foods are no exception. Hawthorne students can generate up to 100 pounds of lunch waste each day – or more than 17,000 pounds per school year! All this waste uses valuable natural resources and ends up in a landfill after being used for only a few hours. Food itself is also a big contributor to waste in the lunchroom. We have found that up to 75% of waste by weight in the Hawthorne lunchroom is from leftover food and drinks each day!


How to Pack a Waste-Free Lunch – Each One Makes a Difference!

Here’s what a WASTE-FREE Lunch includes:

  • Just the right amount of food (Encourage kids to bring leftovers home so you can see how much they eat every day. Adjust portion sizes accordingly.)
  • Sandwiches and other main dishes, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, and treats packed in reusable containers (buying in bulk and re-packing saves resources and money)
  • Reusable drink containers
  • Cloth napkins
  • Stainless-steel forks and spoons
  • Reusable lunchboxes


A WASTE-FULL Lunch contains one or more of the following:

  • Too much food
  • Food packed in plastic baggies (baggies are not recyclable)
  • Individually packaged yogurts, fruit cups, chips, cookies, granola bars, cheeses, etc.
  • Single-use juice boxes, juice pouches, soda cans, water bottles, and milk cartons
  • Plastic forks, spoons, straws (these are not recyclable)
  • Paper napkins (these are not recyclable if soiled)
  • Disposable paper or plastic lunch bags


A note about hot lunches:

If your child will be buying a hot lunch, you can help make it more waste-free by checking the lunch menu and purchasing lunch on days when your child likes what is being served. Another way to make the hot lunches more waste-free is to pack a small zipper case with a reusable napkin and utensil that your child can bring to the lunchroom to use instead of the disposables that come with the hot lunches.