Parents sending their kids off to school with lunch in a brown bag are asking for whining from their embarrassed children, and a stern lecture from school administrators. Stephanie Clifford explains for The New York Times,
“Ziplocs are the biggest misstep,” said Julie Corbett, a mother in Oakland, Calif., whose two girls attend a school with an eco-friendly lunch policy. In school years past, she said, many a morning came unhinged when the girls were sent to school with disposable sandwich bags.
“That’s when the kids have meltdowns, because they don’t want to be shamed at school,” Ms. Corbett said. “It’s a big deal.”
Schools are forcing parents to buy lunch boxes, reusable aluminum water bottles, and neoprene lunch bags under the guise of saving money and the environment. Waste-free lunches require that “everything be either compostable or reusable,” writes Clifford, “in an effort to reduce garbage and the cost of hauling it away.”
Responding to the pressure from their kids and school administrators, some parents are seeing the light, and are being asked to school reluctant parents that left-over goulash can be toted to school for years in a particular piece of Tupperware.
In the past, students performed skits about recycling but the parent-to-parent evangelism seemed more effective, [principal Brain] Greene said.
“The kids are all about it,” Mr. Greene said, but with the parents, “you have to build habits.”
He added, “We don’t send notes home to parents and say, ‘Listen, this is the third time you’ve brought a Cheeto bag.’ But we help them to understand” why the school has the lunch policy.
Judith Wagner, a professor of education at Whittier College in California, wonders whether school administrators should scold the parents or lay a guilt trip on students, to rid the world of Ziplocs and brown bags. “Do you go back to the parents and say, ‘Gosh, can you rethink the plastic bags and all this food?’ Or do you talk to the children, and you make the children feel guilty because they’re throwing this all away?”
Of course schools with a green agenda don’t care much about costs, time, dishwashing detergent, and water. In some places there is a water shortage, cleaning Tupperware takes water and for those who use a dishwashing machine, electricity. And that electricity may be produced by coal-burning power plants or by a nuclear reactor.
Dishwashing detergent is made of chemicals, some (or all) of which green types don’t like. SafeMama.com says to avoid dishwashing detergents containing phosphates, chlorine and phthalates. The website provides eco-friendly alternatives, including how to make your own.
Most Tupperware products are made of low-density polyethylene (LDPE, or plastic #4) and polypropylene (PP, or plastic #5), “and as such are considered safe for repeated use storing food items and cycling through the dishwasher. Most food storage products from Glad, Hefty, Ziploc and Saran also pass The Green Guide‘s muster for health safety.” However, low-density polyethylene is made of petroleum, which must be pumped from the ground (above and below sea level) and sometimes accidents happen.
The next step for school green groups will be to require parents to abandon the division of labor altogether. Lunches must come in hand-formed pottery (made at home), cleaned only by hand in a stream or other suitable natural water source, to be dried naturally by the sun and the wind.