Providing lunchtime activities is a great way to reinforce the message that every piece of trash counts and that every person needs to take responsibility for reducing his or her own waste.
During Earth Week at Gateway School in Santa Cruz, activities are scheduled during the lunch/recess period. Participation is purely voluntary, but it's extremely popular!
Here's a copy of their schedule:
Waste-free Lunch Contest
Andrew Fairbanks developed the following waste-free lunch contest at the Environmental Studies Center in Jensen Beach, FL.
Each item of a camper's lunch receives a score: -1 for trash, 0 for recyclable, +1 for reusable, and +2 for natural foods in their own compostable "wrappers" (bananas, apples, pears, etc.).
The group discusses why each item receives its respective score. The zero for recyclables is a real attention-getter and can serve as the perfect lead-in for a discussion on the big picture, including the costs associated with collection and processing recyclables and garbage vs. the simplicity of reusing and composting. The campers really get into the contest, which in turn gets their parents involved.
Note: Watch out for students going overboard with the reusable containers - some may try to inflate their scores by packing everything individually when it isn't necessary--although this serves as a perfect springboard for a discussion on the effects of consumerist culture. To compensate for this, you may want to give extra points for the foods packed in their own skins.
Noteworthy Success: One creative student made a lunch bag out of a banana leaf from his parents' yard!
Challenge: This activity requires that teachers be with their students during the lunch hour, and this is not always feasible.
Final Analysis: This activity worked very well at summer camp, where a counselor could be assigned to do the daily scoring but, with the same level of supervision, it could easily be implemented during the regular school year.
Do you have some waste-free lunch activities that you'd like others to know about? Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd love to expand this page.