Evanston mom Stephanie Stiller created the "New Generation Lunch Box," offered online at www.BrightBin.com.

As the new school year arrives, one simple choice for families is to pack waste-free lunches. By using reusable containers to transport lunch items, kids (and grown-ups) can be Earth-friendly and save money.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has several resources to help families achieve a waste-free lunch. Visitors to its site can download a poster or menu-planning flyers at www.epa.gov/osw/education/lunch.htm#poster.

Two years ago, one Evanston-based mom created the “New Generation Lunch Box,” it is sold online at www.BrightBin.com. Fed up with the waste from “tradi-
tional” plastic-bag-packed school lunches, Stephanie Stiller also found that using small food storage containers did not work either because her children kept losing the lids.

She came up with her own innovation: Available in blueberry blue and raspberry red, the New Generation Lunch Box is compartmentalized so that a sandwich or entrée fits into the top tier. Below that, kid-sized portions of fresh fruit, veggies and other healthy items fit neatly into their own spaces. The lunch boxes are made of food-safe polypropylene (#5 plastic) that is free of BPA, phthalates, lead and PVC. These containers are microwave- and
dishwasher-safe (top rack).

Bright Bin also sells insulated lunch bags that accommodate both the New Generation Lunch Box and a reusable beverage container. The lunch box dimensions are 5.6 inches by 5.6 inches by 4 inches and can fit into any insulated lunch tote.

The key to a waste-free lunch is to pack foods that kids will eat. Lunches packed with juicy fresh fruits and crunchy veggies eliminate waste and are the foundation of healthier eating. Use whole-grain breads or wraps for sandwiches and include low-sodium and sugar-free snacks and beverages.

Another local resource for waste-free lunch containers is Healthy Green Goods at 702 Main St. The shop offers reusable lunch bags for kids and adults and a selection of “Klean Kanteen” stainless steel and “Love Bottle” glass drinking bottles. Also on hand is “Bobble,” a reusable bottle with a built-in carbon filter for super-inexpensive pure water any time and any place.

Providing a broader selection of healthy and tasty foods for school lunches is on everyone’s mind. At School District 65, the Department of Food and Nutrition Services has posted a list of new items available for this year: Asian chicken, brown rice, Jamaican jerk chicken, sweet potatoes, green leafy vegetables and legumes.

Fresh sandwiches and salads and fresh whole apples and oranges will be available daily. Another promising feature will be “Tastes from Around the World,” a special menu day at all elementary schools.

The Nutrition Services Department at ETHS has posted a Green Report that lists each day the items recycled by the kitchen. Students are encouraged to recycle aluminum and plastic beverage containers and receptacles for these items are placed on the school grounds.

Some crops from the school’s Edible Acre, now in its second year, will find their way onto the lunch menu. Items that may be incorporated into dishes include lettuce and Swiss chard, green onions, garlic, mountain spinach and herbs.

Reusable containers and fresh, healthy foods are the basics for a waste-free lunch.

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