Will Your School Have Less Trash This Year?

By Sara Campbell, Outreach Coordinator  and Becky Williams, Naturalist Associate

That’s the question we ask every group that visits us. At Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center, we are working to become a trash free facility and we challenge our visiting groups to pack a Trash Free Lunch and bring as little trash as possible during their visit. There are many simple things that everyone can do to bring less trash on their visit. We encourage visitors to think ahead when deciding what to bring for lunch and snacks, and consider the packaging that the food comes in. The most important place to make decisions that will contribute to packing a trash free lunch is in the store. While at the store, use the Four R’s (Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle) to help you have less waste to “throw away”:

Rethink:stop and think about alternatives with less trash
Example: Instead of buying premade lunches with a lot of packaging (such as Lunchables), buy the components separately and make them the lunch yourself.

Reduce: use less stuff, produce less trash
Example: Buying items in bulk reduces the amount of packaging required and saves money in the long run.

Reuse: use items more than once
Example: Instead of a brown bag that will be used only once, bring a lunch box that can be reused and will not contribute to the waste steam. Also, reuse plastic containers and sandwich bags instead of buying new ones for sandwiches and snacks.

Recycle: use resources or nutrients to make something else
Example: When at the store, choose items that have recyclable or reusable packaging; save containers from yogurt, cottage cheese, or takeout and use them to pack your lunch. It’s a great way to practice all of the Four R’s!

During a visit to the farm, we weigh the trash (destined for the landfill) for each group and record the amount on a chart to compare with visits in previous years. The students like to see if they were able to have less trash than the previous class. Through this Trash Free Lunch activity, students realize that thinking is the key to reducing trash. The ‘aha’ moment is when they realize that individually, they CAN make a difference, especially in their schools and in their families.

Students and school staff can then build upon what they learned during their visit to Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center through our Trash Free Schools Project by working together to reduce waste at their school. The Trash Free Schools Project provides resources and guidance to schools to help rethink, reduce, reuse, and recycle while engaging and educating students throughout the process.

For more on the Four R’s and how to make less trash, visit our Take out the Trash online activity. Then test your trash free lunch packing skills in our online Trash Free Lunch Game.  Can you create a lunch with zero waste?
Take the challenge and then tell us how you create less waste when packing your lunch!

  • Sara

    Wondering how much trash groups bring on their visits to the farm?
    View the data on the Trash Data section of the Take Out The Trash online activity: http://fergusonfoundation.org/hbf-kids-zone/take-out-the-trash/

    Can you find any groups that had zero trash?

  • Everette

    This is a great resource. I would add that my personal techniques requires as little containers or reusable dishes as possible. Generally I layer my lunch where I put the heaviest items on the bottom. This way all lunch item can fit into on container. For example; today I brought chicken wings, fried potatoes, and vegetables. I packed the containers so that the chicken was on the bottom, followed by the potatoes, and then the vegetables. I also reduced “Trash” by ensuring I put all the necessary seasonings and condiments on my food during the packing process. This eliminates use of smaller condiment packaging and I am able to use the larger condiments from home. I also rethought utilizing a water bottle or container today, because I drank from the water fountain. The only trash items that I created or used was a napkin to wash my hands!

  • Clara

    I’ve found that once I started making Trash Free Lunches they became easier and easier to pack. Now, even my guinea pig can do it! It is so important to instill these habits not only in ourselves but in our kids too. It’s such a simple, yet effective way to engage children in environmental stewardship. Plus, it teaches them to think critically about the amount of trash we produce on a daily basis.