Brown bagging without the bag

For School Lunches, Hold the Plastic Sandwich Bag, writes the New York Times. Some schools are requiring waste-free lunches — everything must be edible, compostable or reusable — to cut down on garbage and promote “green” values.

Brown baggers are supposed to buy neoprene lunch bags; plastic containers are replacing plastic sandwich bags. Aluminum water bottles are in; plastic throwaways are out.

“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.”

At the very least, it’s a first-world problem.

Judith Wagner, a Whittier College education professor, is trying to persuade parents at the lab school to pack less wasteful lunches.

“Parents will say things like, ‘Well, I want her to have a choice, and if I put in a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich and a ham sandwich, she has a choice,’ ” Professor Wagner said. “And each one comes in its own separate plastic bag.”

What comes next, she said, is a hard call. “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?”

Forget about the plastic bags. Who packs a throwaway sandwich so little Emma can have a choice at noon instead of making up her mind at 7 am?

Sales of paper bags and sandwich bags are declining. Retailers offer a host of eco-friendly lunch containers.

At the Container Store, popular items this year include Japanese bento-box-style lunch boxes, Bobble water bottles with built-in filters, reusable cotton sandwich bags called snackTaxis, and PeopleTowels, machine-washable napkins.

In Oakland, Sally Corbett complains that plastic containers require cleaning and aren’t cheap, especially if they get lost.  For field trips, she packs sandwiches in waxpaper. “It’s still a no-no because you’re still having to throw that away, but it is biodegradable, it does compost, so you’re not as guilty,” she said.

It’s a religion, writes Andrew Stuttaford.


Plastics industry edited environmental guide

California’s new environmental curriculum was changed to please the plastics industry, reports California Watch.

American Chemistry Council lobbyists persuaded school officials to include a section on “The Advantages of Plastic Shopping Bags” in the 11th-grade teachers’ edition textbook.

Although the curriculum includes the environmental hazards of plastic bags, the consultant also added a five-point question to a workbook asking students to list some advantages. According to the teachers’ edition, the correct answer is: “Plastic shopping bags are very convenient to use. They take less energy to manufacture than paper bags, cost less to transport, and can be reused.”

Some California cities and counties have banned plastic shopping bags; San Francisco requires markets to charge customers for paper bags. We’re all supposed to have reusable bags.