Grrrr…it is enough to make me turn around right there, without a single item. Yes, we have done it, left a full grocery cart in front of customer service….I always apologize to the cashier working at the customer service desk and ask where is a good place to leave the buggy, since “we” won’t be staying to finish our shop. They smile apologetically and are more than gracious as I leave, dragging two screaming children out to the car. But I digress, as that no longer happens, because my children truly understand when I say, “Should we just leave now?”, it means that we just might!
Fortunately, both my children had the same grade one teacher ( she is a wonderful woman, who has three just-grown boys, and really “gets” kids), and therefore, both learned from her what a “litter less” lunch is. “It means that our yogurt should be in one of those Tupperware containers, you know, the ones with the coloured lids? And we should bring a regular kitchen spoon, not a plastic one.” And we are not allowed to bring our sandwiches in baggies (what is a “baggy”, Mum?), we should get a container that you wash afterwards. Madame says that there are lots of them at Value Village, can we go?”…And a water bottle that we can refill at the water fountain in the classroom, not juice boxes, and you remember, we aren’t allowed to bring pop, right, Mum?”…(Pssst, she doesn’t let us drink pop, except when Mr and Mrs Krall come over, she isn’t gonna put it in our lunch!)…And I smile and open the container drawer in the kitchen, “Why don’t you see what we have in here first, before we go all the way to Value Village?” And it is incredible what they find…All those things the teacher mentioned, including a Spider man sandwich box (“Oh yeah! I forgot about this one!”), a couple of Lunchbots, a Tiffin, some Tupperware yogurt containers and about a half dozen water bottles…
So, armed with the wisdom of “Madame”, my seven year old and I head to the grocery store, and as we enter the produce section, she instantly spies the mini packs of “baby-cut” carrots. “You know, Mum, this is creating a lot of garbage. We can make the same snack at home if you buy the big big bag of carrots and then peel them and cut them up and put them into a container.”…Really? Sounds good. She hovers over the small (and I mean tiny!!) container of raspberries, mesmerized for a moment. Then she recovers and says, “It’s not raspberry season, so we shouldn’t buy these. Besides, they probably came from…from Hawaii or something”…Oh, okay. “What about apples?” I ask. “Apples are an excellent snack, so are bananas. Really healthy and they have their own wrappers!” She pauses, wrinkling her brow in thought, “And we have a compost bucket in our class, so I don’t have to bring the core home. Compost is good for the garden, you know. You could put your coffee grounds in too.”
…Our shopping trip continues up and down each aisle, each one creating similar conversation. How the big box of crackers is better than buying those little cheese and cracker things, references to homemade soups and big containers of yogurt (“But you’ll have to buy two, because Daddy likes blueberry and I like vanilla.”)
We are just about to the checkout, when she spies me passing the aisle with the pop and chips. “Mummy! You’re forgetting something….” She is giving me that, I’m-smarter-than-you-are look, and points down the aisle.
“What?” I ask.
“Mr. and Mrs. Krall are coming for dinner tonight, and you promised-” “Yes, you can have ginger ale”. I roll my eyes and she gleefully grabs a big bottle of ginger ale. “Thank you!”
Not all our shopping trips are as peaceful as this one, but it is good to know that those conversations hold enough meaning for her to repeat them at home. And giving them that sort of knowledge makes it easier when you say “no” to things like those pre-packaged lunches or cute little packages of cookies. All of a sudden, you are empowering them to make a difference and do something good for the Earth, which feels better to children than just thinking their Mum or Dad or Grandma is being mean and doesn’t want to buy “fun” stuff for thier lunches. Of course, right now, we are having the fight about how she’s been using the same lunch bag forever!
A great place to find Litterless lunch packing items :www.noplastics.ca