I don’t know about you, but I dread my turn on the team snack sign-up sheet. Maybe it’s a dozen hot and sweaty kids in soccer cleats running toward me, ravaging through my stuff like wild animals. Or maybe it’s the aftermath of the carnage and all the guilt I feel about tons of wrappers left floating in the wind. Somehow, in an effort to make our kids happy and our lives easy, team snacks have become a super wasteful tradition that I decided, was in need of a green makeover.
(Disclaimer #1: I’m not a crafty, go-the-extra-mile-to-make-it-cute-mom. I value ease and convenience like everyone else. But, I also value treading lightly on the earth and doing my part to create less waste. And bringing team snacks has been one of my biggest challenges as a green momma.)
With our culture of convenience, individually wrapped snacks make our lives very easy, so I get it, this may totally suck that I’m adding a green twist. This is when I loose a few moms. They think, “Here she comes, the Green police. Everyone run, she is here to tell us how wasteful we are being and all the things we are putting in the wrong bin and she is about to make our lives much more difficult and expensive.”
But stay with me, I’ll make it simple. This a no guilt, green zone. These are just some ideas, that take a tiny amount of prep, some bulk supplies from Amazon or a local health food store and then each time it’s a synch to make a zero waste, zero guilt snack.
So here it is, our traditional team snack. Every single packaging item here, the drink box, the straw, the plastic wrap around the straw, the snack wrapper, the plastic zip lock will all end up in the landfill. Drink boxes (mini-cartons) and snack wrappers are usually made from a combination of plastic, paper, and foil, rendering them non-recyclable in most paces. Thin, filmy plastic that has been contaminated by food, also cannot be recycled in most places. Some people go the extra mile to bring plastic sports drinks in bottles that can be recycled. But the reality is, many playing fields don’t yet have recycling and the majority end up in the landfill, and take 450 years to break down.
Unfortunately, individually wrapped food was the way of the 80’s and 90’s. Our generation knows a lot more about waste, and with that knowledge comes a responsibility to think outside the box and get creative.
You can find individual, non-bleached, waxed paper bags pouches that are completely compostable online or at many health food stores. They breakdown quickly in a compost pile (or the landfill), unlike a plastic bag, so no guilt. If you really want to be adorable, you can buy little cardboard boxes made in the shape of old fashion french-fry or mini-movie popcorn containers; again, anything but plastic and foil/plastic hybrids that sit in the landfill for years and years.
(Disclaimer #2: In most scenarios, we can do without any individual wrappers, even compostable ones. I use these compostable convenience items only as a last resort, for occasions like this, where I can’t use reusable containers.)
Next, head to the bulk section of your local grocery store. Most kids love the bulk bins, and love weighing the food and putting the stickers on. (Uh, don't get me started on stickers.) You can find many traditional snacks as well as cool specialty snacks in the bulk aisle. I bring my own mesh bags that I use for produce when I shop in the bulk section, to avoid these sneaky plastic bags.
Instead of bagging your snack, you could get really creative and make food that doesn’t need a package, like popcorn balls. Again, I’m not that crafty, and I am in no way skilled at making food into shapes. My kids will never have foods that smile back at them at the breakfast table. But I do own an air popper and that creates a lot of squeals just by plugging it in. I love to buy bulk organic popcorn kernels and pop my own pop popcorn.
For a Halloween or holiday twist, you can make caramel corn or add a festive treat to the popcorn. Again, you may be good at this. I am not. I usually attempt something like this an hour before the game and find myself in a completely panic. So I stick to the basics. Here, I got a little wild and added some yogurt-covered pretzels that I also found in the bulk bins.
For a drink, I use organic lemonade since I have a kid that hates juice. And I serve it in compostable cups. These are made from corn and start to breakdown in the compost pile or landfill when they start heating up. Cups, that look like plastic, but are made from corn and other renewable materials, are becoming much more affordable now and you can buy them in bulk and keep them in a cool place like your pantry for occasions like this. But for occasions close to home, reusable is always preferable.
Finally, the fruit. Lucky for us, Mother Nature was a very smart green momma. Many fruits come with their own natural package, like tangerines and bananas. Or, you can just do like our moms did and put out a bowl of cut fruit for kids to grab.
With a few supplies, its pretty simple to turn a wasteful team snack into a zero waste, zero guilt, sports snack that the kids love! And bonus, less wrappers to clean out of your probably already filthy car!