Sustainable Sustenance

Target: Lower/mid primary

Numeracy (NNS)/ Literacy (NLS) or other curriculum area focus/reference:

Knowledge and understanding of environmental change and sustainable development

  • Recognise how people can improve the environment or damage it and how decisions about places and environments affect the future quality of people's lives
  • Recognise how and why people may seek to manage environments sustainably and to identify opportunities for their own involvement

Resources needed:

  • Packed lunch remains· Newspaper for spreading out rubbish
  • Rubber gloves for those handling waste
  • Calculators

To examine the extent and nature of rubbish created through packed lunches

To investigate what happens to the rubbish and how it could be reduced.

Length: 1 hour

Description of Activity

1. Children and teachers with lunchboxes pool their waste/leftovers after the meal (and others who may have used the tuck shop).*
2. Count the number of pieces of waste.
3. Multiply by the number of classes to give an idea of the total number of items of waste for the whole school per day. Multiply again to find out how many items of waste are produced by packed lunches per year.
4. Discuss and debate what happens to waste from this point on, i.e. enabling children to think 'beyond the bin' to understand that rubbish is buried or burnt.
5. Investigate which rubbish will rot and which won't, leading on to discussion on composting etc.(could involve an off-shoot experiment).
6. Introduce: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (+ Repair) and discuss in relation to packed lunchbox contents. e.g. alternatives to plastic and other packaging used in packed lunches - using plastic bottles which can be re-used (or turned into fleeces and duvets!); using lunch boxes for sandwiches rather than foil or plastic bags, cardboard packaging can be recycled etc.
7. Now get children to brainstorm (individually or in groups) how they could design a 'sustainable lunchbox' - one that minimises waste
8. Conclude by asking children to feed back some of their ideas.
  *This activity could be carried out when all children have lunch boxes rather than just a few, e.g. after a school trip when all the children have taken a packed lunch.
Areas of Oxfam Curriculum for Global Citizenship addressed by activity
Knowledge and Understanding
Values and Attitudes
  Social justice and equity   Critical thinking   Sense of identity and self-esteem
  Diversity   Ability to argue effectively   Empathy and sense of common humanity
  Globalisation and Interdependence   Ability to challenge injustice & inequalities   Commitment to social justice and equity
  Sustainable development   Respect for people and things   Valuing and respecting diversity*
  Peace and conflict   Co-operation and conflict resolution   Concern for the environment and commitment to sustainable development
  Belief that people can make a difference


Follow-up/Further ideas/Homework

Using the ideas for a 'sustainable lunchbox' ask children to design a poster to advertise waste reduction in school. Ask children to take their ideas for a 'sustainable lunchbox' home. This could help to ensure that the activity influences parents/carers in what they purchase and how they prepare for packed lunches.

Further work could be done on 'food miles' i.e. environmental impact of manufacturing / transporting food products.