Ten Tips for Packing a Waste-Free Lunch

Waste-Free lunch with several reusable containers
  1. Start with a reusable lunch box or lunch bag. Avoid single-use items like paper bags. Personalize, monogram, or label your lunchbox, lunchbag, and re-usable items so they do not get lost.
  2. Pack reusable utensils and straws. Avoid disposable, plastic forks, spoons, and knives. Pack utensils made of durable plastic*, bamboo, or stainless steel. Consider buying used utensils from a thrift store.
  3. Use food containers made of cloth, durable plastic, glass, or stainless steel that can be re-used. Avoid plastic baggies, plastic wrap, and aluminum foil. Use a Thermos for hot items, like soup or pasta.
  4. Purchase a refillable beverage container. Avoid single-serving drink boxes, pouches, cans, and bottles. Reusable water bottles are the healthiest and least expensive drink option.
  5. Pack your own dips and condiments. Single-use items are expensive and cost more money in the long run. Use small, re-usable containers for salad dressings, ketchup, and other condiments and side dishes.
  6. Skip the straw. A plastic straw has become a symbol of unnecessary, single-use plastic pollution for the sake of convenience. If you need a straw, purchase one that is reusable and easy to clean.
  7. Consider your napkin. If you prefer paper napkins, purchase napkins that are made from 100% recycled paper. If you use cloth napkins, use environmentally safe detergent to wash them and line-dry them to save energy.
  8. Compost leftover fruit or vegetable waste. If composting is not currently offered, investigate what it would take to implement a composting program at home, school, or the office. Every item you compost makes a difference.
  9. Challenge yourself to eliminate as much waste as possible. Avoid single-use products. Recycle and re-use bottles, plastics, and cans. Host a waste-free challenge to see how small changes can lead to big reductions in waste.
  10. Have fun! Add your own personal style and creativity to your waste-free meals. Consider making your reusable snack bags, lunchbags, and napkins. Or consider purchasing these items or materials at your local thrift store.

Making these seemingly small changes, can make a big difference and help protect our environment. However, these changes can take time and money. If it seems too expensive, start small and recognize you will save money over time, especially if you ditch the more expensive, single-serve products and buy in larger quantities. For example, buying one large bag of pretzels and putting them in your own reusable containers is much cheaper than buying individual, single-serving bags of pretzels.

Finally, take into consideration the age and developmental abilities of the person who will be eating the lunch you are packing. Some containers and lids are more difficult to open than others. Test your products to confirm they are user-friendly. This will also make the transition to waste-free lunches more enjoyable for everyone involved.

* Due to concerns related to plastic, medical professionals and researchers suggest avoiding the use of plastic to store, re-heat, or cook food (https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/is-plastic-a-threat-to-your-health).

Serious Mental Health Side Effects Related to Singulair

Box of Singulair/Montelukast Prescription Medication

Do you or a loved one take Singulair (generic name is Montelukast) for asthma or allergies? Earlier this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) acknowledged serious mental health side effects related to this popular medicine, prescribed to over 35 million people. The side effects include suicidal thoughts or actions, agitation, hallucinations, and depression. Since March 2020, the medication now requires a Black Box warning, due to the overwhelming evidence of serious mental health side effects.

According to A Guide to Drug Safety Terms at FDA, a black box warning “appears on a prescription drug’s label and is designed to call attention to serious or life-threatening risks.” Medline Plus, a website operated by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, has the following information about Singulair/Montelukast:

Montelukast may cause serious or life-threatening mental health changes while you are taking this medication or after treatment has stopped. You should call your doctor right away and stop taking montelukast if you experience any of the following symptoms: agitation, aggressive behavior, anxiety, irritability, difficulty paying attention, memory loss or forgetfulness, confusion, unusual dreams, hallucinations (seeing things or hearing voices that do not exist), repeating thoughts that you cannot control, depression, difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, restlessness, sleep walking, suicidal thoughts or actions (thinking about harming or killing yourself or planning or trying to do so), or tremor (uncontrollable shaking of a part of the body). Be sure that your family or caregiver knows which symptoms may be serious so they can call the doctor if you are unable to seek treatment on your own.

~ National Institutes of Health

If someone you know takes Singulair/Montelukast, encourage them to contact their doctor to discuss whether they should continue taking the medication.

Benefits vs. Risks
Medicine, whether over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription, has side effects. In the best case scenario, the benefits of any drug should outweigh the side effects. However, the FDA found that the benefits of Singulair/Montelukast often did not outweigh the risks.

To educate yourself about the side effects/adverse reactions of any FDA-approved medication, visit DailyMed, a website maintained by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). To help you make the best decisions related to your health, read Think It Through: Managing the Benefits and Risks of Medicines, a guide written by the FDA.

Report Adverse Reactions
If you or a loved one have taken Singulair/Montelukast and have experienced any adverse reactions, you are encouraged to make a report to the FDA’s MedWatch Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program. To do this, visit MedWatch to submit a report online or to download a reporting form.

Written by: Laura Stanton, MA, MS, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Warren County, stanton.60@osu.edu.

Reviewed by: Shari Gallup, MS, CHWC, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Licking County, gallup.1@osu.edu.

DailyMed- Singular/Montelukast: https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=8c166755-7711-4df9-d689-8836a1a70885#S5.1

FDA requires Boxed Warning about serious mental health side effects for asthma and allergy drug montelukast (Singulair); advises restricting use for allergic rhinitis; Risks may include suicidal thoughts or actions: https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-requires-boxed-warning-about-serious-mental-health-side-effects-asthma-and-allergy-drug

Finding and Learning about Side Effects (adverse reactions): https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-information-consumers/finding-and-learning-about-side-effects-adverse-reactions

A Guide to Drug Safety Terms at FDA: https://www.fda.gov/media/74382/download

MedlinePlus- Singulair/Montelukast: https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a600014.html

National Institutes of Health: https://www.nih.gov

Singulair (montelukast) and All Montelukast Generics: Strengthened Boxed Warning – Due to Restricting Use for Allergic Rhinitis: https://www.fda.gov/safety/medical-product-safety-information/singulair-montelukast-and-all-montelukast-generics-strengthened-boxed-warning-due-restricting-use

Think It Through: Managing the Benefits and Risks of Medicines: https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-information-consumers/think-it-through-managing-benefits-and-risks-medicines