My children's school has just introduced a new rule: "wrap-free lunches."
This means kids are not allowed sandwiches in Glad Wrap, or individually bagged snacks. Food must be sent for lunch in recyclable containers. The point is strangely not just to be bossy food police and annoy me, but to teach kids about minimising packaging waste.
This is an admirable aim, but still ... argh!
Both my children have what are apparently called "sensory issues" about food. Their attitude to food is not so much fussy as OCD-level phobic.
Whoa. Before you start with your mother-blaming criticism, an expert has told me this is probably part of their hard-wired temperament; they wouldn't even eat baby food.
Now aged 6 and 9 they have a very small repertoire. "Mum, can I have my water in a glass with three cubes of ice and a green straw?"
Oops, this is starting to sound like a Kate Hawkesby column.
Anyway, my children's quirks are not the main problem with this policy. The real problem is it doesn't make sense. For example, it is suggested we unwrap muesli bars and send them unwrapped, presumably putting the wrapper in the rubbish at home.
How is this reducing packaging waste? We already have a policy at school that children bring all their rubbish home. I don't want to sound like I am attacking the teachers behind this idea - in fact the ones who introduced this idea are some of the most incredible teachers I know.
(I'm on the board of trustees of my school so I guess I have to say that, but I do really mean it. Trust me, the gratitude of a parent with a quirky child for an understanding teacher knows no bounds.)
But since they are teachers and by inclination enjoy learning, maybe rather than imposing rules on the parents, they could encourage their students to investigate the problematic issues around waste.
Things are not always what they seem. For example, if you ask people which is better for the environment, a paper bag or a plastic bag, they will tend to choose the paper bag. Not so fast.
Sustainability expert Leyla Acaroglu would say this is relying on "environment folklore". Our gut instinct tells us that a biodegradable paper bag is better.
But understanding the net environmental impacts that our actions have is a lot more complex than our intuitive framework allows. Acaroglu uses a scientific process called "life-cycle thinking" going right back to the extraction of the raw materials, the manufacturing, packaging, transportation, use and end of life and its interaction with the natural environment.
Her findings challenge our ideas, including biodegradability.
If a paper bag ends up in nature, in oxygen, it degrades normally and releases carbon. But most natural things don't end up in nature. They end up in landfill. Here it degrades a different way because it is anaerobic. There is no oxygen. Those same carbon molecules turn into methane.
So if you're throwing your paper bag into a normal landfill facility, it is a double negative. Some landfills turn their methane into energy, which reduces the use of fossil fuels, and that really is a positive. So here's an idea.
Maybe the kids at my school could write a letter to the Auckland Council asking them if their waste management contractors are doing this? If not, why not? They could perhaps look at how the civic process works - and how to make change.
That might be a better use of the kids' brains than making their already stressed-out parents send them inedible lunches.