Most people who have power saving home appliances and recycle their plastics consider themselves to be decent, environmentally aware citizens. But is that enough? Does that solve the world-wide waste management problem that both developed and developing countries are experiencing? Have you ever considered the impact of your lunch… maybe it’s time for zero-waste lunches.
Everyone has heard of the 3 R’s: Reduce, Re-use, and Recycle. But the greater part of society has become fixated on the last R and considers recycling as a big enough personal contribution to the environmental revolution.
Zero-Waste Lunches – A great way to reduce your footprint
One way of incorporating the first 2 Rs, reduce and re-use, into your everyday life is by committing to packing Zero Waste Lunches. You ensure that your lunch doesn’t produce any garbage (not even recyclable waste).
The main emphasis is on eliminating packaging, which today has become focused on convenience rather than sustainability. Cute little cartons of raisins, juice boxes, and even trail mix packages make packing a healthy lunch a snap. But is this healthy for our planet? WasteFreeLunches.org estimated that the average school child generates 67 lbs of lunch waste a school year, and most of these little ones don’t even indulge in takeout meals, which come in Styrofoam or paper containers, as their parents might. So here are 3 tips for lightening the footprint of your lunch.
Tip # 1 Pack Differently
Packing waste free lunches doesn’t have to be a hassle. There are many packaging alternatives and sustainable products that are easy to acquire and make the switch almost effortless. The Tupperware empire was the first to get good traction when it comes to re-usable containers to store and transport food. These are ideal for packing sandwiches, snacks like crackers and cheese, or fruits and veggies. Re-usable containers are perfect for replacing all the Ziploc bags, cling wrap, aluminum foil or plastic bags which are the customary method of getting our homemade meals to work or school.
Of course there are more durable (and cooler) alternatives to these like stainless steel containers or trendy mason jars. These won’t get crushed in a gym bag or spill in your purse. If you are afraid of your sandwich falling apart in your container, try beeswax paper instead of cling wrap. It’s naturally waterproof and slightly sticky, so no danger of sauces leaking, and once you are done with it, just wash, dry, and re-use.
Beverages are also a great part of this waste problem. Plastic water bottles have started to be replaced with re-fillable plastic or metal bottles and paper coffee cups with practical insulated coffee mugs. These aren’t difficult to find, and are often even given away as corporate gifts by companies. But other beverages like juice and milk continue to be purchased and served in individual cartons or bottles when there is no reason for them not to be packed at home in glass or re-fillable plastic bottles as well.
Finally, ditch the plastic shopping bags or brown paper bags in favour of a re-usable lunch bag or box. It might have been a few years since you rocked a lunch bag to school, but just a reminder: if let your style and personality shine through, you’ll be the star of the lunch room.
Tip #2 Change Your Purchasing Habits
Instead of buying cases of individually packaged apple juice cartons or granola bars in non-recyclable wrapping, consider purchasing as many things as possible in bulk, to minimize the amount of waste per unit. At home, you can repackage whatever it is- yogurt, milk, nuts, and cookies, into single servings that are easy to toss into a lunch bag.
When possible make things from scratch and pack them yourself. You’ll find a lot of recipes online for easy muffins, granola bars, and even staples like bread or peanut butter. This eliminates a lot of waste and gives you a chance to make some healthy diet changes!
Life happens and we can find ourselves with an empty fridge or without time to pack a lunch. If you decide to get takeout, research which restaurants have recyclable containers or allow you to bring your own in order to minimize waste. A quick way of avoiding this situation in the future is cooking a few more portions for dinner and then keeping them in the fridge or the freezer for quick lunches.
Tip #3 Commit to a Zero Waste Lifestyle (and Zero Waste Lunches)
Making a lifestyle change is always difficult to do alone. So don’t!
Pack zero waste lunches for your entire family, taking turns preparing them with whoever is capable. See if your children have a zero waste lunch program at school, and if not, maybe suggest it to the appropriate person.
Campuses are starting to take notice of this issue as well, with innovative universities implementing programs where food vendors serve food in reusable containers and allow students to return them to designated points for sanitation and eventual reuse.
Set up a competition at your workplace, encouraging colleagues to stop generating waste associated with lunches. Promotional product company, Fairware works with leading brands to not only source cool zero waste lunch kits and re-usable cups, they work with our clients to develop zero-waste programs to change behaviors and break down the barriers to using them. Reusable utensils and containers are excellent corporate gift ideas, showing your company’s commitment to sustainability and zero waste lunches.
Raise the bar for yourself and those around you- save the earth by packing a zero waste lunch!