Whether your lunch is a quick meal on-the-go or a sit-down affair, our lunches represent a whole lot of waste. Between plastic wrappers, utensils, and to-go containers to the piles of napkins and styrofoam cups, no matter how delicious your mid-day meal may be, it is far from sustainable. According to the EPA, every child who brings a brown-bag lunch to school everyday will generate 67 pounds of waste in one school year (and that’s not even including summer!). If you take a step back and consider the impact of the collective lunches of your family members, it would be enough to make you lose your lunch! (Too far? Maybe.)
But, there is a serious issue going on here. A serious issue with a very simple solution! Pre-planning. I’ve said it before, and I am sure I will say it a million more times, but it is true a few minutes of forethought will save the planet from being buried by brown bags and ultimately save you some in the long-run.
So, here is a simple guide to help you pack a zero-waste lunch.
Shop for Your Supplies in Waste-Free Style
To truly achieve a zero-waste lunch, you have to start at the source. While shopping for salad ingredients or side snacks, consider the packaging these items are sold in.
- Bring your own cloth bags to store produce in, foregoing the wasteful plastic produce ones.
- Look for bulk bin snacks like nuts, granola, or dried fruit, healthy alternatives to processed junk that comes in a lot of packaging. You can bring mason jars to store these items, just make sure you account for the jar weight when calculating prices!
- Bring your own grocery bags. This is really a no-brainer and I’m sure you already do this, but just a reminder!
Get Your Zero-Waste Packing Supplies
There is a non-disposable alternative for every item you can imagine to make your zero-waste lunch-style a breeze. If you don’t have time to pack a lunch the night before, bring your reusable containers for take-out or look for salad bars where you can fill up your own container without the plastic!
- Reuseit.com has everything you need. I recommend a stainless steel food container like this one for sandwiches, salads, and snacks.
- For small snacks, check out these Kleen Kanteen canisters that are super easy to clean and can be stored neatly on a desk.
- Pack a reusable glass water bottle and a glass travel mug for your caffeine fixes.
Don’t Waste Your Leftovers
Under no circumstance should you trash your lunch leftovers! Save what you don’t eat for later, or turn your leftovers into compost.
- Since not everything you eat should go into a compost pile, here is a great infographic you can print out as a reminder of what can and can’t go in a compost pile.
- Check out these awesome leftover ideas for inspiration on how to makeover your leftover lunches.
Now, Feel Great!
Think of all the money you are saving by not buying lunch everyday! Not to mention…we can stop 13 million tons of plastic containers from going to landfill, 780,000 tons of polystyrene cups from rotting in garbage dumps, and you can protect yourself from thousands of toxic chemicals by avoiding plastic lunchware. That’s a win-win-win-win if I’ve ever seen one! Happy Zero-Waste Lunching!
Let’s #CrushPlastic! Click the graphic below for more information.
Image Source: Bandita/Wikimedia Commons
Easy Ways to Help the Planet:
- Eat Less Meat: Download Food Monster, the largest plant-based recipe app on the App Store to help reduce your environmental footprint, save animals and get healthy. You can also buy a hard or soft copy of our favorite vegan cookbooks.
- Reduce Your Fast Fashion Footprint: Take initiative by standing up against fast fashion pollution and supporting sustainable and circular brands like Tiny Rescue that are raising awareness around important issues through recycled zero-waste clothing designed to be returned and remade over and over again.
- Support Independent Media: Being publicly-funded gives us a greater chance to continue providing you with high-quality content. Please consider supporting us by donating!
- Sign a Petition: Your voice matters! Help turn petitions into victories by signing the latest list of must-sign petitions to help people, animals, and the planet.
- Stay Informed: Keep up with the latest news and important stories involving animals, the environment, sustainable living, food, health, and human interest topics by subscribing to our newsletter!
- Do What You Can: Reduce waste, plant trees, eat local, travel responsibly, reuse stuff, say no to single-use plastics, recycle, vote smart, switch to cold water laundry, divest from fossil fuels, save water, shop wisely, donate if you can, grow your own food, volunteer, conserve energy, compost, and don’t forget about the microplastics and microbeads lurking in common household and personal care products!