mmm. I love food. And I think it is the easiest place to transition to a zero-waste lifestyle. People often create a lot of trash around lunch time so let’s put an end to that!
My number one tip is to bring your own! The way I circumvent having to throw together a lunch each morning before work is cooking the night before. Personally, I eat the same thing for dinner and for lunch. Even if you don’t get all your food and lunch supplies package-free, you can still make the final product you take with you zero-waste.
Here’s a great video on zero-waste lunches.
Tools for a zero-waste lunch.
- Lunch box. Personally, I use a stainless steel lunch box with a spill-proof silicone lid from Eco Lunch Box. If you microwave your food, you need a glass or a plastic lunch box. Any Tupperware or Pyrex bowl or Mason jar will do the job.
- Utensils. I bring a spoon and fork in a little pouch. You could also throw in a straw or chopsticks. Many people sport the To-go Ware utensil pouch, and, despite owning one, I don’t like the bamboo utensils. Ambatalia makes a neat utensil roll, but it is pricey. I recommend making your own from old scraps or checking Etsy.
- Water bottle. This is essential! Plastic is terrible and the water from your faucet is fine! I own a Simple Modern and a BKR. I like water bottles that double as a thermos, but they tend to be heavier. There are many companies out there, pick any bottle! (Okay some companies are more eco-friendly than others…)
- Napkins. Napkins seem innocuous because they’re made of paper. However, there is a lot of energy and water that goes into making single-use napkins (and most napkins are bleached – yuck). You cannot recycle napkins and paper towels. Cotton or linen useable napkins are where it’s at. I use cloth napkins from Natural Linens but if I had to repurchase I would buy linen napkins as they are more sustainable. (A hack: wrap your sandwich in a napkin and eat out of it to avoid things slipping out the bottom)
Some extra ideas.
- A straw. I typically drink more water when I’m drinking from a straw. Life Without Plastic sells these straws. I got mine from Bed, Bath, and Beyond.
- Coffee cup. If your workplace or school has a coffee dispenser, you likely hit it up a lot. Bring your own cup! A lot of zero-wasters seem to sport the Keep Cup.
- Thermos for hot drinks. If you need coffee first thing in the morning (hello Starbucks!) or if you’re bringing a hot drink for home, you want to keep your drink warm.
- Food thermos. If you don’t feel like heating up your food, a food thermos is really nice, especially for soups in the winter time.
- Food bag. What do you carry your food in? I typically toss my food into my backpack but if I have soup or something with sauce, I don’t want that near my laptop. Food bags are great if you have a multiple piece lunch and want to keep things all together! Any canvas bag will do the job, but you can also find lunch-specific bags out there. Alternatively, use a large cloth napkin and fold them like this.
- Bee’s wrap. Bee’s wrap is an alternative to plastic cling wrap and works well for sandwiches. Because it is porous it won’t provide the same amount of protection that cling wrap will. Popular brands are Abeego and Bee’s Wrap.
- Stasher silicone Ziploc bags. Ziploc bags are super convenient and super wasteful. I really recommendation Stasher bags as an alternative for bringing snacks and sandwiches.
Regarding single-use items.
If you bring single-use items for lunch there’s really no way to avoid waste. My only suggestion is to try finding alternatives, making your own, or buying bigger bags and dividing things into your preferred portion size.
If your lunch is being provided by some event or meeting you’re attending, no problem! If it’s buffet style, just make sure you have your own plate/bowl, utensils, cup, and napkin on hand. If it’s prepackaged, I usually consider eating it because the food has already been ordered (and might otherwise get thrown out) and I will then voice the problem to whoever ordered the food.
As a special treat, here’s a few of my favorite recipes (all vegetarian, add meat wherever you please).
- Sweet potato and black bean quesadilla. DIY tortilla recipe.
- Sweet potato black bean chili.
- Enchilada stuffed portobellos.
- Roasted Rainbow Winter Buddha Bowl.
- Portobello mushroom pasta.
- Creamy broccoli and spinach soup. Add some cheddar for an extra yummy meal!
- Wild Rice and Mushroom soup.
I’m only sharing brands I’ve used or am familiar with. None of the links are part of an affiliation program or are sponsored by the brands themselves. There are so many options out there, a google search will reveal more!