How to Pack a Waste-Free Lunch
How to Pack a Waste‐Free Lunch
Many people pack their food in plastic bags before putting it in a brown paper sack. Unfortunately, many components in a sack lunch are just thrown away. Packing a waste-free lunch helps reduce food waste and protect the environment. By picking low-waste foods and putting them in reusable containers, you can eat lunch without any trash!
Bringing Reusable Dinnerware
Buy a reusable lunch box instead of using paper bags.Find a lunch box or bag that’s large enough to hold the food you usually pack. Keep the lunch box in a fridge to keep your food cold until lunchtime. When you’re finished eating, make sure to bring your box back home to use the next day.
- Look for an insulated lunch box if you need to keep food hot or cold. If you don’t have an insulated lunch box or access to a fridge, put a reusable ice pack in your lunch box to keep it cold.
- Steel lunch boxes are great alternatives if you want to avoid using plastic or other packing containers.
- Lunch boxes are sold in many stores throughout the year, but more designs will be available during the late summer when back to school shopping occurs.
- If you need to use a brown paper bag, be sure to recycle it when you’re finished.
Put food in resealable plastic containers.Avoid using plastic bags to store your food. Use portion-sized containers to reduce the amount of space you use inside your lunch box. When you’re finished with your lunch, put the containers back in your lunch box so you can wash them at home.
- Reusable containers also help you save money since you don’t have to keep buying plastic storage bags.
- Bento boxes are reusable containers with multiple compartments so you can store many kinds of food in one easy to carry package.
Other Container Types
Use glass container if you need to microwave your food.Glass is the most microwave-safe container to use. Just be careful since it could be hot when you remove it.
Use cloth for dry foods.Cloth bags work great for sandwiches, grapes, and other foods that aren't wet. However, food wrapped in a cloth can be easily crushed.
Pour drinks into a reusable bottle.Fill a hard plastic bottle with your preferred drink rather than buying single-serve bottles. Add a few ice cubes to keep your drink cold. When you’re finished with your drink, you can rinse it out and fill it with water throughout the day. Wash your bottle each night to use again the next day.
- Keep hot drinks, or even soup, in a Thermos to keep them piping hot.
- Wide-mouthed bottles make it easier to wash the insides and add ice cubes.
Tip:Avoid using juice boxes or pouches since these create a lot of waste. Pour juice from a large bottle at home into a reusable bottle or mason jar to bring with your lunch.
Pack your own metal silverware.Bring a fork, knife, and spoon with you from home so you don’t have to use disposable plastic silverware. When you’ve finished your lunch, rinse off any food scraps before putting the silverware back in your box. Wash the silverware at home so you can easily use it again.
- You only have to bring the silverware you are going to use for your meal.
Bring a cloth napkin instead of paper.Paper waste accounts for 15% of food waste.Keep a tea towel or cloth in your lunch box until it gets dirty. When the cloth gets dirty, take it home and wash it with the rest of your laundry.
- Keep multiple cloth napkins in your home so you have an easy replacement if one gets dirty before you need to do laundry.
Packing Food Efficiently
Purchase snack foods in bulk rather than single-serve portions.Single-serve packages produce a lot of waste from their wrappers. Instead, buy a larger container of the snack food to keep at home. For lunch, fill a small reusable container with the snack food with the portion you’d normally eat.
- For example, instead of buying small bags of chips each day for your lunch, purchase a family-sized bag to keep in your pantry. Pack a small serving in a container for your lunch.
- Bulk packages of food tend to be cheaper than single-serve portions.
Making Single-Serve Portions
Snack Crackers:Instead of getting on-the-go packages, keep a big box at home. Put a serving into a resealable plastic container for your lunch.
Yogurt:Purchase a large tub of the flavor you like. Pour a serving into a reusable container to put in your lunch. Add granola or fresh fruits to even make it into a parfait!
Eat whole pieces of fruit instead of processed fruit cups.Put fruits like apples, pears, and bananas in your lunch box without a container. This way, you still easily get a serving of fruit in your meal without any of the plastic waste.
- If you’re packing a lunch for a child, consider cutting the fruit into pieces and putting it in plastic containers. Many children only take a few bites of whole fruit before throwing them away.
Pack leftover food if you have access to a microwave.Take leftovers that you have left from a previous meal and store them in a microwave-safe container. Heat your food when it’s time for lunch. This way, you can eat the extra food you have rather than making a new meal.
- Leftovers are great and easy choices if you’ve run out of time in the morning to prepare a lunch.
Compost any food scraps if you can.Compost is great to add nutrients to planting soil. If you don’t have leftover food that you can save for another meal, bring the food scraps home.
Video: How to pack a waste free lunch.
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