Litterless Lunches @ Work

Posted on September 10, 2016

Did you know that a recent survey on Canadian employees showed that over 60% of us buy lunch at least once a week spending an average of about $9 per meal?  That works out to almost $500 a year – and often, those lunches come with a lot of waste such as non recyclable wrappers and disposable utensils that just end up in our landfills after a single use.

But a “litterless” lunch can be a great way to not only reduce your impact on the planet but also on your wallet. And it can be so easy to do with a few quick tips:

1. Buy a re-usable set of 5 lunch box containers (don't forget the cutlery) or consider using mason jars that seal well and can be great to layer salads or stirfrys.  Your first step is to make it easy on yourself so look for dishwasher safe, waterproof seals and something that fits into your knapsack, bike bag or work case.

2. Avoid single-serve anything: Buy the larger container of yogurt and pour into small re-usable containers on the weekend for the next week. Buying a block of cheese, cutting into bite size portions and packing them into your containers on the weekend, will save money and avoids preservative laden alternatives. (Hint: avoid putting crackers in the same container as they can get soggy from the cheese).The same can be done with dry goods like crackers, nuts, etc. And buying in bulk will help save money, too!

3. Loving leftovers: Who says lunch has to be boring old sandwiches and a banana? If you have leftovers from a dinner and it can be eaten cold or at room temperature, pack them in your re-usable lunch containers the night before while you are putting those leftovers away. Better yet, make extra on the weekend when you actually have time to cook and pre-pack at least a lunch or two so you can grab and go on Monday morning.

4. Avoid the coffee cup: In the late fall and winter, it's understandable that you might want a hot beverage to go along with lunch. But avoid the waste that comes with single use non recyclable coffee cups and bring a beautiful re-usable thermos or cup with you - better yet, leave it in your desk for when you decide to treat yourself at lunchtime!

5. Edible veggies: Cutting up bulk veggies into "snack sizes" that stay crisp and retain their flavour will go a long way to help you enjoy eating healthy. Carrots, celery and sugar snap peas are great options - avoid those pre-portioned packs you see in the grocery store. They are usually pretty flavourless (have you tried them?) and can be expensive.  Cut those veggies up the night before - maybe while you’re preparing dinner since you already have the chopping board out!

6. The art of the salad: a great yummy salad can be packed on the weekend and still be crisp and an enticing meal during the week. Start with the dressing at the bottom of your wide mouth mason jar. Then layer your protein or grain such as chunks of cooked chicken or quinoa. Next layer your nuts or cheese (the things you don’t want to get wet).  Then your leafy greens go last and you seal it nice and tight.  Your salad in a jar can last 2-4 days in the fridge which makes it a great make ahead for your grab and go mornings. When you get to work, all you need to do is dump everything into a bowl and toss.

7. Getting away from your desk: one of the reasons we go out for lunch is to take a real break.  And we’re all for getting outside and enjoying nature. Packing a lunch leaves you more time to actually take a stroll, sit in a nearby park or just leave your desk for awhile and socialize with your co-workers (if you feel so inclined) rather than waiting in line or in a restaurant.

Employing just 2 or 3 of these tips will help reduce waste from going into our landfills, save some money that could be better spent paying down debt or going into savings and help you eat just a wee bit healthier. Now aren’t those 3 great reasons to pack a “litterless” lunch?