Pack a Zero Waste Lunch – Day 17 of the Zero Waste Challenge
31 Day Zero Waste Challenge
January 17, 2019 | Kathryn Kellogg
Last Updated on July 9, 2020
Lunch can arguably be one of the most wasteful meals. There’s lots of single-use packaging and lots of easy grab-and-go options wrapped in plastic.
Today I’m challenging you to ditch the fast-food to-go salads, the saran wrapped wraps, and plastic soup containers.
Today, I challenge you to pack your own lunch from home in reusable containers.
It’s day seventeen of the zero waste challenge! The beginning of the challenge is focused on simple swaps like bringing your own water bottle and bags to the grocery store.
Now, we’re in the second phase of the challenge. These changes are lifestyle changes like learning to make your own snacks, decluttering your life the zero waste way, and conserving natural resources.
Today we’re talking about packing your lunch.
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Lunch time can be super wasteful. Typically, we eat this meal away from home while at work or school.
This can mean lots of disposable items from individually packed drinks and snacks to plastic baggies and brown paper bags.
It’s also the time of day, when we’re most likely to head out and get takeout. Most of us eat our lunches at our desks.
We don’t typically have time to go to a restaurant and sit down to eat so we’ll call ahead, pick up our lunch in disposable packaging, and plop right back down at our desks and get back to work!
There’s a few simple ways to avoid making a wasteful lunch part of your daily routine.
By packing my lunch, I find it is a super easy way for me to combat any unnecessary waste. I often see co-workers go out to grab sandwiches in those Styrofoam trays and/or wrapped in plastic wrap.
For me, it’s a lot easier to make my own sandwich. It’s also way cheaper and typically a healthier option.
If you don’t like the idea of eating the same thing day in day out, I’m totally with you. You certainly don’t have to stick to one generic meal to stay waste free.
I like to stick to two salads, two sandwiches and one leftover throughout the week, as a general rule. For more information, here’s how I pack my own zero waste lunch.
A few challenges back we talked about meal prep (day 15 to be exact). That skill can certainly help you pack your own zero waste lunches in no time.
Taking the time to prepare your lunch will make you a lot less likely to purchase a to-go soup or salad.
You can make your lunch the night before, or prep your lunch for the whole week on a Sunday night. It’s totally up to you.
If you’re in a hurry, you can also whip up a meal a few minutes before leaving for work.
On those days, I suggest making something easy like a sandwich or packing leftovers.
For some meal inspiration, here’s a few lunch ideas that’ll get you through work:
Avocado, hummus, tomato and sprout sandwich.
Homemade veggie noodle soup.
Lettuce, clementine, strawberry, almond salad.
Butternut squash soup.
Collard green wraps.
Peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Kale, butternut, pumpkin seed and cranberry salad.
Potato leek soup.
You can get a lot of the ingredients for these meals at your local farmers market, plastic free. If a particular fruit or vegetable needed for the meal isn’t in season, replace it with one that is.
It’s always best to make meals using real, whole foods whenever possible. Overly processed foods tend to be the ones that come in the most packaging, after all, so be sure to buy your meal ingredients wisely.
I like to pair my lunches with little sides as well. Some good, waste free sides are apples, carrots, or dried fruits bought in bulk. Check out this blog post for more information on how to grocery shop without creating any trash.
Along with making meals from whole foods, consider what you will store your meals in. I’ve listed some of my favs below and they are affiliate links. For more information see my disclosure policy.
You can carry everything in a big lunch sack or bag with you to work, for starters. As far as storing the actual food goes, there are so many options.
Here are some zero waste lunch essentials:
Mason jars: Perfect for storing salads, soups or snacks.
Glass snapware: Great for salads, leftovers or wraps.
Metal tiffins: Ideal for sandwiches, leftovers, or snacks.
Cloth napkins: Can be used to transport bread or apples.
Beeswax wraps: Perfect for sandwiches and burritos.
Reusable Sandwich Bags: Sandwiches and snacks!
Silicone Stasher Bags: I use them to store everything… except soup.
On top of these items, be sure to take with you some reusable cutlery and a reusable water bottle.
You can take your salad dressing with you, or dips for wraps/sides, in a small little glass jar, or a metal dip cup with a silicone lid. You’d be amazed at how much waste you’ll cut back on.
If you prefer to eat out of real plates and bowls, consider bringing some dishes to work with you.
You can store plates and flatware at work. This way, when you’re ready to eat, you can just place your meal onto an actual dish or bowl.
If you love getting daily takeout then be sure to check out this blog post! It’s super easy to get takeout zero waste it just takes a touch of planning ahead.
take the challenge!
Over the next 14 days, your challenge is to pack your lunch.
Instead of buying lunch to go, or storing it in a disposable zip lock bag, make your own and put it in a reusable container.
You can buy whole foods at the farmers market to transform into delicious meals like salads and sandwiches. Store them in reusable glassware, mason jars, metal tiffins or cloth napkins and bring it to work.
Will you be taking the challenge?
Just starting out? Have 1,000 burning questions!? Get access to my private Facebook group, where I’ll be hosting weekly lives throughout the challenge and I answer all of your most pressing questions.
PLUS! I’ll be sending out a brand new e-book at the end of the challenge called the Game On Handbook.
Which is all about individual ways to fight climate change. You don’t want to miss it.
miss a day?
- Day 1: Buy Less
- Day 2: Say No to Straws
- Day 3: Bring Your Own Reusable Water Bottle
- Day 4: Zero Waste Coffee
- Day 5: How to Actually Remember to Bring Your Bags to the Grocery Store
- Day 6: Use Real Stuff
- Day 7: Zero Waste Snacks
- Day 8: Declutter Your Life the Zero Waste Way
- Day 9: The Ultimate Guide to Zero Waste Cleaning
- Day 10: How to Compost
- Day 11: Conserve Natural Resources
- Day 12: Pick Up Litter
- Day 13: Zero Waste Grocery Shopping
- Day 14: Fight Food Waste
- Day 15: Meal Prep
- Day 16: Repair Something
- Day 17: Pack a Zero Waste Lunch
- Day 18: Use Cloth Napkins
- Day 19: Bring Home Leftovers
- Day 20: Zero Waste Dishwashing
- Day 21: Recycle the RIGHT Way!
- Day 22: Zero Waste Toilet Paper
- Day 23: Reduce Waste in Your Beauty Routine
- Day 24: Vote with Your Dollars
- Day 25: Be Prepared
- Day 26: Stop Junk Mail
- Day 27: Shop Secondhand
- Day 28: Shop Local
- Day 29: Start a Local Zero Waste Group
- Day 30: Get Involved in Local Government
- Day 31: Do a Trash Audit