There is nothing like sliding a perfectly balanced packed lunch into your bag before work to make you feel smug. But you know what is an even better feeling? When the lunch is entirely environmentally friendly. Grab your glass jars, slice your sandwiches and follow these simple tips to keep your al-desko lunch green.
Use alternatives to the plastic lunch box
Although it is a worthy effort to be put your lunch in reusable plastic containers, take a further step towards helping the environment by abandoning the plastic altogether. This means eliminating cling film, sandwich bags and plastic boxes - all of which is doable with a little bit of organisation. Plastic clogs landfills, floats in oceans and kills animals and takes hundreds of years to biodegrade, so getting rid of it completely means a big step towards a green lunchtime.
Consider using a good old reliable brown paper bag instead of plastic wrap to cover your sandwich. Muslin or cloth wraps and snack pouches are attractive, practical and despite the initial outlay, will repay their cost within a few months. Instead of plastic boxes to hold your leftovers, invest in stainless steel or glass containers, or even just a plain jam jar or mason jar that you already have.
Abandon the single-use cutlery
Let’s be honest, you won’t manage to pack a lunch every day. On the occasions when you have to run out and grab some food to eat at your desk, preempt the environmental cost by bringing in a metal fork, knife and spoon from home. It is free and means you’ll avoid single-use plastic. The European Commission is working on a ban for single-use plastics that is expected to come into effect across Europe by 2021, so by doing this you’re ahead of the trend and will find it easy to adapt when the law changes.
Buy local, cook seasonally
Buying food that was grown or produced locally means fewer air and transport miles, and therefore a vastly reduced carbon footprint. Cooking seasonally, shunning strawberries in February and asparagus in November, and buying fruit and vegetables that are being grown in your country means your food will taste better and be more environmentally friendly.
Skip individually wrapped foods
If you can’t resist those 4pm crisps, buy a large bag and decant some at home into an eco-friendly container. If you’re a sucker for those tiny boxes of raisins, portion them out yourself and skip the extra packaging. In 2016, each EU inhabitant produced on average 170kg of packaging waste. Do your bit to cut this alarming figure down.
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Go vegan, temporarily
Just one or two vegan lunches a week will vastly cut down on the amount of meat and animal products you’re consuming. A 2018 study by the University of Oxford found that lowering your meat and dairy intake is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on Earth. Eating a delicious vegan salad or soup is so effortless you’ll barely notice the difference.
Cook with an eye on tomorrow
It’s the easiest thing in the world to double what you’re cooking the night before. The hardest part about cooking extra food is having the self-restraint not to finish both meals at dinner time.
Be careful when ordering in
It’s delicious and easy, but having food delivered to your desk is fraught with eco-hazards. But you don’t have to abandon your favourite Deliveroo haunts. When ordering, check the Sustainable Restaurant Association to ensure that the restaurant matches your food values and write a note explaining that you don’t want napkins, single-use cutlery or any other extraneous and non-environmentally friendly items included in your order.
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Get a reusable water bottle
If you’re partial to a drink of water with your lunch or a postprandial cup of tea or coffee, invest in reusable water and coffee cups. For an initial small outlay, you’ll never need to buy a plastic water bottle again, or feel your heart sink when you throw away a cardboard coffee cup.
Compost, compost, compost
No-one likes the last few soggy salad leaves or the stale crust of bread with no filling, but rather than throw it away, take it home and add it to your compost or green waste bin. Instead of ending up in landfill and taking longer to decompose, it will contribute to an improved ecosystem. And of course, your garden or pots of balcony herbs will feel the benefit.
It’s great that you’re making an effort to make your lunch more green, but it’s important to care for yourself as well. You’ll be better able to focus and more inclined and motivated to live an eco lifestyle if you’re well-rested and refreshed, and it’s hard to do that when you spend a solid nine hours a day staring at a screen. Go outside and breathe some fresh air, even if just for a few minutes. You’ll come back to your desk clear-headed and ready to take on the next challenge.
Words: Alice Johnson