| Environmental Columns

An easy first step towards reducing waste on a daily basis: the zero-waste lunch box

The families taking part in the Zero-Waste Challenge began their journey toward reducing waste at the source a couple of days ago and enjoyed a workshop on preparing zero-waste lunches to go.

While washable items are easy to use at home, they’re often overlooked when it comes to lunches at work, at school or on the go. There are, however, a few simple habits that you can adopt.

  1. The zero-waste set

Opt for a reusable water bottle. With a wide range of shapes and colours available on the market, it’s easy to find one that suits your tastes and needs. And if you forget your bottle, you can always drink water from a glass or coffee mug! This makes it easy to eliminate disposable plastic water bottles. These bottles are usually made of PETE (plastic no.1), and are not designed to be used over and over again.

To avoid using small juice boxes with plastic straws, you can buy large containers of beverages and fill up small reusable bottles or flasks that will fit neatly in your lunch box.

Opting for a set of washable and reusable utensils along with a cloth napkin to keep in your lunch box, desk drawer or bag will help you put an end to non-recyclable and non-compostable single-use plastic utensils and paper napkins. After all, these utensils take up the same amount of space in bags as plastic ones, but they don’t end up in the garbage after meals! What’s more, you already have these items at home, so you don’t have to buy new ones. Tip: always have an extra set in your desk or bag in case you forget them! Some workplaces also equip their kitchen or cafeteria with a few sets of stainless-steel utensils for common use.

Bring a mug from home for your coffee at the office. As with water, hot beverages can be served in a washable coffee or tea cup. When you’re on the go, or if you prefer coffee or tea from a coffee shop, insulated cups are a good option.

  1. Eliminate packaging from your lunch box

Disposable plastic sandwich or snack bags can be replaced with small containers or reusable bags made of waxed fabric or silicone. Leftovers from last night’s dinner can be put in food-grade boxes or insulated containers. They make an excellent lunch for children and adults alike.

Yogurt can be purchased in large containers and served in small reusable ones.

Pre-packaged desserts or snacks, such as soft bars or cookies, can be purchased in bulk or in large quantities, kept in a well-sealed container and placed in small individual ones that can be reused every day. This solution is often more economical. There are also several recipes available for those who want to make them at home and then serve them in reusable containers.

A zero-waste lunch box inevitably means more dishes to wash. Many reusable containers can go in the dishwasher. To ensure that these items last a long time, it’s important to rinse them promptly after use to prevent mould from forming.

No matter what you decide to do, keep in mind that reducing waste at the source is a gradual process. Take it one step at a time without putting pressure on yourself, and you’ll soon realize that it can be done!