The Zero Garbage Lunch

By Maria Prohaszka

Whether you’re "brown bagging" it or eating out, it is possible to have a lunch which produces little or no garbage.

It wasn’t very long ago that 1 used to pack 3 conventional "brown bag" lunches every day. Then one day I decided it was time to cut down on the amount of garbage my household was producing. So I started to do some figuring. I was sending out 15 drinking boxes a week in lunches. In a school year that totalled about 540 tetra-paks. I used to think that these little boxes were the greatest invention - so convenient, easy and perfect for lunches. Unfortunately, they cannot be reused or recycled because they are made from three layers of materials: an outer layer of plastic, a middle layer of cardboard and an inner of aluminum foil. So I went out and purchased Tupperware cups with lids.

The next thing to tackle was the sandwiches. Being a mathematical type of person, I again began to do some figuring. I found out that in one year my family of five had gone through 380 metres of plastic wrap. That’s enough to wrap around my house 10 times! I decided it was no more necessary to wrap my sandwiches in all that plastic wrap than it was to wrap my house in it. I went out and bought plastic sandwich boxes with lids. And do you know, the 60 metre box of plastic wrap I bought a year ago is still not empty.

That took care of the sandwiches and drink, so how about the desserts and snacks? I find the small, clear plastic milk bags useful for a number of things. I cut the tops off and wash them out, then use them to wrap up cookies, muffins and vegetable sticks. Puddings, yoghurt and salads I make or buy in bulk and I reuse small yoghurt containers to send in lunches.

I couldn’t send my zero-garbage lunch to school in a disposable bag. could I? The solution: a reusable, washable lunch bag similar in size and appearance to the conventional cloth bag. Since these bags are difficult to find in stores and quite easy to sew up, I’ve included a pattern and instructions.

Now you "brown baggers" can proudly carry your zero-garbage lunch to school or work. But what about the people who eat out? You too can make the right choices so that your lunch will produce as little garbage as possible. An obvious one is to avoid fast food restaurants that use disposable dishes. Instead, eat at restaurants that use REAL dishes. If you find, for whatever reason, you simply must eat at a fast food place, why not ask for your burger on a napkin? By doing this you accomplish two things. Not only have you produced less garbage but you have given that restaurant a message-you don’t approve of the garbage they are producing.

Finally, don’t forget to take your travel mug with you wherever possible, and encourage others to do the same. You can leave one at the office with your name on it, carry one in your gym bag and take one with you to social events. It may take a little getting used to, but it will eventually become a habit.

Maria Prohaszka is a mother of three from Arva, Ontario.


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