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Packing an Environmentally-Friendly, or Waste-Free Lunch

Packing a Waste-Free Lunch

A waste-free contains no disposable packaging and produces no food waste. The typical homemade waste-free lunch is packed in a lunch box or backpack (or reusable paper sack). The food is “packaged” in reusable and resealable containers so that leftovers can be saved for later.



A Typical American Lunch

  • sandwiches sealed in plastic bags
  • fruits and vegetables in plastic bags
  • prepackaged chips, cookies, fruit bars, granola bars, cheeses, and fruit leathers
  • prepackaged yogurts, fruit sauces, and puddings
  • crackers, pretzels, chips, and other snack foods sealed in plastic bags
  • disposable juice boxes, foil juice pouches, soda cans, water bottles, and milk cartons
  • plastic forks and spoons
  • paper napkins
  • reusable lunchboxes and disposable paper and plastic bags

A Waste-Free Lunch

  • sandwiches and other main dishes, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, and treats in a reusable lunch container
  • cloth napkins
  • stainless-steel forks and spoons
  • reusable drink containers
  • reusable lunchboxes

*With this type of lunch, lunch food items can be bought in larger quantities. The packaging can be left at home for reuse or recycling. Waste-free lunches are not only a wise environmental choice, but they are less expensive as well.  

What's A Waste-Free Lunch?

Image: checkmark. Start with a reusable lunchbox, backpack or brief case -- Avoid disposable plastic and paper bags.

Image: checkmark. Pack your food with reusable containers -- Avoid plastic bags, plastic wrap, aluminum foil, and prepackaged foods whenever possible.

Image: checkmark. Include a drink in a refillable container -- Avoid single-use juice boxes, drink bottles, cans and pouches whenever you can..

Image: checkmark. Add reusable utensils -- Eliminate disposable utensils.

Image: checkmark. Use a cloth napkin -- Eliminate paper napkins.

Image of a lunch box.

Image of the recycle arrows.

Image: blue and green dots.Image: blue and green dots.Image: blue and green dots.Image: blue and green dots.Image: blue and green dots.

REDUCE - Cut down on packaging and food waste by purchasing fresh produce and bulk bin items, and reusing your bags.

REUSE - Pack lunch in reusable containers. Use a refillable drink bottle, a cloth napkin and reusable utensils.

RECYCLE - Search out recycle bins instead of tossing recyclables in the trash. If you can't find a recycle bin at work or school, take your recyclables home.

ROT - Start a compost pile at home, work or school. If you're low on space opt for a worm bin.

Image of a girl selling used books, a cat using a recycle bin and a man adding to his compost.
Packing a waste-free lunch may take more time but, given the benefit, it's well worth the extra effort. Here are some tips for making it work:
Image: checkmark. PACK LUNCHES IN THE EVENING and store them in the refrigerator overnight.

Image: checkmark. MAXIMIZE LEFTOVERS. Prepare extra servings at dinner. Pack the leftovers in lunchboxes in the evening while you're cleaning up.

Image: checkmark. Stock your kitchen with FRESH FRUITS, VEGETABLES, WHOLE GRAINS AND OTHER NUTRITIOUS FOODS and store them in the refrigerator overnight.

Image: checkmark. Keep NUTS AND DRIED FRUITS on hand.

Image: checkmark. Buy from a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program or FARMERS MARKET. Visit www.localharvest.org for locations near you.

Image: checkmark. WRITE YOUR NAME ON ALL YOUR CONTAINERS before leaving the house.

Image: alternating blue and green dots.
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