Eleven billion pieces of packaging are said to be chucked out each year.
I know what you're thinking - that ridiculous amount is because people were eating meals on the go and we don't have to worry now we're working from home. While some waste has been reduced, we can't celebrate just yet. Sadly humans have got a way to go when it comes to counteracting our vast global impact!
For those who are returning to commuting or find themselves guiltily binning unnecessary waste, this one is for you.
As always, I like to start simple. We lead busy lives, plus we can be a bit lazy, so I try to stick with tips that are doable in the long run. With that said, let's start with a waste-free lunchbox.
- Ditch or limit packaged food
Ok, I get it. It’s a lot easier to reach for the pre-packaged, pre-prepared snacks. But a healthy alternative will only benefit the environment and your body in the long run. You could switch the muesli bar for a homemade oat or raw nut slice. Otherwise, swap the pre-made muffin for a home-baked one and bin the chips for some home-stored popcorn. Finally, consider fruit snacks and veggie sticks with some homemade hummus instead of a biscuit, lollies or another guilty snack.
I know this sounds like yet another task, but a bit of a bake-off, some forward-planning and freezing a stash means you'll save money and have more food to use as needed. This is also perfect if you have school-aged children who are always searching for the next bite.
- Buy in bulk
Here's another superior alternative to buying individually wrapped snacks. Try sourcing ingredients from bulk food stores and pack them using BYO jars or containers. (I personally love The Source Bulkfoods).
If this is too expensive or there are no suppliers nearby, you can always buy food in large quantities to use over time (I'm thinking Cosco). The giant tub of greek yoghurt or a big bag of rice will a) save you heaps of money and b) will last a lot longer than their smaller companions.
- Compost your food scraps
Take home your food scraps and compost them. Alternatively, if you don’t have access to compost, ask around your work or perhaps you can be the office hero and set one up. You can join a communal garden too.
Composting is also a great habit for children and many schools now have programs set up. This beats finding a decaying uneaten apple in the bottom of your kid’s bag.
- Disposing of plastic wrappers correctly
There may be times where you purchase something wrapped and/or boxed up. And yes this happens to me too, especially with those Amazon orders. No one is perfect all the time!
But if you can, try to avoid plastic wrapping and instead look for things packaged in cardboard and compostable packaging. Make sure you dispose of all packaging properly and get to know the recycling programs on offer in your community. For example, Coles and Woolies take plastic bags used for wrapping. So if I purchase some wraps, I save my stash and take them back to be recycled properly. It’s not perfect, but it has to be better than more plastic in a landfill.
- Give up the plastic completely.
Ok, time for self-promotion. For lunch on the go, you need the right food container to suit your needs. The Moon lunch bag could be your perfect companion here as it is fully insulated and will keep your lunch safe during your morning commute. Of course, if you're plastic-free already that's great too.
Try filling the bag with reusable containers, bento boxes or a sandwich wrapped with beeswax/reusable wraps. Also, swap the plastic water bottle for a good quality reusable one (inset Moon plug here). With that out of the way, let's get to our next tip:
- Start simple and you can do it
Not only do these easy swaps reduce our waste and educate our young ones, but they also limit exposure to toxins found in many plastics, including BPA and phthalates. More on this.
Furthermore, you'll know exactly what your family are eating and encourage healthy meal habits (assuming the kids are not doing dodgy swaps in the school playground!) Plus you'll save money in the long run. Win/win.
In the next few weeks, I'm also going to put together some lunch recipes to make this whole plastic-free lifestyle easier and healthier too so look out for that!