COVID cases are falling, spring is approaching, and we’re STOKED to get out there to picnic, brunch, festival and road-trip. Yes, those nouns are now verbs, but if you clicked on this article you’re obviously not here for a grammar lesson.
We nomadic, eco-conscious foodies can’t just go absolutely buck-wild and abandon a year's worth of learned caution around every single decision made. Other than being pandemic safe, let’s eat in a way that will work for our wallets, bodies, and our dearest mother earth.
Here are 3 ideas for on-the-go lunch ideas that won’t break the bank and won’t trash our waterways.
1. Pack Your Lunch (Cost: $ Eco: 🌱🌱)
This one seems obvious but it is definitely worth noting. Prep a quick sandwich, salad, or leftover soup.
Pros: affordable, ideal for strict dieters, can be zero waste when equipped with reusable gear like bento box, soup container, and reusable sandwich wraps.
Cons: May require an enlightened level of grown-up forethought and planning. Like any habit, this one may need some getting used to. Extend your pre-leaving-home mental checklist to include some food, water, and reusable gear.
Life gets busy, so the next few ideas will equip you to thrive while hunting for food out in the wild... no lunchbox necessary.
2. Order plastic-free takeout (Cost: $$, Eco: 🌱)
Support local businesses and give your self a break from meal prep.
Safe bets are pizza and burritos. When they stop coming in cardboard boxes and foil we can throw our hands up in defeat, but until then… they are a smart and delicious move.
For other foods, feel free to ask what kind of packaging they use (aluminum and non-lined paper are best, ‘compostable plastics’ are problematic) and make your preferences heard.
Restaurants need to start listening to packaging preferences with the same importance as dietary needs. Dairy upsets my stomach, plastic packaging upsets my soul. If either goes unconsidered, that’s going to impact how often you return which is bad for business.
As with any takeout situation, you’ve got to be verbal and vigilant to stop an unsolicited tidal wave of utensils, condiment packets, sauce cups, etc. If you haven’t tried asking this before, give it a go! Most cashiers are excited to hear it and totally appreciate the earth friendly request:
“What kind of packaging do you use?”
“No bag or utensils, please.”
“Any sauce or dressing can be added directly to the food! No side cups or packets, please.”
“Can you please avoid plastic while building my order?”
Keep a watchful eye for your order as its actually being built...the last 2,000 orders had utensils thrown in, so don’t expect muscle memory to lapse just for you.
Companies like Dispatch Goods provide reusable, returnable takeout containers for select San Francisco Bay Area restaurants.
3. Make your own lunch... picnic style! (Cost: $ Eco: 🌱)
Fresh Bagel: $1.00
Salt and pepper $.02
This delicious meal requires morning meal prep and costs less than $5 at the grocery store. If you bring your own utensils, the only waste will be a backyard compostable peel, stem, and paper bag.
Pro tip: In every kitchen drawer in America there's an unused chili flake packet from last year’s pizza. Put it in your backpack to complement your next DIY next avocado toast.
That's it! Now get out there you hungry, beautiful clean freaks! We’d love to hear about your ideas and experiences in reducing packaging waste, so comment below.