Day 3: Zero Waste Week 2014

On Day Three of Zero Waste Week I’m going to square up to an area where I could definitely reduce my waste – the packed lunch. It wasn’t always a ‘problem issue’ for me. In fact I’ve been polishing my halo for about a year on this topic…

For as long as I have known my other half, until last August, he bought his lunch at work (at his own expense) and I didn’t give it a second thought. I did the same myself when I was working, and it gave me an excuse to leave my desk as well as feeling like a treat in the middle of my busy day. However when I started looking at sustainable living, and in particular the issue of single-use plastics, I realised that the daily sandwiches my partner was consuming were causing a lot of plastic to end up in the bin.

I struck a deal with him. For £1 I would make his lunch each day, and I would use the money to buy kit such as reusable sandwich wraps and containers to ensure the food would be fresh and well-packaged. It was a no-brainer on his part, as he’d been spending £4 a day. In addition, the food I was to make would be healthier than his current fare.

A year later, I estimate that he has saved around £450 (I stopped charging £1 when the kit was complete), he has lost a few pounds of the lbs variety, and a lot of packaging has been saved from landfill. In addition, the packed lunch is helping us reduce our food waste as he sometimes takes in leftovers from the night before or has sandwiches made from the last of a loaf of homemade bread. We are both happy.

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Last night’s stir fry

However my lunch packing skills are being tested as my eldest child now requires a daily packed lunch too. Unlike Daddy, who will pretty much eat anything, and appreciates my efforts at working towards reducing waste, my priority for my wee one is finding things that actually stand a chance of getting eaten!

Popular items so far are proving to be mini individually wrapped ‘lunchbox’ items from the supermarket such as yogurt-covered strawberry pieces (see below), soreen bars, dried fruit bars etc. As you can imagine this causes me great angst…

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Multi-pack mini’s: heavy on the single-use plastic!

Also, water is coming home untouched, but drinks cartons (with plastic straws) are a hit! Here is a picture of this morning’s lunchbox and snack (beside the lunchbox).

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Apple, strawberry pieces, drink, pot of yoghurt, pot of fruit salad, sandwiches in foil

As you can see I’m thankfully getting away with using small pots, which have (so far) come home empty – partly because the contents are appealing and partly I think because the pots are quite nice to look at.  I use them to put in small portions of yoghurt, dried fruit etc. from bigger cartons and packets, thus saving on the packaging.

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You’ll see in the packed lunch photo that I’ve used foil for the sandwiches, instead of reusable sandwich wraps. This is because I find that to keep the sandwiches at their freshest, I need to double-wrap them in a cloth wrap (by Keep Leaf) and a plastic-lined wrap (by Onya).

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I can confirm that this is a (bad) photo of a roll and not a Weetabix…

I think however that layers of reusable wraps are a bit much for my wee one to have to deal with, especially when you throw in the requirement that everything needs to be brought home again at the end of the day… I therefore need recommendations for excellent easy-to-use reusable packaging!

Other ideas I’ve had – but not yet acted on – for a zero waste packed lunch include savoury muffins (made in re-usable cake cases) and treats that can baked at home to replace the individually wrapped mini things. Basically I’m looking for inspiration for packable food items that satisfy the conflicting priorities of appealing, sustainable and healthy. Easy, yeah?

I hope to revisit this topic on the blog after a few months when trial and error will have provided me with some information. In the meantime however, if you have any pearls of wisdom that you can pass on to me, I’d welcome them! I’m really hoping that a few of my fellow Blog Ambassadors will be covering this topic too so that I can nick their ideas be spurred into action by their amazing work!

Click here for National Zero Waste week 2013

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13 thoughts on “Day 3: Zero Waste Week 2014

  1. It is such a relief that because I work from home, I no longer need to fret about packed lunches. However, I do sympathise, I wonder whether your little one would enjoy mini things made specially… mini muffins, mini savoury tarts or pasties, that sort of thing… perhaps something that the adults are “not allowed”? And, in my experience, flapjacks are generally a hit and also travel well. As for sandwiches, I tend not to wrap, but use a small box.

  2. My grandchildrens school only allow water but a drop of food colouring ie blackcurrent but not enough to taste makes it more exciting.

  3. I have a similar problem with packed lunches for the smaller person in my household. I can’t say I have solved the problem but at least she is old enough to bring home the reusable packaging. Basically, I chop up cheese, for example, and put it in a small plastic pot with a lid – something that originally came with food in it, rather than specially bought tupperware. ‘Fortunately’ she doesn’t do sandwiches.

    I think you can get camping tins which are made of metal but maybe that is an illusion. Might be too fiddly for small hands, anyway.

  4. I’m wondering if a dehydrator might be a worthwhile purchase for you. Failing that, just use the oven on a low heat for a few hours to make your own dried fruit. Here’s some I made earlier – http://myzerowaste.com/2009/10/making-dried-fruit-at-home/
    Makes you understand why it’s so expensive to buy when you see it shrunk down! But this time of year with windfall apples it can be an economical way to save on those little individual packs…

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