Friday, 23 January 2009

The Naked Lunch

Posted by Julie
Towards Sustainability

The "Naked" lunch? Call it a "Waste-Free" or "No Rubbish" lunch, it's the same thing - a lunch box that contains only items which are edible, compostable or reusable!

Here in Australia, school resumes next week after the end of year break, so school lunch boxes and their contents are a hot topic right now. Every year, millions of tonnes of rubbish are generated from lunch boxes, so clearly it makes sense from an environmental point of view to reduce lunch waste.

However, reducing this waste also makes a lot of sense from a financial point of view: for example, the pre-packaged, single-serve items many of us used to rely on are much more expensive than buying the same items in bulk and re-packaging them ourselves into reusable containers.

These days a typical lunch box might contain:
* sandwiches, fruits and vegetables packed in disposable plastic bags,
* pre-packaged chips, biscuits/cookies, fruit straps and leathers, muesli/granola bars and cheese,
* single-use tubs of yoghurt, fruits, and puddings,
* disposable juice boxes, pouches, bottles, and milk cartons, and
* plastic cutlery and paper napkins.

The Naked Lunch however, is waste-free. In order to be waste-free we need to avoid:
* Plastic wrap, Styrofoam and disposable bags,
* Disposable drink containers such as Poppers/ Juice boxes and cartons, and
* Paper napkins and disposable cutlery.

It isn't as hard as it might seem at first to do this! Some ways you might reduce waste include:

* Try packing small reusable containers inside a larger lunch box instead of using disposable plastic bags. Have a look at how Rhonda packs her lunch for work for example. If you are in the market for a new lunch box, you might consider one of the many Bento-style lunch box systems such as the one below, or other compartmentalised lunch boxes which are becoming increasingly popular and easy to obtain. If you prefer to go plastic-free, there are many steel or enamel stackable tiffins on the market, some of which come with insulated carriers to keep food warm or cool (I am buying one these for my husband's work lunches for his birthday this year).

Originally uploaded by KitAy

* Shop in bulk instead of buying individual serves. For example, buy large packs of nuts, dried fruit, blocks of cheese and larger tubs of yoghurt, then re-package these into smaller reusable containers.

* If it is it possible, cook muesli/granola bars or healthy muffins in bulk once a week and freeze them instead of buying prepackaged ones. If not, you could add a serving-sized portion of muesli/granola in a reusable container to add to some yoghurt at lunch time (or even better, make your own trail mix).

* If you are packing lunch for your kids, encourage them to pack their own lunches, or at least help with the choices - they are more likely to eat what they've packed rather than throw it away uneaten.

* Pack cloth napkins and reusable cutlery to be brought home for washing.

* Don't forget to include an ice pack in the lunch box if you are packing meat or dairy items like mayonnaise or yoghurt. Freezing a small drink bottle of water, juice or milk works well, and it will be thawed in time for lunch and a cold drink.

* Use reusable drink bottles instead of disposable ones. If you prefer to avoid plastic bottles, there are many metal bottles on the market now such as Thermos, Sigg and Kleen Kanteen bottles.

* Pack lunches the night before to save time in the morning if repackaging bulk items is an issue. Many sandwiches can be frozen to keep them fresh ahead of time.

* Use leftovers - pack them straight into a lunch box as you are putting them away after dinner.

Personally, my two older girls use Tupperware Sandwich Keeper Plus lunch boxes, but only because I picked up them up cheaply second hand on eBay. Their smaller size is ideal as they don't eat as much as an adult, and I can pack their lunch and recess without using any wrapping at all.

My youngest however, attends 3-year-old preschool and they have to refrigerate all foods as a condition of their licence - as such they request parents use paper bags instead of lunch boxes because they cannot physically fit twenty five lunchboxes into their refrigerator! Instead of disposable paper bags, I use simple draw-string calico bags labelled with my daughter's name (I bought mine from a local market, but they are very simple to make yourself if you sew).

To avoid using plastic wrap or plastic bags for her sandwich, I made a simple reusable fabric wrap. I have been using it for a year now and it still in good condition; I simply wash it gently after each use in the dish washing water at night, rinse it and leave it to air dry.

So, as you can see there are many ways to go about achieving a Naked Lunch! I'm sure all you clever people out there have even more suggestions though, so please share them with us in the comments :-)

Happy lunching!