Eating Away During the Day

April 27th, 2011 · 10:28 pm @   -  2 Comments

I often see reports and initiatives for kids at school to strive for a waste free lunch.  In fact, at our local elementary school, they have even had contests to see which class could produce the smallest amount of waste on a given day.  The kids come home with many ideas on how to make their lunch greener and explain why that is important.

However, as an adult, I don’t always see tips and reminders on reducing my trash throughout the day while I’m out and about.  From my morning coffee to lunch on the go, the most convenient route to food and beverage tends to produce the most waste.  Ironically, the eating on the go lifestyle also tends to cost more and be less healthy.  So, I thought I would do a quick blog post on ideas for greening your eating on the go.

The Background

Why is this topic important?  According to, school children produce an average of 67 pounds of waste per child each school year.  I’m going to assume that each adult produces at least this much.  If we factor in the coffee cups, disposable water bottles, and pop cans, I’m guessing the adult number is probably even higher.

Let’s Start with Coffee

Basically, there are three options for your morning brew:

  1. Make the coffee at home, drink at home or take along in a reusable mug
  2. Pick up coffee at the local coffee shop – your own mug or their disposable
  3. Grab coffee at work – typically styrofoam cups, occasionally reusable mugs

For any of the three options, the best choice is always the reusable mug.  With that change alone, you will keep a lot cups out of the landfill each year.  Also, if you figure the average coffee at a coffee shop costs $2.00 and you work 225 days/year, you probably spend $450 on coffee alone.  I can guarantee that options #1 and #3 can save you a bit of cash.

The Lunch

Lunch takes much more of a commitment than the coffee.  You have to shop for food to pack, take the time to prepare in the evening or morning before work, and remember take it with you each day.  While that doesn’t sound like a big deal, during a busy week it really can be!  Just getting into the routine will make it easier and easier as time go on.  Once you are in the swing of taking your lunch, you can go to the next level and start to reduce waste.  Here are some ideas to consider:

  1. Purchase a lunch bag – By spending a bit up front to buy a reusable lunch bag, you will begin to save $0.07/day on the paper bag.  Over a year (225 work days) you will save $15.75.
  2. Use glass or metal containers to store food instead of plastic containers.  With all the press these days on plastics leaching into foods, I feel much better packing food in glass and metal – this goes for leftovers at home just as much as packing lunch!
  3. Utensils – Instead of tossing plastic forks into your bag, consider the real thing.  Either use what’s in the drawer at home or buy a set specifically for your waste free lunch.  Each fork costs you $0.25.  So, a year of those things will set you back $56.25 – for forks!!
  4. Consider the reusable alternatives to Ziploc bags.  From a cost standpoint, the bags are $0.12 each.  So, if you use 2/day that adds up.  In a year, you will have spent $54 on the baggies and sent 450 of them off to landfills!
  5. Beverages – Water in a metal water bottle is best.  Reusable container, natural and healthy beverage.  If you must go the bottled water or soda route, please do your best to ensure you recycle the container.  Since many workplaces do not have recycling centers, just put the container back in your lunch bag and take it home to recycle.

These five simple ideas alone provide the opportunity to save over $125/year and lessen your impact on the environment at the same time.

Product Ideas

Just to get you in the mood of how cool and stylish your waste free lunch could be, I did a bit of virtual shopping out on Etsy and found some great products perfectly suited for eating on the go.  Visit the collection here and link directly to the awesome sellers that are featured.

The health, financial and environmental benefits of  a waste free lunch can be realized by anyone at any age.  While I included a number of ideas here, I’m sure there are many more out there.  Please post ideas that you have incorporated or products that you love to use when you eat away from home.

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2 Comments → “Eating Away During the Day”

  1. Mary Anne Demo

    6 years ago

    Great tips! There’s always room for improvement, and I love the products featured. Thanks for sharing~


  2. Morgen

    6 years ago

    This is such a great article with some very useful suggestions. Thank-you so much for including my napkins in your beautiful treasury (I do reusable cutlery sets as well. There are so many amazing Etsy sellers with alternatives to throwaway – your choices are fantastic!


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