Bringing Your Own Lunch to School or Work is Green

Bringing your own lunch to school or work is green—good for you, good for the planet, and good for your wallet.

School Lunch

Author's Son's Thomas the Tank Engine Lunch Box and Basket with FruitOur kids took lunch to school, first in lunch boxes and then brown paper lunch bags. Lunches consisted of sandwiches, fruit, chips, and dessert. For a time, the kids took disposable drink boxes for lunch. I shudder to remember a brief dalliance with package intensive, minimal nutrient, prepackaged lunches.

Having your kids take lunch to school has several benefits:

  • You and your kids know what it is in the food your kids are eating for lunch.
  • Your kids have an opportunity to learn about food and how to make healthy choices.
  • Your kids learn responsibility by helping to make lunch or preparing their own.
  • Your kids have more time to eat, relax, and play during lunchtime.

My Work Lunches

Throughout my working life, my lunch habits have varied widely.

When my job entailed visiting client’s offices and job sites, I frequently drove through fast food restaurants and ate in my car while driving (I know that is a bad habit). Other times I would go out to lunch with coworkers and we would split the bill. Mexican and sushi were my favorite types of food.

I ate at my desk more often than I would like to admit. The best lunches were those I packed myself and ate with a few coworkers at a local park.

For the past several years, I have been working out of my home office so I eat lunch at home. Lunch menus consist of peanut butter or tuna salad sandwiches, salads, soups, or leftovers.

Eating Lunch Out at Work

Over your work lifetime, eating lunch out can really add up in more ways than one. Let us say you eat lunch out 3 days a week for 48 weeks a year over a period of 40 years (3 x 48 = 144 days per year X 40 years = 5,760 lunches out).

Money

For our example, we will assume a mix of different lunch venues with an average cost of $10.00 per meal. Over 40 years, eating lunch out would cost you $57,600. That does not include gas and wear and tear on your vehicle if you drive to lunch (or greenhouse gas emissions). Imagine what you could do with an extra $57,600.

Health

Scale with Tape Measure and FruitRestaurants put ingredients and additives in food to make it taste good and keep you coming back. Foods that seem healthy, like a salad, may turn out to have a whopping calorie count and high-fat content. Some restaurant meals contain more than an entire day’s worth of calories.

Waste

The restaurant industry produces a huge amount of food and packaging waste.

Fast food and fast casual restaurants often serve meals in single-use, throw away packaging that ends up in landfills or sometimes on the side of the road. If only 50% of the 5,760 lunches in our example were of this type, visualize the pile of packaging waste that would be created by 2,880:

  • Carry Out Bags
  • Sandwich, Burger, Salad Packages
  • Chips, Fries, Dessert Packages
  • Drink Cups, Lids, Straws or Stirrers
  • Napkins (how many people grab just one?)
  • Catsup, Soy Sauce, Sugar Packets (how many people take just one?)

Taking Your Lunch to Work

Taking your lunch to work has similar benefits to taking lunch to school as well as saving money and reducing waste. With a little effort, taking lunch to work can be easy, inexpensive, healthy, and green.

  • Author's Gott Lunch Tote and Basket with FruitTake your lunch in a reusable insulated bag or another carrier, with a cool pack if needed.
  • Use reusable containers, utensils, napkins, and cups or bottles.
  • Just say no to bottled water.
  • Skip prepackaged frozen or ready-to-eat meals.
  • Assemble lunch the night before and leave it in the fridge (this is especially helpful for non-morning people like me).
  • Get out of the office at lunch. Eat on an outdoor patio, take a walk to park, or run errands on foot.

I have read several articles and blog posts aimed at helping people add variety to their “boring” homemade lunches. Interestingly, some health experts say simplifying meal choices and even eating the same thing for one meal every day may help people eat healthier. This would certainly streamline the process of preparing your take-to-work lunch.

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New Year’s Celebrations — Go Green

Happy New Year 2013 with Green EarthNew Year’s celebrations are an opportunity to ring in the New Year and go green. Staying home and watching the Times Square Ball descend on TV while eating organic food and drink with reusable plates and glasses is one way to celebrate.

For those who enjoy hosting a New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day party try going green this year.

Transportation

A great way to reduce the party carbon footprint and help guests stay safe is to encourage walking or using public transportation to get to and from the party. Designating a sober driver and carpooling is good too. As an incentive, give guests who use green transportation a chance to win a green door prize or party favor.

Decorations

Go green and save money by skipping silly hats, noisemakers, confetti, and throw away decorations. Partygoers will probably not miss them. If you do buy decorations, purchase items that you can use, put away and use again next year. Want to make your own decorations and need inspiration? Enter “green New Year’s Eve decorations” in your web browser and you are sure to find an idea that meets your budget and artistic ability.

Food and Drink

There are organic choices for almost every possible food or drink item you can think of. Up the green factor and buy local. Another option is to involve the guests by hosting a potluck. Have each guest contribute their favorite green food or drink.

Tableware

Skip paper and plastic tableware and go with reusable plates, utensils, glasses, and napkins. Don’t have enough plates and glasses? Party companies are available to rent what you need and may cost the same or less than throw away items. Biodegradable and compostable plates and cups are a better alternative than standard paper and plastic. Or try a new twist on BYO and have guests bring their own reusable plate, glass, utensils, and napkin.

New Year’s Eve Trivia

  • In some Christian traditions, watch night services are held late on New Year’s Eve. The Rt. Rev. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, originated watch night services in 1740.
  • Auld Lang Syne is a Scots poem written by Robert Burns in 1788 and set to the tune of a traditional folk song.
  • In 1903, the owner of The New York Times newspaper marked the opening of the company’s new headquarters at One Times Square with a fireworks show on December 31.
  • The Times Square Ball drop began in 1907. The current ball was made by Waterford Crystal and is lit with Philips LEDs.
  • In 1972, Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve premiered on television.

Whether you are hosting a New Year’s Eve party or a New Year’s Day parade and football game watching get together, make it green.

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