Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Waste-Free Lunch

I feel a bit ridiculous in the morning lugging my son and two canvas lunch coolers out of the apartment to the car. I must look like a mess with two lunch coolers, a computer bag, a gym bag, and a daycare supply bag draped over my shoulder. I think my son recognizes my struggle and insists on being carried just to complicate the 200 yard trek. I could easily eliminate the need for the large canvas lunch coolers but I refuse.

I used to eat almost everyday in the dining hall at Lasell but I have shifted to bringing lunch. Weekly costs and class schedules are part of the reason but mainly I do it because I want to eat healthier and eat in a more environmentally friendly manner. When I walk into the dining hall I have a hard time going for the salad bar when there are creamy hot entrees calling my name. The lunch I bring is super healthy and has no meat or refined carbohydrates. Just lots of fruit and vegetables. I need to emphasize lots as you need to eat a lot of fruit and vegetables to feel satisfied.

In addition to eating lower on the food chain, I work on packing waste-free lunches. Instead of plastic disposable baggies most of my lunch is packed in washable plastic containers. The large volume of food I bring packed in plastic containers explains the need for the large orange canvas cooler I bring. I know it looks like I am heading to the beach for a picnic but the cooler it really is just my lunch. I similarly pack a waste-free lunch for my son. This operation turns me into bag man every morning but I think it is worth the struggle.

Waste-free lunches are increasing in practice. Many schools have committed to promoting this approach to help teach reduce, reuse, recycle. The EPA even offers materials on Waste-Free Lunches. I think I will approach the teachers about starting a waste-free lunch campaign to try and modify the lunch packing behavior of parents at the daycare center. Parents will be packing lunches for the next 15 years and now is the time to learn how to do it more sustainably.


Professor Lori Rosenthal said...

I have been wondering about the issues of brown-bagging versus using a reuseable cooler-type lunch bag.

I pack lunch for my kids every day using one of those plastic, insulated, re-usable lunch bags. By the end of the school year, those bags are pretty grungy and they don't look very appetizing in terms of holding your food. So every school year, I buy two new ones and sadly consign the old ones to the landfill.

With brown bags though, I can drop them in my compost bin and they disappear to become nutrient-rich food for my garden. Of course, what goes into making them is another story.

Which is better for the environment?

Michael Daley, Ph.D. said...

Interesting question. The demand for more life cycle analysis is increasing. I will look into this and see if I can find anything. If you really compost the paper bags, this may be the more sustainable option.

I was waiting for a comment about the potential health effects of chemicals leaching from the plastic I use. This has certainly made the news lately.