Easy and Eco-Friendly: The No-Waste Lunch
After recently stumbling upon the Zero Waste Home blog, I’ve started to think more about all the trash we produce in our daily lives. The blog is pretty thorough in describing eco-friendly solutions to a trash-producing lifestyle. One change I’ve been inspired to make has to with the trash created by our lunches — the plastic bags, granola bar wrappers, juice boxes. Oh my the landfills!
The first step to reducing trash was to create reusable lunch bags to replace those earth-unfriendly plastic sandwich bags. This was actually incredibly easy. I did a little searching online for ideas and decided to make bags with cotton fabric and a velcro closure that could be cleaned in the washing machine. If you have a sewing machine, one bag will take less than 10 minutes to make and all you’ll need is some fabric scraps and velcro.
I cut out two pieces of fabric slightly larger than a standard plastic sandwich bag, with a little extra at the top (for the velcro closure).
I cut the velcro strips a little shorter than the width of the fabric (to allow room for the side stitching), pinned each piece to the top of the fabric, and then stitched on with the machine. I stitched to the right side of the fabric because I planned to fold this part inside the bag so the velcro wouldn’t show.
Next I stitched the two pieces of fabric together, right sides facing each other. Then folded the top with the velcro inside, and gave it a top stitch to keep in neatly in place.
Voila! With one down, making more bags for the rest of week was a breeze. (Note: If you don’t have access to a sewing machine, many stores sell “lunchskins” for a reasonable price.)
The next step was to do something about the granola bar wrappers. Instead of buying bars, I figured I could make some myself and use smaller fabric bags for storage.
I found this great recipe for no-bake granola bars and followed the suggestion to make your own granola with applesauce (added bonus: it’s a little healthier than store-bought granola made with oil).
One batch of bars yields enough for a week’s lunches with a little extra for snacking around the house. In case we get tired of making granola week after week, we’re planning to switch up our treats a little — perhaps cookies one week, granola bars another, maybe even a few low-sugar mini muffins here and there.
The smaller fabric bags also work great for things like grapes, raisins, and crackers. For delicate juicy fruits like strawberries that might get smooshed and make a mess of the fabric bags, I’ll use BPA-free reusable and recyclable plastic containers.
As for the fruit juice boxes, we’re switching to refillable water bottles. And now when we take our lunch to work/school, there is no trash and everything can come home and be reused after a quick wash in the washing machine.
Although our packaging creates no waste, the next step will be figuring out how to buy all the lunch supplies with as little trash as possible. I’m ready for the challenge!