5 Tips For A Waste Free Office Lunch

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Most people focus their sustainability efforts at home as this is where they spend most of their time and have the most control. But what about time spent in the office? It is important to extend our Eco-friendly habits to the workplace as well.

Even when offices go green, they are often focusing on reducing energy and paper use rather than waste from employees’ lunches which may occur off their premises.

Business districts cater well to office workers. There are plenty of takeaway food options for busy people to grab on the go which often means being prepackaged. By the time you add cutlery, a drink and a bag to cart it away in, that’s a lot of waste generated from just one lunch. 

Until recently, I had always worked in industrial areas that had no eateries nearby so I took for granted that I’d bring my lunch in reusable containers and it was always waste free.

Since moving to a city office, I have been thrilled with all the food choices but also despair at how much waste is generated.

However with just a little pre-planning, you can easily have a waste free office lunch.


5 Ways To Reduce Your Lunch Waste At The Office

1. Bring your own lunch from home

packed lunch from home

Packing your lunch to bring to the office is the best way to avoid generating waste. In fact it can also save leftover food from being wasted. Leftovers taste better the next day too. 

If you don’t have leftovers to bring for lunch, sandwiches and wraps are quick to prepare options. But avoid the cling wrap and Ziploc bags and try these alternatives instead.

Bringing your own lunch instead of buying it is also usually healthier as well. Not only can you prepare a healthy meal rather than grabbing what’s convenient but you also avoid impulse purchases.

Another advantage of bringing your own lunch is that it saves you money. Eating out every day of the week can be expensive!


2. Bring your own container

While bringing your lunch to work from home is the best option, many people are not that organised. Knowing that there are many eateries close to the office can make it difficult to be motivated to prepare your own lunch. You may also plan to grab lunch with friends which can exclude bringing your lunch to the office.

There is nothing to stop you from bringing your own container though. You may be surprised to find that many food service outlets are happy to accept your container rather than placing your food into a plastic container. I have never been refused.

Bringing your own container is also a fantastic way to set an example for others. It is something that other people will notice you do and will hopefully encourage them to consider doing the same.

If you are providing your own container, try to use one that is close to the same size as a standard takeaway container. Businesses can be unsure how much to fill it up if the container is a different size or shape and don’t want to rip you off or give away their profits.

The above can be addressed by simply reusing a plastic takeaway container that you have received with a previous meal. Although considered disposable, plastic takeaway containers can be used many times and they’re actually nice and light to carry around with you.

Rather than lugging food containers between the office and home, just keep a container at your desk so that it is always available to use. 


3. Bring your own cutlery

waste free office lunch 1

Although many food businesses are beginning to replace plastic cutlery with bamboo utensils, all the bamboo still goes to waste. A reusable option is always preferable for the environment. I personally find it much more satisfying to eat off real cutlery rather than flimsy disposable ones.

Many offices will provide cutlery in the kitchen for staff to use. If not, ask if they can. If an office is serious about being sustainable, this is a simple and inexpensive way to help reduce employees’ waste.

If your office cannot or will not provide cutlery or you plan to eat out and about, you could purchase a travel utensil set. These are compact and easy to keep in your bag so that they’re always handy when you are getting lunch.

Something to practice is saying no to cutlery. This is easy to do when it is offered to you but often servers just add cutlery to your bag without asking. So get into the habit of saying no cutlery is required when placing your order.


4. Bring your own water bottle

When we’re eating, we get thirsty. What a great opportunity for food businesses to upsell you a drink in a plastic bottle. This will cost you extra money, the drink is likely to be unhealthy and contributes to the terrible impact plastic bottles have on our environment.

Instead, bring your own water bottle. It is healthier, will save you money and avoid polluting our planet.

Most people will already have a water bottle to drink from anyway. It’s just a case of remembering to take it with you when going out for lunch. 


5. Bring your own bag

reusable shopping bag

Now that you’re bringing a lunch container, cutlery and water bottle with you when you leave the office for lunch, it might be a bit awkward to carry all that around. Instead of accepting a bag from the food outlet, bring your own.

Plastic bags bans are progressively being implemented around the world. Businesses still need to provide bags to customers though so although they are transitioning to different materials, these bags still go to waste.

You may have a handbag or backpack that you already carry with you. I don’t like taking my backpack for a quick lunch outing though so instead I have a bag that folds up to not much larger than a business card that lives in my desk drawer until needed. 

Time now to get organised for your next waste free lunch!

  • Carly Hobbs

    Carly Hobbs is the Chief Editor for My Green Toddler. She is passionate about reducing waste, second hand shopping and creating circular economies. Through her blog, Carly shares simple ideas on how to live a sustainable lifestyle while juggling family life.

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