Although your lunch break may not strike you as the best time to go full eco-warrior mode, we say it’s as good a time as any. We’re here to help you get started.
Your stomach is growling and has been all morning, and now it’s finally time to eat. But what you consume and how it’s packaged can make a difference to the planet. Let’s begin with those single-use plastics that seem to get everywhere. “A pre-packed lunch is always going to be the most eco-friendly option,” says Dean Willshee, managing director at Wilshee’s Waste and Recycling. “It helps to avoid the disposable plastics which are used for many on-the-go lunch options.” This is where it pays to be a keen organiser. Tupperware (or any other BPA-free lunch box!) and reusable cutlery will be your new best friend. Batch cook your lunches either at the weekend or prepare an extra portion alongside your dinner. Store in the fridge and away you go.
Now the packaging is sorted, let’s focus on the food. A vegan diet is a great way to reduce your impact on the environment. Research shows that without meat and dairy consumption, global farmland use could be reduced by more than 75 per cent– and still feed the world. “Increase the amount of plants you eat per meal,” advises Gudrun Cartwright, environment campaign director at Business in the Community. “Experiment with delicious beans, pulses, hummus, soups, vegetables and salads.”
Wash down your food with water from a reusable bottle. Creating just one year’s worth of single-use water bottles uses up to a whopping 17 million barrels of oil. S’well, BKR and Chilly’s are some of our favourite brands for snazzy bottles that’ll keep you hydrated and help the environment simultaneously.
Once you have finished eating, put all your cutlery, plates, bowls and lunch boxes in the dishwasher, instead of washing up by hand. This is because dishwashers are now much more efficient, and when full, they use three or four times less water than washing the same amount manually.
If you use your lunch break to run some errands, think about your mode of transport. “Consider if you really need to take a trip in your car and if you can, choose to walk instead,” advises Dean. According to figures from Licence Bureau, 56 per cent of all car trips are less than five miles in length. Plus, six per cent cover less than a mile. Although short car journeys here and there may not seem all that bad, the majority of Britain’s greenhouse gas emissions now come from transport. With this in mind, try walking or cycling if you are travelling a short distance.
With 15 minutes to go, you may wonder what else could be crammed into your break. Dean recommends plogging. This Scandinavian trend is a hybrid of picking up litter and jogging. “While on your lunch break you can do small activities which help to make even more of a difference,” says Dean. “If you don’t like running, go for a stroll instead, making sure you pick up litter as you go.”
Before you return to your desk, scan around the office and look for ways where your working environment could be greener. “Imagine the difference all employees could make if they all made the same effort to be greener,” says Gudrun. “Ask your employer to put in place systems such as recycling for food and packaging waste.” Offices are notorious for paper waste, so pause before printing and recycle when you’re finished. A conversation could be all it takes to start implementing necessary changes.