This week is Zero Waste Week, and earlier this year I signed up to be a Zero Waste Week ambassador. Although I am most definitely not perfect on the eco-friendly front, I really wanted to get involved, because bit by bit I am constantly striving to improve my waste-generating habits. Some of my fellow Zero Waste ambassadors go to incredible lengths to reduce waste and I am frankly in awe of their dedication, but the theme of this year's Zero Waste Week was what really attracted me, as it's 'One More Thing'. The idea is that in this week we try to do one more thing to reduce waste in our household. Whether it be to ditch plastic bags, take old clothes to a textile bank instead of binning them or pack a waste-free lunch, we can all do one more thing to reduce our waste, and every little thing can make a difference. Did you know for example that if all cans in the UK were recycled, we would need 14 million fewer dustbins?! What a difference that 'one more thing' would make if we all took it on board!
One area that I feel I do quite well at on the waste-free front is my packed lunches. Since Small Child started school two years ago (he starts his third year of school tomorrow *sob!*) I have packed his lunch every day in a bento box. I haven't used a single piece of clingfilm or tinfoil, and no plastic bags either. Although there are many things that I can improve on, I am very pleased to have discovered bento boxes when I did, and a little bit proud of the amount of waste I have saved from landfill by packing lunches in this way.
If you pack your lunches in a bento box, here are some of the items you can help to keep out of landfill:
- Plastic bags
- Sandwich bags
- Crisp packets
- Packaging from single serve items such as biscuits, cereal bars or chocolate bars
- Individual yoghurt pots
- Sweet wrappings
- Odds and ends of leftover foods
Here's a really simple zero waste lunch I packed Small Child recently. It has pieces of pitta bread pizza (a great way to use up leftover pitta breads - simply spread them with a little tomato puree, sprinkle with grated cheese and grill for a couple of minutes), leftover peas in their pods, raw carrot pieces, cut into flower shapes with a mini bento cutter (I saved the leftover scraps and grated them into a salad), and for pudding, a handful of grapes and orange slices. I also packed a portion of natural yoghurt in a reusable food pouch (not shown). You may notice that the orange slices were frozen, I froze them the week before when I had a surplus pile of oranges. To freeze oranges, you simply cut them into slices and pop in the freezer until needed. Eat whilst still frozen as a healthy alternative to ice lollies in summer months, or pop into a lunch box like this - they help to keep the lunch cool but gradually defrost so that they are ready to eat by lunch time. This lunch was packed in a Japanese tiered bento box, and the grass shaped divider in the top box is made from sturdy silicone, and is fully reusable.
Another advantage to packing bento style lunches is that you can put pretty much any food in a bento box, opening up a whole host of possibilities for using up leftovers. Not only can you pack a whole meals worth if you have enough leftovers from your main meal the night before, but you can also use up those little odds and ends that might otherwise be thrown away. There's nothing wrong with tucking a single floret of broccoli and a couple of roast potatoes in the corner of a bento box, and those two stray strawberries you found in the fridge, and while you're at it, why not roll up that last slice of ham and cut into mini sausages, and cube the tail end of a block of cheese... before you know it, you've made a substantial meal from your odds and ends, and saved a pile of food from landfill! I'll be showcasing some of my leftover lunches later on this week, so keep an eye out to see how I try to creatively use my leftovers.
I also mentioned individual portions above - so much lunch box food is marketed in single-serve packs, but there really is no need to buy special lunch foods! With bento lunches, you can buy larger packs and split them into individual portions yourself. Snacks like nuts and seeds, dried fruits and even popcorn or crisps can all be bought in bulk and portioned out. I also buy yoghurt in large tubs and just serve up a portion whenever I need one. You can either pack yoghurt into a small leakproof container (these ones by Sistema are the perfect size for a portion of yoghurt), use a leak-proof lunch box such as the Yumbox, or use reusable food pouches such as these fantastic ones by Nom-Nom Kids.
If you'd like to try packing bento boxes and you're not sure where to start, I have plenty of resources here on the Eats Amazing website! For advice on which lunch-boxes are best for bento lunches, have a look at my recent lunch box guide. For ideas for foods you could pack for lunch, have a look at my mix and match food ideas post, or check out my lunch box food ideas list. I'll also be writing more about waste-free lunches later on this week, so make sure you come back again for more hints and tips!
Now, as an ambassador for zero waste week, I had to make my own pledge for the week of course, my 'one more thing'. I didn't pledge about lunch boxes, as I already pack waste-free lunches the majority of the time, so instead, my pledge for the week is as follows: "To sort through my freezer, actually eat all the leftovers that are stored in there, and find new ways to use up spare food lying around in the fridge"
I'll be writing up a post at the end of the week to let you know how I got on with my pledge!
Will you sign up and pledge to do 'One More Thing' to reduce your waste this week? Go on, I dare you!