Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Bring your own lunch--without plastics

Living green and living cheap are not always one in the same—to whit, organic produce. Easily costs twice as much at the supermarkets, here, which is why I prefer to hit the farmer’s market instead. Except at this time of year, not only are the prices still exorbitant (it’s winter, and the produce at the organic stands are not only organic, but local, too), there’s also very little else that’s affordable except mushrooms and herbs. Which make a fantastic combination, but one does not live on mushrooms alone (although they do taste great stir-fried).

But living green and living cheap are, for the most part, mutually compatible goals: bringing your own lunch, for instance, is a great way to save the environment and tighten your financial belt. You can choose what you’re eating, and most likely you’ll have a hard time coming up with worse crud than what’s served up at the local fast food joint—which is none too green itself, if you believe Eric Schlosser’s reporting.

There is, however, one point of contention with going green by packing your own—the plastic. It bugs the living daylights out of me to have to use plastic sandwich baggies when everything else I do (going vegetarian, reusing and recycling what I can, turning off the lights, etc) attempts to be as environmentally friendly as possible. And I’m none too fond of Tupperware or its ilk, either—inadvertent liquid sculpture is only an art form if it doesn’t set off the fire alarms.

Most days I bring sandwiches, anyway. Not for any lack of imagination on my part—simply because at 5:30 in the morning there’s not much time for very much else. And while I know there are Tupperwares specifically designed to hold sandwiches, I simply abhor the thought of having to go out and buy it—it means yet another plastic box cluttering up our cabinet, and it’s anybody’s guess how long it’ll take my boyfriend to lose it, as he’s done with the last two lunch boxes I bought for him. Besides, our kitchen is getting renovated soon enough, and having more crud in it is the last thing we need.

I’ve come up with two solutions, one for sandwiches and other things that have to be wrapped, and one for a Tupperware analog for foods that must be heated:

1) Tupperware analog: glass jars. I personally use peanut-butter jars (which are still made of glass in this neck of the woods) but there’s no reason to think of that as the one-and-only. If you can’t stand the thought of eating out of a jar, keep a plate/bowl and spoon/fork in your workplace, and wash those as soon as you’re done.

2) Sandwich baggie substitute: butcher paper. Obviously this won’t work quite as well with things like tuna salad (which, in my opinion, you’ve got to be nuts to bring, anyway—salmonella, anybody?) But this should be.

We can’t ever completely oust the role of plastics in our lives, but minimizing its use is just good sense. You’ll help reduce our dependency on foreign oil, reduce your exposure to phthalates (which are de environmentalist rigeur at the moment) and toxic compounds (given off when plastics are heated to melting), and maybe save yourself a couple bucks in the meantime. Besides, glass jars are essentially free, extremely durable (as long as you don’t drop them), completely unstainable, and infinitely reusable.


K-money said...

I use a set of Pyrex glass bowls for work, although the lids are plastic. I wish I could find a nice glass bottle for water, too.

About Jules: said...

I use a Swiss 1 L bottle (sorry, it's all metric here); it's aluminum, very lightweight, very strong, and it dents rather than cracks when it breaks. There're also BPA-free Platypus bags, which are kinda weird-looking but got great reviews.