A guest post by the lovely and creative Maggie Mahboubian of Lalun Naturals.
[Check out Maggie’s gorgeous line of products that she created to support your skin through the needs of each season.]
When Sarita posted her first Eco Steps article, “One Small Green Step in November,” she really struck a chord that inspired me to share a small step I hope others will find fun and useful.
Reducing waste from packed lunches is a small step we can all take to make sure only edibles are consumed and little gets thrown out.
My daughterʼs school has a zero waste policy which often serves as a reminder to pack wisely—especially when leftover food, peels, cling wrap, foil or waxed paper return home all clumped together. Pre-packaged foods such as yogurt squeezers or cups are discouraged, opting instead for portions in reusable containers. Cloth place mats and napkins replace paper products and are often homemade. Real silverware is encouraged so that fine motor skills are developed while practicing good table manners.
The children keep their own cups and glassware in their cubbies, but these can easily be included in a lunch box along with a water bottle like the ones Sarita discussed.
When I was growing up in Iran I used a tiffen until American-made lunch boxes became fashionable. It gave me nostalgic pleasure to rediscover these stainless steel containers many years later. I pack “first bites” in the top compartment followed by second bites in the middle and snacks in the bottom.
The beauty of a tiffen is that the container is also the carrier. Since tiffens donʼt allow for lunch accessories (napkin, placemat, cup, silverware), a cover can be made that also helps with transport.
These covers can also be used as a stand alone carriers.
Food container options include reusable glass or non-reactive metal.
I generally avoid plastic, because of itʼs potential reactivity, its history as a heavily manufactured product and because recycling requires so much energy/infrastructure. Occasionally, I wrap food in wax paper if a lunch box feels too heavy. Itʼs compostable and a reminder of my motherʼs “wax paper sandwiches” I so loved as a child that were packed like neat little presents.
Place mats and napkins are an opportunity to create unique, reusable accessories.
I enjoy using remnants for these projects, leftovers or nice fabrics acquired at substantially reduced prices.
I came across a piece at Joannʼs for 16 cents! Canʼt beat that for a thrifty, reusable option. We keep a drawer full of place mats and napkins, so a clean set can be packed each day. We donʼt worry too much if theyʼre not matchy-matchy, because they fall under the Japanese Zakka philosophy of little things that improve a home, or simple aesthetic touches that add quality to life.
Whether lunches are packed for school or for work, they can be an opportunity for us to pack wisely so that we reduce waste and enhance the quality of our lives.
Every small step helps!
All photos courtesy of Maggie Mahboubian