Zero Waste Lunches: How to Make Your Own Executive Style Supply Kit
With all the talk about zero waste lunches I've been hearing these days, I decided to lake a closer look at the behavior in my own life when it comes to eating on the road. While my husband and I knew we wanted to start reducing our impact when we eat out, we also knew the solution had to be something that fit seamlessly with our lifestyle. Since the way we have to move and groove has been known to change drastically on a dime, whatever we came up with had to be extremely versatile. Ready for a make-it-yourself zero waste lunch kit you can take from backpack to briefcase in the blink of an eye? Read on.
First of all, whatever we came up with had to fit compactly in the front briefcase sections of the rolling laptop case / mini office / business travel luggage pieces we have. We specifically chose these his and her pieces because we can fit a few toiletries and clothing items in the back when necessary, yet still leave the front part set up every day with office supplies, files and room for the laptop sleeves. This way, if we need to run an unexpected errand or want to get out of the house for the day, snagging some free productive wi-fi time at Whole Foods or Panera Bread becomes doable without feeling discombobulated. It also meets international carry-on standards, so hopping on the plane at the last minute isn't a big deal either. The point is though, that whether you have one of these pieces of luggage or a standard briefcase, these kits will still fit.
Second, we wanted to make sure they could easily clip on to our backpacks or sections of the seat covers in our Jeep. This way if we were taking an adventure vacation, or packing up the Jeep to go camping, we'd also have our lunch kits with us. Our answer?
Zippered canvas pouches with caribiner clips attached. These particular zippered pouches come in sets of three for around seven bucks. There are three sizes in the set. The largest is what fit our needs for the lunch kit. The other two are great for incidentals you don't want rolling around in your backpack, such as bobby pins, sewing kits and safety pins. Other pouches I looked at were a similar price for only one pouch and looked a little flimsy. These had a review from a contractor about how he used them for tools and bits with great success and durability. What did we put inside to start reducing our plastic and other waste?
Stainless steel drinking straws. There are several types of reusable straws on the market, including bamboo and glass. We chose these because they were antimicrobial, tough as nails and available in a package of four for around ten bucks. Other brands were twenty dollars for the same number of straws, or even higher in some instances. We clean them with our flexible camel back tube cleaner, but you could use a fuzzy pipe cleaner.
Our own flatware. There are systems of lunch flatware you can buy, but we already have our own sets we use on the road. They're attached to metal rings, and we each store an extra gadget such as a vegetable peeler or corkscrew. If you also like the idea of having one set of travel flatware you can use day to day or on vacation, they are available at Amazon.
Reusable chopsticks. We happen to have a boatload of coconut wood chopsticks that I picked up years ago in Bali. You can purchase your own however, and keep them in your lunch kit. Here's an affordable set of reusable chopsticks from Amazon, or you can wash off a set of disposable chopsticks and use those.
A set of squishy bowls. Often, you may just choose to go with the value meal at your local fast food chain and skip the plastic cover and straw. However, if you are brown bagging it or going for a traveler's picnic based on a local grocery store run, squishy bowls rock. They also squish (hence the name) down flat, making them perfect for the compact storage necessary in our rolling briefcase luggage.
Squishy travel shots. OK, these aren't particularly necessary for zero waste lunches. They are fun to have on the road however. Sometimes you just want a cocktail at the camp site or in your hotel room, and carrying a breakable shot glass in your bag isn't always the best idea. When driving down the coast last summer to Florida, we enjoyed being able to mix up a cocktail at the camp site using spirits we'd picked up at the local shopping plaza, our squishy travel shot glasses and coffee mugs. You can also use the smaller size of the squishy bowls mentioned above to mix drinks.
Fabric napkins. We happened to have an extra two napkins hanging around the house. If you don't however, bandanas are great for both home and travel.
Folding plates. These are the one item that didn't actually make it into the zippered pouches. However, since these folding plates store flat, they fit neatly into back pack sections, the rolling briefcase pockets or into the back pockets of our vehicle's seat covers along with the clip on zipper pouches.
These are the items we've chosen to include in our zero waste lunch kits. Structured as they are, these kits can easily be pulled from the briefcase and transferred to backpacks or seat back pockets. Since we have holding spots in our vehicle and multipurpose day packs for both water bottles and traveling coffee mugs, we don't really consider them part of the “kit” although they are part of our eco infrastructure.
The only item we haven't really found yet that meets our space concerns is something to carry extra food home in when we occasionally eat out. That isn't a huge concern however since it doesn't happen that often. Also, if a restaurant packages their leftovers in waxed paper boxes I wouldn't have a huge problem with it. Plastic and styrofoam are our main concerns. Since this system easily goes from backpack to briefcase, I trust it will be of help to those struggling with the transition. Bonus? These are so space efficient that those keeping kosher can easily make this happen on the fly by putting together two sets and labeling them for both dairy and meat.