Ever wondered what is the carbon footprint of your lunch?
Use your lunchtime to begin making environmentally conscious decisions by paying attention to the food choices you make. Here are some tips for a low carbon lunch.
One can hardly ignore the amount of waste we create over a quick 15 minute lunch break. Salad in a plastic box, wrapped sandwiches, bags, plastic cutlery, napkins, coffee cups etc. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the UK hotels, pubs, restaurants and other quick service eateries produce around 3.4 million tonnes of food and packaging waste each year.
Another interesting fact: it takes about 1.5 million barrels of oil per year to manufacture all the bottles used in the global bottled water industry (apparently, that’s about enough to run 100,000 cars for a year) while almost 90% of those bottles are not recycled and end up in landfills where they can take up to 1000 years to biodegrade.
To minimise the waste, look for food with minimum packaging when picking your lunch meal. It requires a lot of energy to manufacture it and recycle. Take a moment to look at labels and see if it is made from accredited sustainable sources, or from recycled material and if it can be recycled. A short guide to help you understand packing symbols is available at Recycle Now.
If you have some time, try to eat in and have your lunch served in real dishware rather than plastic plates. Besides the environmental benefits, you are likely to enjoy the aroma of the coffee served in a porcelain cup much more than you would drinking it from a plastic mug.
Try to know where your lunch comes from. The farther food travels, the more CO2 is emitted. When choosing food, consider the distance it has travelled to get to your table. Try to choose food or lunch places where the food served is produced from local farms.
Also, try eating seasonal vegetables. According to numbers, it takes only one-fifth the amount of energy to grow cucumbers in-season outdoors (Summer, Autumn), compared to growing in Winter in a hothouse.
No lecturing on ethics and animal rights here. But just bear in mind that animal agriculture cause between 10-25 per cent of total global GHG emissions, while our commonly eaten fish (like Cod, tuna, halibut etc) are being caught in such quantities that most of them are endangered (see I love sushi, I hate overfishing).
Why not have one meet free day per week to improve the health of the planet? Get some inspiration from the Meatless Monday movement.
Bring your own lunch to work
The important rule for low carbon lunch is to try to bring your own food into work as often as possible. Pack your lunch, leftovers or take-out in reusable containers. This is definitely one of the most effective ways of reduce waste from our lunches and minimise energy used to prepare it.
Not every workplace has kitchen facilitates, but why not organise a lunch–in day with your colleagues? Arrange some space in the office where you could get together and socialise while you eat lunch you brought.
You may find delicious and quick lunchbox recipes at BBCGoodFood.
To sum up, the basic rule for a low carbon lunch is to try to reduce the energy required to prepare, pack, store and dispose of food waste. And keep in mind, that a carbon free lunch is not only good for the environment but also for your own health.
Inga holds an undergraduate degree in Political Science from the University of Nottingham and more recently, an MSc in Environment and Development from the London School of Economics. She has previously worked as a trainee in a Brussels based consultancy specialising in energy policies and in the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission. Inga has a broad interest in environmental, energy and R&D policies, its effectiveness and impact on the targeted industries, as well as the role of large business in achieving environmentally sound operations.