Let’s face it. One of the best parts of the workday has nothing to do with work. This is lunch. Lunch marks that halfway point in the day. It means that you can stretch your legs a little, hopefully get away from the computer or other tasks and take a well-deserved break.

One of the problems of working in a corporate environment can be the appeal, or even pressure, of eating out for lunch. While going out to lunch every day may sound like a nice idea, the costs can really add up. Spending $10 a day on lunch means you are spending $50 a week, $200 a month and $2,600 a year. Not only that, but you are spending your valuable time – if you only have one hour for lunch a day, you have to figure in how long it will take to drive or walk to the restaurant, to stand in (sometimes ridiculous) lines to order and then wait for the food, and then the time it takes to get back to the office. That generally doesn’t leave a whole lot of time to actually enjoy eating your lunch and almost defeats the whole purpose of having a, well, break. In addition, going out to lunch daily can produce huge amounts of waste. Think about all the plastic utensils, the extra napkins you never use, the packaging for the packaging.

The best choice to reduce our waste, while saving time and money in the process, is to go green for lunch. Now, there’s a lot of talk about packing green lunches for our kids, but what about us adults? What can we do?

For starters, invest in a lunch box. For $8-30, you can choose from a variety of types, depending on your needs and style. There’s the classic insulated lunch box, insulated tote bags, stainless steel containers and even compartmentalized bento lunch boxes. Your lunch box can be a single color or it can be an abstract colorful design. Do an Internet search and see what’s out there.

In addition to lunch boxes, consider getting some reusable utensils, containers and bottles. There always seems to be a shortage in plastic forks, spoons or knives at the workplace, so why not bring your own reusable ones to eliminate that search and also reduce waste? Also, consider using sealable containers instead of plastic bags. Not only will this save you money in the long run, but it will also reduce the amount of plastic being thrown away to our landfills each year. Finally, instead of bringing in plastic water bottles each day, get a reusable bottle. There are a lot of these on the market right now – from aluminum to sweat-free to filtered varieties.

When packing your lunch, avoid prepackaged foods. These are more costly and wasteful. Instead, buy normal- or economy-sized packaged items that you can put in containers each day. Another great idea is to use leftovers, especially if you aren’t keen on the idea of eating a sandwich every day. If you don’t usually have leftovers, why not cook more the night before, and save a portion or two for lunches that week?

Using green products may not always be a viable and affordable solution for everyone, but we can all help reduce waste – while saving time and money – by packing our lunches a little more.

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