Earth Week 2012 Challenges: Pack A Lunch

Day 5: Earth Week Challenge -- Pack A Lunch

From April 16-22, HuffPost Green invites you to take on one simple endeavor per day to reduce your impact on the planet. We can't extend a challenge without attempting it ourselves, so our team will tackle each goal as well and share with you the highs and lows of our experience.

CHALLENGE: (Reusable) Bag Lunch. Bring your own lunch in reusable containers or bring the containers to your favorite take-out restaurant and skip the plastic utensils, excess paper napkins and bags.

For many students and workers, lunch is an eat-and-run endeavor centered around ordering takeout and delivery.

This takeout field day will soon turn into a landfill nightmare.

Between the foam or plastic food containers tucked into a paper or plastic bag stuffed with plastic cutlery, extra extra napkins, and condiments you'll never use, the amount of waste you produce every lunch might astound you. It certainly shocked us.

Polystyrene foam containers are often used by restaurants as packaging material for takeout. An EPA blog reported in 2009 that "every year Americans waste enough polystyrene that it could circle the Earth 426 times." Some cities have gone so far as to ban the use of these non-biodegradable containers, while other areas continue to debate the material.

Today, our Green team took on the challenge of reducing our lunch waste.

Joanna: I'm a big fan of pretty much every food that requires lots of plastic containers. I love buying multiple sets of individually packaged avocado sushi with 10 soy sauce packets, salads in plastic containers in plastic bags, and falafel in foam packaging from the street vendor on the corner. Today, I made myself a sandwich and I couldn't find a top to fit my sandwich tupperware, so I put it in a soup container. I walked down four flights of stairs before realizing I'd left my soup container in my apartment. I walked back up the four flights to retrieve it and take it to the office. I shouldn't have washed the tupperware out after eating because now it's dripping water onto my desk. But I saved about $8 and it's one less container in the trash, so for that, it's worth my desk being a little damp.

Sasha: This morning I woke up early, made myself coffee (fulfilling my pledge from Wednesday's Earth Week Challenge to avoid the single-serving plastic coffee packets in the office), and packed up last night's leftovers in some tupperware for my girlfriend to take with her for lunch. But what about me? Lunch is one of the few times during the workday when I can take a brief respite from my computer, get out of the office, and enjoy some fresh air (ok, pollinated air, but still). I don't normally bring in my lunch, because if I did, I'd just eat it at my desk without ever taking a screen break. But I did bring a reusable bag with me today. It will also come in handy if I swing by the grocery store on my way home.

James: I usually end up buying my lunch from a restaurant or deli near our office, but I've learned that it's not too hard to bring something from home. Today, I was in a rush and wasn't able to cook lunch at home, but I found something with minimal packaging and used a reusable lunch bag. When I do buy food, I've started to pay more attention to packaging and try to avoid products that use too much paper or plastic.

Jessica: For both financial and sustainable reasons, I bring a tupperware-d lunch from home 4/5 days per week (Wednesday is my day off). In order to go that extra step today, I got a teeny tiny tupperware to put in a little extra tofu instead of wrapping it in foil. My major downfall is that I can't find a reusable lunch box that is big enough to fit my tupperwares! I was thinking I need to invest in a reusable shopping bag with a zipper on top. Any suggestions, readers?

How did you do with this #EarthWeekGoal? Tweet us your experience and check out the twitter slideshow below to read about other challenge participant experiences:

Check out this photo of our team eating their packed lunches:

Challenges for the rest of the week:

Saturday: Second-Hand Clothes And Products. Instead of purchasing new items, reuse and upcycle old items.

Sunday: Waste Less Water. Take shorter showers, turn the faucet off while brushing teeth, do only full loads of dishes and laundry.