Zero Waste Lunches at Work

A lot of people ask me how I am Zero Waste at work.  I usually say that I bring my lunch to work every day which helps A LOT. A few weeks ago I posted my ultimate zero waste lunch kit with a lot of items from Life Without Plastic.

I save a lot of money by not purchasing lunch every day. My Organic, vegetarian meals cost me maybe three dollars each as opposed to buying lunch with non-organic, potentially GMO, conventional, and miscelaneious ingredients which can cost 8 dollars or more.

I try to make it a habit to make my lunch for the next day right when I get home. It takes about 20 minutes and then I am done and can just grab it and walk out the door in the morning. I usually make huge salads or mix pasta, rice, or cous cous with sautéed vegetables.

I keep apple cider vinegar at my office to use as a dressing so I don’t have to worry about lettuce from my salads wilting.

From the top left going clockwise:

  • Mixed green salad with kale, celery, cucumber, carrot, broccoli, green pepper, chia seeds, and beets: apple cider vinegar and olive oil dressing
  • Mixed green salad with radish, kale, celery, cucumber, carrot, broccoli, green pepper, chia seeds, and beets: apple cider vinegar and olive oil dressing
  • Mixed green salad with  barbecue tofu, chia seeds, kale, celery, cucumber, carrot, broccoli, green pepper, and beet: apple cider vinegar and olive oil dressing
  • Cous cous with radicchio, tomato, green leaf lettuce, and mushrooms
  • Brown rice with kale, tomato, pepper, and avocado
  • Cous cous with mushroom, tomato, squash, and mushroom 

As always, I use:
One airtight stainless steel lunch container 

I got mine from Life Without Plastic. It is great. Totally spill proof, easy to clean, and it has optional dividers so that I can keep my food separate. 

One reusable fork like this one from Life Without Plastic

I also got this from Life Without Plastic. Besides the fact that it is insanely adorable and foldable, it comes in an organic cotton carrying case. I am still deciding whether I should keep it in my bag at all times, or just leave it at work. You could also pick up a fork from the Goodwill or Salvation Army to leave at the office.

One reusable napkin
I use Organic cotton napkins at my house, and I bring one to the office and leave it there for the week and then bring it home to wash it on Friday. So easy. LWP offers a couple options including a book of washable napkins which seem pretty cool although I haven’t tried them.

A couple Organic cotton bags for snacks or sandwiches
(you can also use them for bulk at the market). I use these to buy rice and pasta at the market, but I also use them to carry granola, nuts, popcorn or even a sandwich to work. They are super lightweight and washable.

One mason jar, glass, or stainless steel canteen
I leave a stainless steel water bottle at work and just wash it in the sink. I also leave a mason jar for hot liquids like coffee. You could also bring a glass from home or purchase one at your local thrift shop for under a dollar. P.S. if you drink iced coffee or tea, you might want to invest in a stainless steel straw. I LOVE mine.

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Why I Let my Fridge go Bare

I recently read an NRDC report that said 40 percent of food in the United States is wasted. That is more than 20 pounds of food per person every month adding up to over $165 billion each year. HOLY $#*^. I could get SO MANY JARS WITH THAT MONEY!!!!! So where does all of this food end up? Almost all of it in the landfill where food matter accounts for 16 percent of U.S. methane emissions. Methane, that gas that is driving climate change and destroying the planet…yep, that one.

I come from a mom who comes from a mom that wouldn’t let her leave the table until she finished everything on her plate. I never had that problem (I have always had a hefty appetite) but the idea of not wasting food is one that I grew up with. It just doesn’t make sense. Composting rotten food turns it into nutrient rich soil that you can use to produce nutrient rich food with. DUH! So why send it to the landfill where it won’t turn into anything but gas and wasted space?

I prevent that by saying NO, THANKS to food waste. While some dream of endlessly bountiful fridges overflowing with produce, I pride myself on letting my fridge go bare every week. At 22 years old, I get enjoyment out of scrounging together meals from “nothing” because it means that I have used up everything in my house and prevented any waste. For instance, tonight. My fridge, to many, could have seemed totally empty and a trip to the store or a takeout call would have been in order, but to me there was a big opportunity for a great meal.

Armed with half an onion, some dried peas, a handful of wilty kale, a few shriveled mushrooms, three potatoes that were starting to dry up and some dried rosemary I made split pea soup and rosemary roasted potatoes. Besides being insanely delicious, there is now enough food in my fridge to feed me for the next two days. I’m saving money, time, and preventing wasting food that could have been destined for compost.

Part of living a Zero Waste lifestyle is using up everything I have before buying anything new. The same ideology is applied to my food. By stocking up on staples like rice, dried peas, and dried beans, I can stretch any perishable by challenging when it should be decommissioned and making it into a hearty meal. Then, the only thing I am tossing into my compost are things like potato skins, onion peels, and coffee grounds. What happens to it then? It hangs out with some worms for a while until it is done cookin’ and is used to grow more food or fertilize some awesome NYC flowers. Total win.

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Zero Waste Lunch


I just started my first real, post-graduate job last week (YAY!). The downside, it is about an hour away from my house in an area with nothing but fast food- not exactly what I want to be eating. The upside, I am a vegetarian and also LOVE to cook, so I am going to be bringing my lunch to work every day. To do so, I invested in the ultimate Zero Waste and Plastic Free Lunch kit. AKA a super cool lunch box for adults.

It includes:

  • One airtight stainless steel lunch container 
    • I got mine from Life Without Plastic. It is great. Totally spill proof, easy to clean, and it has optional dividers so that I can keep my food separate.
  • One reusable fork like this one from Life Without Plastic 
    • I also got this from Life Without Plastic. Besides the fact that it is insanely adorable and foldable, it comes in an organic cotton carrying case. I am still deciding whether I should keep it in my bag at all times, or just leave it at work. You could also pick up a fork from the Goodwill or Salvation Army to leave at the office.
  • One reusable napkin 
    • I use Organic cotton napkins at my house, and I bring one to the office and leave it there for the week and then bring it home to wash it on Friday. So easy. LWP offers a couple options including a book of washable napkins which seem pretty cool although I haven’t tried them.
  • A couple Organic cotton bags for snacks or sandwiches 
    • (you can also use them for bulk at the market). I use these to buy rice and pasta at the market, but I also use them to carry granola, nuts, popcorn or even a sandwich to work. They are super lightweight and washable.
  • One mason jar, glass, or stainless steel canteen
    • I leave a stainless steel water bottle at work and just wash it in the sink. I also leave a mason jar for hot liquids like coffee. You could also bring a glass from home or purchase one at your local thrift shop for under a dollar. P.S. if you drink iced coffee or tea, you might want to invest in a stainless steel straw. I LOVE mine.

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Hosting a Zero Waste Dinner Party


I am starting a new job this week, so to celebrate I wanted to host a dinner party. The idea can seem a little daunting, and understandably so. The hours of preparation and the cleanup are tiresome enough. My solution? A potluck! It makes playing hostess so simple, affordable and fun. Everyone gets to bring something that they love to cook as well as try new dishes. In fact, a potluck is so affordable I cooked my part of the meal (using all Organic ingredients), for under $12 dollars in less than one hour! Plus, had we gone to a restaurant, it would have easily cost four times that!

I set the table with all reusable plates, silverware, glasses, and cotton napkins. For the centerpiece, I used upcycled glass jars and filled them with water and fresh Organic rosemary which smelled fantastic! I also made place cards, which always make me feel fancy, using a piece of cardboard that I cut up into five rectangles and then folded in half. After dinner, I recycled them.
As for the food, one of my friends cannot eat dairy or gluten, so we had a really fun challenge to cook dishes that would work for everyone. I made a porcini mushroom soup with lemon, potatoes, and rosemary. I bought all of the ingredients in bulk which not only cut down on the cost of my portion, it made it Zero Waste.
My friends brought BBQ tempeh, mashed sweet potatoes, roasted brussel sprouts with walnuts, and homemade vegan “cheesecake” topped with coconut frosting and raspberries. Everything they brought was packed in glass or metal and brought over in reusable or upcycled bags that were recycled.
The most difficult part about hosting a Zero Waste dinner party would be finding alcohol, especially since getting a growler of beer wasn’t a possibility due to gluten free dietary restrictions. Also, since I only drink Organic wine, I can’t buy refill a bottle anywhere in the city. 🙁 Luckily my friend brought Organic screw top wine (cork free!) and I could recycle the entire thing.

Our dinner was delicious, so much fun, and really easy. In fact, the cleanup was so simple that we did it in 10 minutes and went to a friend’s party afterwards! Believe me, after a long night, there is nothing better than coming home to a house so clean, you forget you had a party at all!

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Storing Leftovers Without Waste


I am sitting on my couch feeling good. The kind of good that only comes after you have consumed Thanksgiving leftovers with more voracity than Thanksgiving dinner itself.

I am soooo happpyyyyyy.

Okay, anyway. Leftovers. My family always has leftovers and we all fight one another to take them home. But, if not prepared, leftovers can be synonymous with copious amounts of plastic tupperware and unnecessary trash. No bueno. Not good for your health, not good for your food, and definitely not good for the environment.

How do I combat the tupperware troubles? Mason jars, duh!

This Thanksgiving I went to my mom’s house prepared. I was stocked with six large mason jars, the perfect number for holding all of the stuffing, sweet potato, mashed potato, gravy, etc., that I wanted with absolutely no waste created! Plus, look how gorgeous those colors are! My fridge will look like fall all week (okay, who am I kidding, this won’t last longer than the weekend). 

So the next time you head to your family’s house for the holidays, remember to bring your jars (and your boyfriend to carry them)! Your stomach, and the earth, will thank you.

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Zero Waste Coffee


I love coffee. I drink it every day and have since I was about 15 years old. It was my saving grace in college and kept me sentient during many a sleepless night. Unfortunately, my addiction love, for coffee used to come with a high price tag, both for me and for the environment.

I used to buy my coffee every day from the cafeteria in my high school. I would buy 1-2 cups every morning and the styrofoam cups and plastic lids that it came in would go straight to landfill. It got a little bit better my freshman year of college when I lived in Paris. I used a french press, very authentic, and would drink my coffee at home before class, only to end up having to buy another once I got through my 9am 3 hour french lesson, can you blame me? Then, my sophomore year of college when I was back in NYC, I purchased a Keurig. I thought it was great. My semi-watery coffee was ready in 20 seconds, I could choose from an infinite list of exotic flavors, and I didn’t have to clean anything. I could just fill up the back of some plastic thing, wait a few seconds, and then toss out another little plastic thing. It was so easy and I had no idea how wasteful I was being. I just knew I was semi-caffeinated and that was enough for me.

Then, one August day my junior year of college, my mom brought me over a pumpkin roast that was pre-ground. It smelled like a mix of every bit of fall nostalgia that I ever had. The problem was that I could not make it in my Keurig, so I unearthed the completely glass and metal french press that I had purchased in Paris. I filled it up with boiling water, coffee and waited a few minutes. Even at first sip I could not believe it. It was so much more flavorful and rich than the single serve coffee that I had been drinking. I had truly forgotten how wonderful coffee could be. A few days later, I sold my Keurig on Craigslist and relied solely on my french press. I haven’t used anything else since.

Now that I am working and have to be up at 7am, coffee is everything. Including expensive. I just graduated, have an entry level job, and get paid a very, very entry level salary. While some people buy coffee every day, I simply can’t afford it, and even if I could, I still wouldn’t buy it out. Why? It is a waste of money, plus, I really think my coffee tastes better and I know exactly where it comes from because I buy Equal Exchange brand in bulk at my local market. My morning cup takes 8 minutes to make (four for the water to boil, and four for it to brew) and I can get ready during 6 of the 8 of them. It is an easy Zero Waste operation and I like it that way.

Now I make my coffee in my french press every day before work, and it pays off. A survey conducted by Accounting Principles showed that 50% of the American workforce spends $1,000 per
year on coffee which is much more than I spend on my multiple cups of organic, fair-trade coffee that I take to work in a mason jar. Here is my coffee breakdown…

-One pound of bulk Organic Fair-Trade coffee every week and a half for $10.00- $347.00/ year
-Organic milk purchased every week and a half for $5- $173.00/ year
-Bulk Organic sugar every three months for $11- $44.00/ year

Total:   $564.00 

The total is $564.00 for coffee and the works for my boyfriend and I every day of the year, so it would be even less for one! Subtract that from $1000.00 and you get $436.00 of savings. That money breaks down to about seven weeks of groceries for me, an obvious reason for me to make my coffee at home.

So there you have it. I get my milk, sugar, and coffee for over four hundred dollars less than 50% of the American workforce and it is waste free because I compost the grounds after!

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Zero Waste Pasta Recipe

On my way to a friend’s wedding, I stopped at the 4th Street Food Co-op to buy some bulk Organic olive oil (so far the only place in the city where I can find it), and ended up leaving with a free squash. A squash the size and girth of a bowling ball. AKA the most awkward thing try and conceal at a wedding.

Five days later I roasted off the squash and decided to tackle something I had never before attempted. Ravioli.

I used the pasta recipe below that is from Anne Burrell’s cookbook called cook like a rock star, a gift from my friend Chelsea and the most used cookbook in my collection. I created the filling by pureeing the roasted squash with maple syrup, salt, pepper, cinnamon, ginger, olive oil, and garlic (zero measurements, totally by taste as I had no idea what I was doing) and hoped for the best.

The outcome was magical. It was the best squash ravioli I ever had. The pasta recipe was perfect and could also be used to make spaghetti or other types of cut pastas. I recommend trying it out immediately and impressing everyone you know. With this recipe, I convinced my cousin, who probably thought my cooking skills were equivalent to those of a 7 year old at best, that I am worthy of cooking with the big dogs (her and my 80 year old grandma) at Thanksgiving. This recipe is amazing.

Pasta Dough

Ingredients:

  • 3 3/4 cups all purpose flour plus extra for dusting (about 1/2 cup)
  • 4 large eggs plus one yolk
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt

Step 1: Mound the flour on a clean, dry work surface. Make a big hole in the center of the flour pile. Crack the eggs into the hole along with the extra yolk, olive oil, and 2 tbs of water. Season with salt.

Step 2: Using a fork, beat the eggs together with the olive oil, water, and salt, and begin to incorporate the flour into the egg mixture. Be careful not to break the well or the egg mixture will run everywhere and that is gross. 

Continue mixing…

Step 3: When the flour is incorporated and you can handle the dough, use your hands to combine everything. If the mixture is tight and dry, wet your hands a little bit.

Step 4: When the mixture comes together completely as in the picture below, start kneading. When knewading, put your body weight into it and really stretch it. Be careful not to tear it. Roll the mixture over itself. When it’s done it should be smooth. This can take 8-15 minutes. 

Step 5: When the pasta is ready and looks like the picture below, wrap it in a dish towel and let it rest for an hour at room temperature before rolling it out. 

Step 6: Cut the dough into quarters and roll it out. I don’t have a pasta roller or a normal rolling pin, so we used a stainless steel water bottle instead, which worked really well! 

Step 7: Cut the Pasta into your desired shape. For me It was strips and I filled them with my squash mixture. I then wet the edges of the bottom sheet of pasta and put another rolled out sheet of pasta on top. 

Step 8: Using a knife, cut them into individual ravioli squares and sealed the edges with a fork

Step 9: Put them into boiling salted water for about 3 minutes until they floated to the top

Step 10: Drench in sauce (I made brown butter sage sauce for mine), eat, and pat yourself on the back because you made pasta, and you are awesome.

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