3) TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF AND THE PLANET
Making the effort to green your lunch is noble — but don't forget to also care for yourself on your lunch break. Take the time to relax, read, go for a walk, take a yoga class, head to the gym or socialize with co-workers. Chances are you'll come back to your desk clear-headed, and ready to work. Think of it as adult recess!
• Get outside. A friend of mine living in Colorado used to head to the ski slopes every day at noon to sneak in a few passes down the mountain before heading back to the office. Lucky guy. That said, you don't have to live in proximity to fresh powder or a stretch of forest to find opportunities to get outside at lunch. Even people working in the depths of Manhattan's concrete jungle should seek out a small park, sit by the waterfront, or at least take a walk around the block and look at the sky. If you're pressed for time, bring your lunch with you and pull up a bench or a square of grass where you can eat your lunch in peace and green.
• Exercise. Many yoga studios, gyms and YMCAs offer abbreviated group classes geared toward the lunch hour. These classes are designed to get you out of the office, sweating, and back to your desk before your boss even realizes you left. There's nothing particularly "eco-friendly" about taking an afternoon yoga class, but when it comes to personal sustainability, you'll likely return to the office more refreshed, and renewed to dive back into work.
• Start a lunchtime book club. Do you have a stack of food or environment-themed books sitting by your bed, collecting dust? Gather together a few like-minded co-workers and start a lunchtime book club. Pick a title (e.g. "The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan, "Silent Spring" by Rachel Carson or "Hot, Flat and Crowded" by Thomas Friedman) and set a monthly date when you come together in the staff kitchen — or a nearby park — to share your thoughts. You'll get to know your co-workers better, and educate yourself about important environmental and sustainable food issues.
• Desk chair activism. After you've eaten a proper lunch, and hopefully taken a jaunt outside, spend a few minutes back at your desk "doing good" before you sign back into your e-mail and get to work.
Read up on sustainable and food-justice causes such as The Lunchbox Fund, which provides impoverished children in South Africa with nourishing lunches during their school day, or Edible Schoolyard, a program launched in the Bay Area by local foods pioneer Alice Waters, which uses sustainable gardening as a powerful teaching tool for urban public school kids. If you have your wallet nearby and are feeling generous, donate and help share the love of a green lunch with others.
• Green Restaurant Association. Looking for a restaurant that shares your Earth-friendly values? The Green Restaurant Association certifies food establishments (restaurants, coffee shops, caterers, etc.) that abide by a series of eco-protocols, including eschewing Styrofoam containers, reusing grey-water and using energy-efficient appliances, lightbulbs and so forth.
Unfortunately, the list of certified green restaurants on GRA's website feels sparse, and the site is a bit clunky to navigate — especially considering GRA has been around for nearly 20 years. But it is a place to start — so go forth and dine green!
4) KEEP LEARNING
There are endless resources, books and organizations out there doing great work around food, sustainable agriculture, hunger alleviation and more. What could be more appropriate — and inspiring — than using your lunch hour to learn about them? If you feel overwhelmed about where to start, subscribe to COMFOOD — a sustainable food listserv, and let the news come to you.
5) INSPIRE OTHERS TO GREEN THEIR LUNCHES
The more people around you — in your office, or at your kids' school — who are eating "green lunches," the more fun it will be. Try starting a green lunch club once a week with co-workers, or finding an officemate to eat with who shares your taste in all things eco. At the least, modeling your delicious food values in the lunchroom will help get the conversation started in your office. Extend the idea to other organizations and companies by serving eco-friendly lunches at meetings.
• The eco lunch meeting. Is your office hosting a lunchtime meeting? Use it as an opportunity to model your green lunch practices to colleagues and guests. Avoid serving the uninspired, catered "salad and sandwich" platter, which finds its way onto far too many conference room tables, and usually comes laden with unsustainable meats and limp, un-seasonal fruits and veggies. Instead, try creating a "make your own sandwich" bar — offering a selection of fresh breads, cheeses, hummus, sprouts, vegetables from the farmers market and sustainable deli meats or soy deli slices — and encouraging meeting attendees to make their own sandwiches.
Accompany your sandwich bar with fresh, seasonal fruit, fair trade coffee, and see if you can enlist a coworker in making homemade brownies. Serve everything on an inexpensive set of glass dishes you can purchase for the office, or on compostable disposable dishware. Your meeting guests will be impressed, satisfied and ready to get down to business.
How do you do it?
Are you the king or queen of green lunch? Do you take pleasure in packing your reusable lunchbox with green goodies? Or do you have a green lunch-related question to throw out to readers? If so, we'd love to hear it in the comments section below.