Want to have a snack but can’t find something without packaging? Sometimes it can be really hard to make environmentally friendly choices when on-the-go, especially if you are hungry. 78 million tons of plastic packaging is made around the world each year, meaning that lots of our food is wrapped in a cocoon of plastic. Yes, plastic means that food has a longer shelf-life and is a bit less messy, but only up to a point, which we have exceeded. It isn’t just plastic packaging that is the problem. All packaging will have required energy to produce, increasing the carbon footprint of your purchase. It is time to strip back the packaging and try and eat your food in the nude, without the packaging. We get that this seems like a difficult task and that not everyone has the time or money to spend in bulk or zero-waste stores or make all of your food from scratch. So how can we snack in a way that’s sustainable, healthy for you and the environment, and easy? Here are some of our ideas and top tips for snacking packaging, and stress, free.
Fruit is probably one of the easiest, and tastiest, packaging-free snacks. Anything from apples to pomegranates can be found loose in supermarkets now. Grab a juicy apple or energy-rich banana on-the-go or chop up a mango or pineapple and put it in a container to eat later.
2. Join the crudité craze
Crudités, pronounced “krew-dee-tay” (not “krew-dites” as I was embarrassingly saying before I wrote this), are the fancy (and sexier) word for raw vegetable sticks. Crudités could sound rather boring, but with a bit of creativity you can bring your standard chopped veg to the next level. It doesn’t have to be just carrot or cucumber – why not try asparagus, broccoli, peppers, green beans or whatever other loose veggies you can find in a shop or market? Raw veg is an excellent source of roughage, vitamins and antioxidants, so adds another dimension to your healthy diet. Adding olive oil, salt, pepper and any sort of dip makes this a tasty snack. You can put your sexy crudité and accompaniments into a container and take it with you to eat on the go. Easy-peasy.
3. Containers are magic
Taking a small container and reusable bag with you everywhere can give you lots of plastic-free eating opportunities. Lots of cafes and shops will let you put salads, pastries, sandwiches etc into your own containers, instead of the single-use plastic ones on offer. You can also store unpackaged nuts, dried and fresh fruit, or even dips like hummus from salad bars in a container. Start putting a container in your bag every day and remember to always ask what a store will let you take away in your own storage box/bag. As soon as a container becomes a regular part of your bag, eating options will increase and your plastic-free diet will become more varied.
Oats can be found almost everywhere plastic-free. Unless buying from a bulk food store you will have to buy your oats in a package, but as these are generally paper-based, they can be recycled and will break down quickly in the environment. Oats are a fantastic slow-release energy source packed full of vitamins, fibre and antioxidants, and are gluten-free. Porridge can be made on the hob, in a microwave, slow cooker or just soaked overnight meaning that it is a snack which can be enjoyed at home, work or on-the-go if you put your over-night oats in a container. You can eat oats plain, or with any topping you fancy (sprinkle with cinnamon, vanilla essence, nut butter, chopped fruit as some idea starters). The BBC called oats the ‘go-to fitness food’, we call them the ‘go-to plastic-free food’.
5. Pick n’ Mix
For sweet treats, try and find a pick n’ mix in a store near you. Take your own container/bag and load it up with all your favourite sweets and chocolates. You’ll be able to find them in most supermarkets and this is a good option for cinema or movie night snacking! I bet you didn’t expect to be told you could eat sweets for your package-free snacking!
6. Homemade treats
When trying to reduce your plastic-footprint you will have the most success if you are prepared for action. Making snacks at home once a week and storing them in containers to take with you can save you a lot of stress when trying to find something to eat out-and-about. Cookies, granola bars, veggie crisps (you could even use vegetable peel!), banana muffins and roasted chickpeas are all snacks that can be made quickly and stored for a long time. Check out www.zerowastechef.com or www.goingzerowaste.com/recipes-1/ for more ideas and recipes.
7. Know your area
Research the shops and cafes in your area and write a list of what items you can get where. There is huge variety between supermarkets as to what they do and don’t sell without packaging – some sell all fruit and veg loose, nuts you can put in your own bag, pastries and bread package-free. Maybe some cafés will let you take away items in your own containers. Have an explore through your area or look online to get a better idea of what is on offer. Be an adaptable and savvy snacker.
8. What to do if everything is in packaging
How often do you find yourself in a store or café where all food seems to be covered in plastic or some form of packaging? Finding unpackaged food can be a very frustrating process. First of all, don’t panic. Instead ask a shop assistant if there are any plastic-free options. Maybe you can put something in your own bag, or they know where to find hidden plastic-free treasures in the store. Still no luck? Look at the packaging – where does it come from, what is it made of, can it be recycled? Try and find a locally produced item in recyclable packaging.
By following these tips to ditch packaging and change the way you snack you’ll not only notice that you’re using less plastic, but that your diet becomes a lot healthier. Food in packets tend to be more processed, whereas unpackaged food tends to be fresher and better for you. Maybe going plastic-free is the new diet everyone should try!
Do you have any favourite plastic-free snacks? Share your thoughts, questions, recipes and photos of yummy snacks with @PlasticPatrol and #PlasticPatrol on Facebook and Instagram!
Author: Liz Heard