Anything saved from the landfill is a good move. If you're looking to take the zero-waste leap, a baby-step toward it, or freshen up lunchtime, let this be your guide.
The “Lunch Box”
Bento boxes and tiffins are fun and segmented containers make healthy food look even more appealing. I like stainless-steel for longevity (and they look cool for older kids) but other materials tend to be more leak-proof.
Neoprene bags are pretty and durable but petroleum based. Recycled polypropylene totes don’t insulate but can handle the bulk of reusable containers and the Blue Q brand donates 1% of sales to support environmental initiatives through The Nature Conservancy.
If you suffer from brown-bag nostalgia like me, choose a waxed-canvas sack that looks just like paper but doesn’t leak!
The Food + Beverage Containers
Non-crushable foods do great in food-grade silicone bags.
Pliable food-wrappers like those made with beeswax or candelilla wax (vegan) are great for sandwiches and do double-duty in the kitchen covering open containers. Nil Products is a supplier that also creates jobs for moms to work from home. Washable sandwich bags are still a great go-to.
Yeti makes insulated containers that are basically indestructible, which means less need to replace.
When choosing a reusable straw, I prefer stainless steel with rounded edges for a smoother sip. Pro-tip: get the cleaning brush to keep them funk-free.
Reusable cutlery is a must for non-finger foods and I prefer metal to other reusable options because they seem to make it home more often. Bamboo is lovely and comes in a reusable and disposable versions.
Choose non-toxic, biodegradable ice packs.
KnockKnock makes fun love-note stickies or make your own on recycled printer paper.
Other considerations for planet-friendly meals include:
Evaluate food packaging. The ideas above also translate well to the market.
Remember things marketed as conveniently disposable are often reusable.
Encourage kids to return reusable items with fun incentives and, just in case, have disposable-but-friendly backups like biodegradable paper sandwich bags, compostable cutlery and washable bamboo “paper” towels.
Look for products that are durable, biodegradable, recyclable, eco-ethically sourced and manufactured, BPA-free, non-leaching and non-toxic.
If you can find these items locally from independent businesses, please purchase them there. Or, you can order everything in one place using the links below (and if you do, we may earn a few pennies here and there for our effort). Thrive Market and Earth Hero are additional online resources with planet-friendly options.
This list gets you to zero-waste but no lunch-shaming here: every effort counts. Now go celebrate lunch and the planet.