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How to Pack a Green Lunch with Eco-Friendly Lunch Bags and Containers

Updated on June 1, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.


Thousands of pounds of trash in the form of lunch bags are added to landfills every year. While taking your lunch in a brown paper bag might seem inexpensive and easy you may be surprised to find that there are other, better options.

Alternatives to Lunch Bags

As more people have moved toward a more environmentally friendly lifestyle companies have created more and more products that cater to the needs and desires of these consumers. Reusable lunch bags, Bento boxes, special food containers have all become commonplace in stores as well as many websites.

It is important to be sure that the bags that you get are not vinyl. In 2005 the Center for Environmental Health filed a lawsuit against manufacturers and retailers of soft vinyl lunch boxes because they contained high levels of lead. In fact they contained more than 90 times the allowable limit.

You will also want to look for BPA free containers and items that do not contain vinyl, lead, or PVC. There are may different styles on the Internet or you can make your own with a pattern. They are easy to keep clean — simply add to the washing machine unless the manufacturer says something else.

Mimi the Sardine organic lunch bag via amazon
Mimi the Sardine organic lunch bag via amazon

Reusable Lunch Bags

Reusable lunch bags are an easy solution. You can fit a variety of food container sizes and shapes inside of them to hold anything that you want for lunch. Many of the reusable bags are also insulated to help you cold food stay cold or your hot food to stay hot.

Manufacturers create these bags in a variety of sizes and designs to please everyone from the youngest member of the family to the coolest teen.

Some bags are made with Velcro closures while others have zippers. It is a good idea to look around to see all of the different materials, designs, and styles to get exactly what you are looking for.

How to Pack an Eco Friendly Lunch

Choosing a Bag

It is important to remember that consumers support companies. Which bag you choose and even which store it comes from, makes an impact on the environment. Be sure to read about the company and ensure that their business practices do not conflict with your own beliefs and ethics.

Mimi the Sardine

Mimi the Sardine is a small family owned, women run company that makes a variety of products including reusable lunch sacks. They use organic fabrics that are colorful and fun. The make both lunch sacks and lunch bugs.

Lunch Sacks are designed to look more like a traditional paper lunch sack. They have a Velcro top and handles that are sturdy.  Best of all, they are easy to clean. These cost about 25.00 at most retailers and come on a variety of bright designs.

Lunch Bugs are also easy to clean and can be either wiped down or machine washed and tumbled dry. They have zipper and handles to make using them easy. Lunch Bugs are also priced around 25.00.

Mimi the Sardine bags are made in the United States.

Dabba Walla

Dabba Walla bags are fun and functional. Made from safe neoprene, they insulate, protect, and cushion the food.

Neoprene is recommended by the Center for Environmental Health as a safe alternative to vinyl. The bags are colorful and eye-catching.

Dabba Walla Bags are made in Taiwan and are responsibly made.

Citizen Pip

Citizen Pip advertises that their lunch bags are made entirely without muck. According to their website the products are  lead-free, BPA-free, PVC-free, and phthalate-free. Muck-free materials are food-safe and do not contain hazardous or toxic materials that can leach into food and drink. Lead, BPA, PVC, and phthalates are substances that are known to be harmful.

These lunch bags are very affordable, costing about $10.00. They come in several colorful designs.

Make an Easy, Reusable Sandwich Bag


Packing an Eco Friendly Lunch

Once you have chosen a bag then you'll need to find containers for the food. After all, going to the effort to get a bag and then sending the food in plastic wrap sort of defeats the purpose.

Always get the bag first so you can ensure that the containers fit inside it.

Whether you are sending a lunch to school with your kids, taking one to work for yourself, or heading out on a long day of sightseeing you want a lunch that is healthy for the environment as well as for you. It isn't complicated or expensive — it just takes some thought and a few supplies.

You'll want:

  • Sandwich container
  • Drink container
  • Several different sizes of containers for chips, puddings, snacks, soups, and vegetables or fruit.

The trick is to ensure that the packaging that you are getting doesn't contain BPA, lead, PVC, or vinyl. These things are hazardous to both the environment and your health. You can find containers that are free of these substances on the Internet as well as in local specialty stores. There are also patterns for some of the items like sandwich wrappers.

Buying snack foods in large sizes and dividing them up into snack size portions is healthier and saves you money.

You can usually plan on the reusable bags lasting a year or so for a school age child and much longer for an adult. It just depends on how much it gets thrown around. The containers will last for years. In fact, I usually have to buy new ones only because I have lost tops to the old ones!


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    • Jeanne Grunert profile image

      Jeanne Grunert 7 years ago from Virginia

      Great hub, Mayre! I love the reusable lunch bags. When I was in corporate America and toting my lunch daily, I had a whole wardrobe of stylish insulated lunch's not part of NYC culture to carry a lunch, but people liked the bags!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you for introducing all these lunch bags. They are really great.

    • agusfanani profile image

      agusfanani 7 years ago from Indonesia

      Hopefully more and more people can make good use of these bags for the sake of our environment.

    • scla profile image

      scla 7 years ago from Southern California

      Good article. It is unbelievable how much trash we are generating each year. When you take a look at our landfills you can really see how wasteful and inefficeint we are at reusing a lot of products and materials.

    • CYBERSUPE profile image

      CYBERSUPE 7 years ago from MALVERN, PENNSYLVANIA, U.S.A.

      Very interesting and informative hub Marye. Good job!