Looking for eco friendly lunchbox ideas that are non toxic and reduce waste? You can pack a sustainable and well-balanced meal quickly with a few reusable items and a little bit of planning. Here are a few waste free lunch tips for people taking their lunch to school or work.
Eco-friendly lunchbox tips:
Is packing your own lunch sustainable? There are several benefits that come with packing a lunch from home, including reducing your carbon footprint. However, if you are aiming for a sustainable lunch, individual bags of chips and disposable napkins aren’t a great choice. Anything you can do to reduce your trash output will make your lunch more sustainable.
The choices you make for lunch will either make or break your attempts at living a greener life. Make sure you bring home things like apple cores and banana peels for composting at home.
Bring home anything you can recycle and toss it into the recycle bin. Here are a few other ways to create a waste-free school lunch for your child this year.
Choose cloth napkins for your lunch box:
Paper napkins are quite wasteful, especially when used daily. Thankfully, cloth napkins can easily be found at most major department stores and are frequently on sale.
If you’re strictly using them for lunch purposes, you don’t need them to match your kitchen décor, making them a quick and efficient swap from paper napkins. This is seriously one of the easiest swaps when striving for an eco-friendly lunchbox.
Invest in reusable water bottles:
Send your child to school with a reusable water bottle and you will not only reduce your carbon footprint but also save yourself quite a bit of money.
With juice boxes and other drink bottles ending up in the trash, reusable bottles help prevent waste and allow your children to stay hydrated throughout the day.
Paper bags are not eco-friendly:
Hopefully, you have already made the transition to a reusable cloth bag or plastic lunch box for your child’s lunch.
If you do use brown paper bags, try to reuse them as many times as possible. You can find many eco-friendly lunchboxes online that are made from sustainable materials.
Buy in bulk to reduce packaging waste:
Save yourself some money at the grocery store and buy large bags of snacks and divide them into reusable cloth bags. They come in tons of cute patterns, however, buy some that will grow with your child. They will last for many years and teenagers won’t want to bring certain patterns to school as they get older.
Baking from scratch is eco-friendly:
Cookies, bread, and granola bars are easy to make at home and will result in less packaging waste. Try my Homemade Granola Bars for an easy homemade snack that your kids will love! Here are a few homemade baked goods your kids might like:
- Easy Homemade Muffins: Pumpkin Chia Seed Muffins
- Baked Chicken Nuggets with Low Fat Honey Mustard Dip
- White Chocolate Dipped Chewy Molasses Cookies
Choose organic for a sustainable lunchbox:
More and more grocery stores are starting to carry organic foods. Look for organic varieties of your child’s favorite foods.
Peanut butter, bananas, and cheese sticks are all popular lunchbox choices and will taste exactly the same to your child whether they are organic or not.
Not all of them will be waste-free but do the best you can to find snacks that your child will actually eat and not toss in the garbage at school.
Like these Eco-friendly lunch box ideas? Read these sustainability tips, too!
- Eco-Friendly School Ideas for Greener Classrooms and Smaller Footprints
- Eco-Friendly School Supplies and Tips for a Greener School Year
- Green Mom Guilt and Parenting Priorities
How do you pack a lunch without plastic?
How do you package food without plastic? It is incredibly challenging. There is a growing movement of people who are striving for a plastic-free life. That is a great goal, although it definitely makes packing a lunchbox for your child a bit more difficult.
Plastic-free lunchbox supplies will cost more than cheaper, plastic options. However, packing a lunch without plastic can save you money in the long run. Here are a few plastic-free lunchbox supplies that may help:
- Start with a cloth lunch bag: This can be challenging since many of them have a plastic liner. You can try a waxed canvas lunch bag to start.
- Use a plastic-free stainless steel ice pack from Onyx to keep things cold
- Throw in a set of bamboo utensils.
- Put your food in stainless steel reusable lunch containers or reusable sandwich bags.
- Make sure you pour drinks into a reusable water bottle or check out these reusable milk containers.
- Toss in a fashionable cloth napkin to round out your plastic-free lunchbox!
If you are looking for plastic-free zero-waste lunch essentials, mason jars are perfect for storing salads, soups, or snacks. You can find them cheap at many thrift stores.
You have to be careful with glass and I would not send it with small children. However, if you are trying to pack an eco-friendly lunchbox for yourself at work, mason jars work well.
Sustainable Lunch Ideas For You And The Kids
You’ve stocked up on cloth napkins and metal containers. Now what? If you are looking for sustainable lunch ideas, you will have to do better than most of the lunches kids bring to school nowadays, unfortunately. Look for easy sustainable recipes you can make at home and send in with little work. Here are a few other ways to pack your kids a more sustainable lunch:
- Cut down on meat and dairy. You can try making homemade hummus or tossing in some roasted chickpeas for a more sustainable protein source.
- Be choosy about meat and cheese. If you don’t want to give up meat entirely, just be careful what you do buy. Choose organic cheese or sustainably caught tuna.
- Buy locally. Hit the farmer’s markets when they are open and read more about how to eat more local foods.
- Think seasonally. Aim for apples in the fall and berries in the summer. Seasonal foods have a smaller carbon footprint.
- Avoid the dirty dozen. Check out Green Matters for more information on the dirty dozen and the clean 15 foods.
More ways to green your lunch habit at work
While packing a lunch from home definitely has a smaller carbon footprint than eating out, it isn’t always an option. Whether you are pressed for time or just have a business lunch to attend, sometimes you have to eat out while you are at work.
One way to green your lunch out is to carpool with your coworkers. If eight of you are meeting for a business lunch, see if you can take fewer than eight cars. It will save money on gas as well as reduce your carbon footprint.
Also, the type of restaurant you choose will make a big difference. Look for a farm-to-table restaurant that supports local farmers. At the very least, choose a restaurant that uses cloth napkins and real plates rather than disposable ones. Bring a Green Reusable Plastic to-Go Box to bring home your leftovers.
Eco-Friendly Lunches Make Cents!
A homemade lunch can be a real money saver, however, plan ahead for years worth of low-waste lunches for a smaller carbon footprint.
From simple DIY Lunchables to homemade granola bars, many traditional kid-approved lunch ideas are easy to make at home. Improve your sustainability and save money by packing your own lunch!
Diane is a professional blogger and nationally certified pharmacy technician at Good Pill Pharmacy. She earned her BS in Microbiology at the University of New Hampshire and has worked in cancer research, academics, and biotechnology. Concern over the growing incidence of human disease and the birth of her children led her to begin living a more natural life. She quickly realized that the information she was learning along the way could be beneficial to many others and started blogging and freelance writing to share this knowledge with others. Learn more about her HERE.