Links to products featured on RecycleScene are affiliate links. Make a purchase of recommended products on our site, and we get a small percentage of affiliate commission to maintain our site. Thanks!
Zero Waste Lunch Ideas
Whether you pack a lunch for yourself or your kids, it’s a smart idea to cut down on the amount of garbage produced. Bonus: you may even save money while you’re at it! Believe it or not, your daily lunch offers opportunities to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Some lunches produce more garbage than others, so use our tips to help you achieve a zero waste lunch.
The idea of zero waste has a lot of implications, and the basic idea is just like it sounds: setting a goal to eliminate waste and conserve and recover all resources. Zero waste goals are set by cities, companies and individuals like you, even for something as simple as packing your daily lunch. Zero-waste goals and ideas make a particular impact on children, and help engage kids in conservation and recycling habits. All it takes is a little awareness and thought, and lunchtime becomes a time for the 3 Rs.
Reusable Lunch Bags
Let’s start with lunch containers. Stop reaching for that plastic bag when there are a lot of other choices, from simple paper bags to fun vintage plastic lunch boxes and insulated bags made from sturdy recycled materials. Anything you can reuse more than once is a great start. You can find all manner of BPA-free plastic, bento-style lunch boxes with multiple compartments in all shapes and sizes. Besides BPA, also look for labels that let you know items are lead and phthalate free, as this reduces exposure to any potentially toxic chemicals.
If you hate carrying around extra containers, try this collapsible silicone eco lunch box from Smart Planet.
When it comes to plastic containers, look for the little number on the bottom, which indicates the type of plastic resin used. Generally, containers marked with No. 1,2, 4 or 5 are considered among the safer plastics for food storage.
If you are not able to find a lunch kit that is made of completely recycled materials, at least ensure that the items within it are easily recycled. For example, a stainless steel water bottle is easily reused hundreds of times, and steel is incredibly easy to recycle.
Choose a Litterless Lunch
After the lunch bag itself comes packaging for snacks and drink containers. Again, all we need is a little planning. Instead of using plastic bags for your snacks and sandwiches, check out reusable options that are machine washable and made from recycled materials. ChicoBag offers practical and attractive reusable baggies made from recycled PET, a type of plastic.
These bags are made from food-safe materials tested to be BPA, phthalate, PVC and lead free. Another reason we appreciate ChicoBag is for their repurposing and recycling program for all brands and types of reusable bags. Send them all of your reusable bags, functional or not, and they will recycle them into new useful products such as rugs.
Reduce, Reuse and Recycle
Drink Boxes. If you pack along juice or milk boxes see if they can be recycled in your area by using the Carton Council website. Choose your state and city from their drop-down menu to find out whether you can just throw these cartons in with your regular recycling or if you need to take them to a recycling center instead.
If you bring Capri Sun pouches with you on your lunch, see if there is a TerraCycle Drink Pouch Brigade nearby that will recycle them into cool products such as bags.
Of course, if you find yourself purchasing drink boxes on a regular basis, you might consider getting a reusable thermos. Whether it’s BPA free plastic or insulated stainless steel, you can reuse it over and over with your beverage of choice. Thermoses are great for soup as the weather gets colder too!
Keeping lunch items cold is an important last step! These freezer packs are non-toxic, BPA, phthalates, PVC and lead free, and the non-sweat cover is made from recycled plastic bottles. How cool is that?
For an added bonus if you pack a lunch for someone else, try sticking in a cute note like these lunch time riddles. You can even find notepaper (and stickers!) just right for lunch boxes. They are super cute and add a little special touch to a lovingly hand-crafted zero-waste lunch.
Here’s to a healthier lunch that’s good for the planet!