Gone are the days of tossing brown paper bags or getting frustrated by worn-out synthetics. Now there are waste free lunch boxes available to bring durability and sustainability to your lunch time routine.
While some of these harken back to the days before plastics were even invented, others integrate new or recycled materials into the latest sustainable lunch boxes.
Why choose an eco-friendly lunch box?
Eco-friendly lunch boxes are better for the Earth and the people who make and use them.
While it’s cheap to make a conventional lunch box out of plastic or synthetics, these pollute the earth from cradle to grave.
The Center for International and Environmental Law estimates that by 2030 the emissions from plastic production could reach 1.34 gigatons annually. And this isn’t even factoring in the ongoing effects of waste on both humans and ecosystems.
If you use a conventional lunch box, you’re also out of luck if something breaks or wears out. With an environmentally friendly lunch box made of materials like stainless steel, cloth, glass, and bamboo, you get something that will last longer and be more satisfying to use too.
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Zero Waste Lunch Box Options
When it comes to finding eco-friendly lunch containers, you’re really spoiled for choice. Many companies are coming on board with providing more sustainable options than your traditional plastic lunch box. We’ll look at some of the more popular options below.
Stainless Steel Lunch Boxes
When it comes to durability, stainless steel lunch boxes are at the top of the list.
They withstand wear, are a breeze to clean, and are completely recyclable. There’s a reason that zero waste lunch boxes like tiffins, which date back to 19th century India, are still popular today.
PlanetBox are the eco-friendly lunch boxes we personally use and love! We bought two – the Rover and the Shuttle – 6 years ago when our boy was just a toddler.
They’ve been to kindergarten and school, hauled around the world, been on picnics galore, and they still look as good as they did on day 1! We also love the handy insulated carry bags they come with.
The Rover has 5 compartments – the biggest of which holds a sandwich nicely – and makes packing lunches so fun! It also comes with two handy dipper containers for wet foods.
The Shuttle is a duo compartment lunch box that is great for lighter lunches. This is the one my husband or I typically use when we’re working away from home, or for a mid-hike lunch, etc.
They also have the Launch – which has three compartments and one dipper, and is a mid-sized box. This is a good size for a younger child.
Oh, and did I mention they also come with fun magnets so you can customise your lunch box?
This sustainable bento box has three compartments, making it easy to pack a variety of lunchtime treats. The smallest compartment can be used separately or nested into the largest one, and the two largest parts clip together.
ECOlunchbox packages items in recycled materials and also offsets the CO2 equivalent of 4.7 million pounds of coal annually.
The 3-in-1 Splash stainless steel lunch box is a great eco friendly bento box for those meals that are prone to spills.
It has a similar nesting design as the lunch box featured above, but instead of metal lids and clasps, you get leak-proof lids and straps made of food-grade silicone.
The tiffin has endured the test of time, and with this classic stainless steel tiffin, you can find out why.
With three interlocking and stackable containers, this eco stainless steel lunch box is perfect for a mini lunch time feast, or a kid’s school lunch.
Looking for a bigger tiffin? Check out this one from Life Without Plastic.
Cloth Lunch Bags
If you normally slip your lunch into a backpack or shoulder bag, cloth lunch bags are for you. Look for those that are made from organic materials that are ethically produced. Such as the below!
Keep your lunch cozy (or cool!) in this cute organic cotton lunch bag from Life Without Plastic. Insulated with pure wool, and fastened with a non-plastic zipper, this is one of the best eco friendly insulated lunch bags I’ve seen.
It even features a removable organic cotton liner that can be thrown in the wash, and a handy shoulder strap for transport.
This classic lunch bag from Eco-Bags is made of 100% GOTS-certified organic cotton, and its loop closure will keep your food secure.
Not only is it affordable and easily customizable, but Eco-Bags also ensures that it’s an ethically made lunch bag.
Great for kids or ocean lovers, this organic cotton eco-friendly lunch bag is screen-printed with an image of a whale, dolphin, seahorse, or turtle.
Your lunch bag will stand out from the rest, and the design is sure to brighten your day.
Use these washable cloth bags when you want to pack a simple sandwich or a snack. Their unique fold-over design looks elegant and keeps food inside without any need for a zipper or string.
Handmade in Colorado and compostable at their end of life, they make a great zero waste lunch bag.
If you want something that can fit a larger lunch, this vegan canvas bag has you covered. Its stylish faux leather straps hide a magnetic clip for secure but easy access.
It comes insulated with non-toxic, vegan materials that will keep your lunch cool or warm for hours.
Silicone Lunch Bags
For something versatile and nearly indestructible, go for a silicone lunch bag. Not only is silicone dishwasher, freezer, and microwave safe, but you can bake, boil, and even freeze it if you need to. These make a perfect alternative to ziploc bags.
Our personal favorite – Stasher sandwich bags are simple but way more durable than a Ziploc, and they have an airtight seal.
Stasher bags can be used again and again, but once they reach their end of life, Stasher will recycle them into playground pebbles.
Bamboo, Glass, and Wood Containers
Stainless steel, cloth, and silicone make up the majority of eco friendly lunch containers, but if you look beyond these materials, you can find others made of wood and glass that will satisfy your desire for a little more heft, a better seal, or a distinctive look.
This lunch container combines the elegance of glass, the natural feel of bamboo, and a smart design.
A silicone plug in the bamboo lid allows you to achieve a vacuum seal and an elastic band ensures that your lunch will stay where it’s supposed to.
This set of four containers will cover all your needs. They form airtight seals to keep your food spill-free and fresh.
Unlike plastic, these won’t smell, warp, or leech chemicals, and if you’re looking for an eco friendly microwavable lunch box, the glass part is microwave safe.
You might be skeptical of a lunch box made completely of wood, but reviewers love how this zero waste lunch container is beautiful, lightweight, and easy to clean.
It also offers more insulation than stainless steel, keeping foods at an ideal temperature for longer.
Lunch Boxes Made of Recycled Plastic
Anything that takes plastic out of the waste cycle and puts it back to good use is a plus from me. The following zero waste lunch bags use post-consumer waste to come up with unique and fun designs.
This eco friendly insulated lunch bag looks like your average kids’ lunch bag, but it’s made from post-consumer plastic waste, making it a whole lot more environmentally friendly!
The LEGO City design features an interior pocket for utensils, napkins, or a special treat, and it can be easily carried or clipped to a backpack.
Next time you need something to pack a lunch in, opt for an eco-friendly or zero waste lunch box.
While it’s best to use what you already have or source something secondhand first, there is a multitude of choices for when you need something more particular or special, and once you find the perfect one, you can use it for years to come!
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