When adopting sustainable practices, one of the first concerns is the packaging - and how you package your packed lunch for school or work is a clear step toward zero waste. With the amount of waste that comes with take-out packaging, it’s no surprise that homemade food and snacks are more sustainable. Loads of creative ideas exist for what goes in a packed lunch for work, school, or a day out - and read on for some of the best eco-friendly lunch box or lunch bag options to ensure you can keep everything you pack nicely organized and kept fresh, and without the waste.
For many parents, the beginning of the school year means considering back-to-school lunch boxes or bags. Of course, many adults prepare a lunch box for work and save on all those plastic-wrapped convenience choices. Even better, when you choose eco-friendly lunch boxes, you decide to go without plastic and acquire that lunch-to-go essential built to last.
Lunch boxes and lunch bags come in many shapes, sizes, colors, and various materials. You’ll find many regular and popular lunch boxes and bags in the market made from plastic. On the one hand, plastic production is resource-intensive and contributes to chemicals in the environment.
It’s important to consider the lifecycle of these products and their materials. Plastic doesn’t break down easily in the environment and can pollute the land for many years.
In the US, schools generate 14,500 tons of waste every single day according to research from the University of California2. And of that, 42% came from the food service. Meanwhile, a study by the University of Manchester found that the UK population gets through an incredible 11.5bn sandwiches a year1. They looked at the carbon footprint of Britain's sandwich habit and found that all those sandwiches added up to the same amount of CO2 as 8.6 million cars, around 8.5% of which they attributed to packaging.
As such, preparing a healthy packed lunch in an eco-friendly lunch box is a simple step to help reduce waste as we can readily reuse it pretty much forever.
Related: Check out our 12 tips for packing zero-waste school lunches perfect for what goes into eco-friendly lunch boxes.
Considering that many lunch boxes come from cheap materials, you’ll find that they often break easily. This leads to constantly throwing out lunch boxes and looking for new ones to satisfy the work or school day.
To enjoy a non-toxic, plastic-free lunch, you can consider switching out your lunch box for a new one. Many sustainable brands create creative and functional eco-friendly lunch boxes with sustainable, durable, and toxin-free materials.
You’ll find food and snack containers in various materials - from stainless steel to bamboo and even recycled materials. Some companies also take the approach of creating recycled plastic lunch bags.
For many people, lunch packaging means single-use plastic or brown paper bags. However, with an eco-friendly option, you can stay plastic-free while you enjoy your food. Whether you’re looking for a lunch box or lunch bag option, our picks of some of the best make it easy to pack your food for school, work, or even when exploring the great outdoors.
Quick link to the best eco-friendly lunch boxes and bags:
Lunch boxes make it easy to store food and snacks when you’re out of the house. Lunch boxes are a staple for parents as they make it easy to pack kids’ food. Why not make lunchtime sustainable to reduce your carbon footprint and that of your children? Below are some of the best lunch boxes that check the plastic-free and sustainable boxes. They come in various materials, from food-grade silicone to stainless steel. Many also come with multiple compartments and are ideal for hot and cold foods, making for versatile to-go ware.
Packing lunches can be safe for you and the environment, thanks to this product from Bklyn Bento. The brand offers eco-friendly solutions to plastic containers and disposable bags. As part of its solutions, it crafted this durable box ideal for packed lunches.
Unlike single-use plastics that come with takeout food, this product is greener and long-lasting.
The non-toxic stainless steel features three compartments to help you separate your food. It’s not only ideal for smaller children or older kids but also great for adults. The brand designed this eco-friendly lunch box to tackle a problem many people had with bento boxes - space. As a result, it comes in a slightly bigger design to serve as a food and snack container. It’s BPA-free, PVC-free, and BPS-free. The simple design makes it easy to clean by hand. It’s also dishwasher safe.
Although this stainless steel lunch box features three compartments, it’s not ideal for storing liquids. However, it can hold moist items or wet foods like fresh fruit and salad dressings. By excluding any rubber or plastic sealant, thereby not making the product leakproof, Brooklyn Bento ensures that its lunch box is eco-friendly.
Looking for a leakproof, eco-friendly lunch box that’s great for meal prepping? This Clean Lunch’N eco-friendly lunch box is a good companion.
Each order includes a bento stainless steel lunch box, a lid with a silicone ring, a backup silicone ring, an ice pack, and a lunch bag. This makes it the perfect set to begin your eco-friendly lunch journey.
Within the box itself, you’ll find an adjustable divider within the box that makes it easy to separate your food within one container. You can also decide to remove this divider completely. With a capacity of 50 ounces of food, this product can serve both school lunch and workday lunch. If you’re out for an activity or outdoor adventure, it’s also perfect as nothing will leak out into your eco-friendly backpack.
This box contains and features everything you need to keep your food fresh all day. The design comes with ultra-thick insulation that protects the contents in the box. So, it can keep your food hot for a considerable amount of time as well keeping cold food chilled and fresh.
We already know how great ice packs are in keeping foods fresh. The ice pack preserves your food, and the smart locking clamps prevent spills and leaks. For cleanups, you should know that the lunch box is dishwasher safe. It’s BPA-free and serves as a great non-toxic container.
One of the coolest food container designs in the market now is the collapsible box. It’s perfect for people who may be looking to purchase food on the go. Since it’s easy to carry around and store, if you’re someone who values space in your handbag, tote bag, or backpack, you’ll appreciate this design.
It’s great for exploring places or just as a backup to avoid single-use plastics. Best of all, you can pair it with a collapsible water bottle for the perfect portable duo. Instead of wrapping sandwiches in disposable wrappers, you can carry your snack in this box as an alternative to plastic wraps. Apart from sandwiches, it’s also suitable for cereals, salads, and anything you desire.
This box saves space as it collapses to just 1.2 inches. Sometimes you just want to take the bulkiness out of lunch days. This simple portable design solves that challenge. With the addition of the clamps, you can enjoy a spill-proof design. Although you can store various edible items, this box is specifically ideal for snacks like sandwiches and cereals. It’s dishwasher and microwave safe -for the best eco-friendly wash, just grab some zero-waste dishwasher detergent.
This stackable lunch container makes packing your lunch simple and effective. It also serves those days when you need to dash out of the house with your breakfast packaged as well. The product comes in high-quality food-grade stainless steel material. When you stack the containers over each other, the box measures 5 inches wide, 6 1/2 inches long, and 3 inches high. It also has a 60 oz capacity which is great for everyday use.
One of the best features of this set is that it comes with a mini pod. Within this pod, you can store little food bits like nuts and fruits that you’ve chopped. The top portion of the box is leakproof with its upgraded silicone seal. However, the bottom isn’t, a point to note when deciding where to store what type of food.
This design from Ecozoi makes it easy to pack a variety of food. You can store your breakfast within one stack while the other holds your lunch. If little pieces like fruit chunks and nuts are your go-to snacks, the mini pod can house them.
Another major stand-out for this product is that its packaging comes from zero waste recycled materials. This gives you a great lunch pack that also has a sustainable package.
If you’re looking for something unique, this box is it. Not many lunch box designs are made from natural wood. However, this AOOSY Japanese traditional box stands out. This product is free from BPA, PVC, and phthalates.
Due to the design, it’s perfect for dishes such as sushi, rice, and dried fruits. Each piece is a unique piece of art as it features mosaic colors, fine grinding, and retained wood scabs. Not only is this container easy to clean and reusable, but it’s also a unique piece you can treasure for a long time. Whether you need it for school, work, picnicking, or hiking, you’re sure it gets the job done. One of the best parts is that it also makes a great zero-waste gift for your earthy and nature-loving friends and family.
This natural wooden box comes with a double-layer design for storing food. It also includes a divider that makes it easy to separate one food or snack item from another. It’s simple, natural, and minimal while also serving gift-giving purposes. You’ll find it perfect for getting outdoors as it’ll feel at one with nature.
Due to its delicate nature and natural materials, avoid using hard objects to clean and scrub it. It’s also not suitable for microwave or oven use.
Everusely’s metal containers come in an attractive design with inviting colors. The set includes five reusable containers of different sizes. The variety means having a food or snack box for practically every need.
The company uses premium stainless steel and silicone to craft these products. The lids come in bright rainbow colors that are sure to attract anyone to open up and enjoy the contents.
The multiple containers in various sizes provide you with different options for using these products. On the one hand, you can use the set as it is when going on a picnic, for instance. On the other hand, the color-coded set can mean each family member has a specific container. From adults to little kids, this Everusely set serves everyone. It may please you to know that it’s also dishwasher, oven-safe, and freezer safe.
Apart from using this set to pack lunches or snacks, you can also use it to store food within the home. Since it's freezer safe, you could decide to store some food within the container. You can also take it anywhere confidently since it’s leakproof and has an airtight design.
Related: For more general use, check out our picks of some of the best reusable food storage containers & alternatives to Ziploc bags.
Who doesn’t love a personalized item? It’s one thing to have a regular lunch container and another to have an eco-friendly personalized one. This lunch box is the perfect back-to-school container for college, high school, or middle school students.
Each package comes with a metal box, bamboo lid, and bamboo utensils. This way, you can also avoid using plastic cutlery. Apart from these components, the package also includes a security strap to keep your items in place.
You can move around with your lunch in style with the personalized feature. You can select your engraved design from options like a checklist, your name, and other options. When it’s time to clean up, you can toss it in the dishwasher without the lid. Note that this product is not freezer or microwave safe.
For many people, simplicity is key. This product offers just that with its simple and minimal design. However, it’s far from boring as you can include your unique identifier when purchasing it. It has a 600ml capacity and comes in the dimension of 16.4 x 5.6 x 11.5 cm.
Apart from carrying lunch boxes, many people also appreciate lunch bags. Eco-friendly lunch bags offer a comfortable way to store your food and snacks while on the go. They are easy to carry, so say goodbye to liquid spills and stains. In conjunction with your lunch box, your lunch bag provides a hygienic space for your food. Insulated designs also help to keep your food warm. Here are some eco-friendly lunch bags to consider.
This waxed canvas bag takes a spin on regular brown paper lunch bags. Instead of the disposable nature of those lunch bags, this one stands as a reusable lunch bag.
Say goodbye to single-use lunch bags with this unique design. It comes from a 16 oz heavy-duty waxed canvas. This lunch bag is not only durable but also stain-resistant and waterproof. Within the bag, there’s a thermal isolate lining that helps to maintain your food’s temperature. As a result, your cold or hot food can maintain its temperature as you go about your day. The stitching method and lining also prevent leaks into the waxed cloth layer.
This waxed canvas bag not only offers a unique spin on brown paper bags but also includes the necessary features. From its waterproof nature to thermal isolate lining and heavy-duty nature, you can enjoy it for a long time. It’s non-toxic and features no animal-based or plastic materials.
Stasher bags offer the convenience of plastic bags without plastic. Stasher makes these lunch and snack storage bags come from 100% pure platinum food-grade silicone offering a reusable and self-sealing alternative to single-use plastic bags.
These lunch bags are microwave-ready, freezer-friendly, and dishwasher-safe. They’re ideal for storing snacks like fruit chunks, vegetables, and sandwiches. Unlike traditional plastic storage containers, these bags contain no BPA, latex, or PVC. As they keep your food safe from contaminants, they also keep the environment safe from plastics.
One of the main concerns with storage containers within the home is their long-lasting nature. These bags offer a reusable nature without compromising convenience and ease. You can choose from various colors, including aqua, lavender, blue, black, yellow, and many more. You can also enjoy the fun designs in the 4-pack set of multiple colors.
No more wasteful disposable lunch bags with this organic cotton bag from Eco-Bags. You don’t often see a lunch bag made from organic cotton. However, this reusable bag stands out for its sustainable material, and reusable nature made from 100% GOTS Certified Organic Cotton that's also food safe. The product is free from bleach and additives. The design features a blank canvas exterior and a hook and loop closure. This basic lunch bag can serve both kids and adults for various purposes. In case of spills and stains, this product is machine washable.
From its durable design to simple and clean lines, this bag offers a simple solution for carrying your lunch. However, it has no insulation features, so you may need to use it in conjunction with other products to enjoy this feature. This lunch bag has a significant eco-win as it comes from one of the most sustainable materials, organic cotton.
Lunchtime can be clean and healthy thanks to these eco-friendly lunch bag and box solutions. You've got options from durable, practically indestructible steel to sustainable cloth materials like organic cotton. Whatever you may need a food container for, you’ll find something that fulfills your hunger for a great lunch housed with care in an eco-friendly lunchbox.
Namy Espinoza-Orias, Adisa Azapagic, Understanding the impact on climate change of convenience food: Carbon footprint of sandwiches, Sustainable Production and Consumption,
Heiges, Jessica & Lee, Danielle & Vollmer, Laura & Wobbekind, Kate & Thompson, Hannah & Gosliner, Wendi & Madsen, Kristine & O’Neill, Kate & Ritchie, Lorrene. (2022). Evaluating Food Packaging Waste in Schools: A Systematic Literature Review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 19. 5607. 10.3390/ijerph19095607.
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.