The Veggie Table: Brown-Bag Lunches Go Green

By: Janel Ovrut Funk

Minestrone Soup with Pasta, Beans and Vegetables: Robin Miller

Photo by: Tara Donne

Tara Donne

We’re teaming up with fellow food bloggers to host a Brown-Bag Challenge, a month-long initiative to eat consciously and save money by packing a lunch each weekday instead of eating out. Join us here and share what you're eating on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #brownbag.

With everyone setting into back-to-school routines, healthy bagged lunches to pack for you and your kids are still front-of-mind. But brown-bagging your lunch is out and green bagging is in! When packing lunch, you’re already benefiting your wallet and waistline by packing nutritious meals and snacks. But the bag, containers, napkins and utensils you use and then toss are wasteful and weigh heavy on the environment. Here are some of my favorite ways to make your brown-bag lunch go green:

Glass containers: These are great for packing leftovers from dinner so you can have a hot and satisfying lunch. Simply reheat your meal in the microwave without worrying about any harmful chemicals from plastic containers leeching into your food.

Bento boxes: Cute, compartmentalized lunch containers are fun for kids and convenient for adults. Pack all of your food in different sections of the box that securely locks shut without needing any plastic or aluminum wrap to keep your foods separate. Say goodbye to smooshed PB & J sandwiches for good!

Reusable snack and sandwich bags: Stash your snacks and sandwiches in these easy-to-clean packs and avoid the waste from plastic bags. They come in a variety of colors and patterns, which can help you pack your kids’ lunch in style.

Bamboo utensils: Fork over your flimsy, plastic eating utensils and try a bamboo fork, knife and spoon set instead. They’re light enough that they won’t weigh down your lunch bag, but sturdy enough to handle hearty salads or hot soups.

Glass or aluminum water bottles: Stop sipping soda or juice out of plastic bottles and fill a BPA-free reusable glass or aluminum bottle with hydrating water instead. Spruce it up with some lemon or orange slices.

Green-bag it: The color, pattern, and material options are endless when it comes to the bag to pack your lunch. I’m loving these neoprene bags made from the same material as scuba suits. Seeing one of these in my office totally brightens my day!

Now that you have a liter-free lunch, you can go green with your food choices too. Did you know that if every American cut out meat just one day a week over a year, the effect on emissions would be equivalent to taking 7.6 million cars off the road? Try packing meatless lunches a few times a week with some of my favorite lunch ideas:

TELL US: What are your tips for packing an eco-friendly lunch?

Janel Ovrut Funk, MS RD LDN, loves experimenting with vegetarian and vegan cooking. Read her food blog, Eat Well with Janel , and follow her on Twitter @DietitianJanel . Catch up on her previous posts here .

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