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Step Away From the Plastic Bag

YBH Sandwich

My lunch embarrassed me.

While my colleagues unpacked glass jars of noodles and opened cans of soup into ceramic bowls, I ate carrots out of a plastic sandwich bag—hidden in my lunch tote. I had plastic guilt.

My family packed—and trashed—as many as 10 plastic sandwich bags a day, and I knew I needed an alternative. Washing, drying, and reusing every sandwich bag would be a tough sell in my household. Bags made with recycled plastic or wax paper weren’t enough of a switch. Glass containers were a reliable standby—but not practical to stash in my 6-year-old’s lunch.

Where to start? Contrary to its name, reusablebags.com sells more than sandwich-bag alternatives. The site offers environment-friendly containers, dishes, utensils, and other household products from many small, often family-owned businesses with names like SnackTAXI and 3greenmoms. Other informational sites with retail links include biggreenpurse.com and wastefreelunches.org.

I picked fabric, a popular—and lightweight—option. Most cloth bags come in sandwich and snack sizes and function like envelopes with a fold-over flap and a Velcro seal. Designs cater to all ages, ranging from cartoonish animals, cars, and fruit slices to polka dots, stripes, and of course, solid colors. Some brands use a heavier, dishwasher-ready cotton that wipes clean and dries fast; others, easily thrown in the laundry, could have come right off my sewing machine (note to self: Try this at home). At $6 to $9 each, buying just a few adds up, but they’ll last well beyond that $4 box of 100 plastic sandwich bags in the pantry.

I also bought a lined cloth place mat ($8.95) that folds over its contents, sealed with Velcro. It’s especially handy for lunch on the ferry or any other spot where numerous other people may have eaten before you. A set of three nesting stainless-steel containers ($23.95) can replace plastic dishes and hold fruit, salad, and other foods requiring utensils. The down side: They don’t go in the microwave.

Now if I can just get used to hauling around a glass dish of soup in my bike bag.


Kim EckartKim Eckart wrote this article for Water Solutions, the Summer 2010 issue of YES! Magazine. Kim Eckart is associate editor for YES! Magazine.

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