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.