[January 2014 Update: Sadly, my favorite cloth baggie company, Graze Organic, went out of business this year. I'll be working on an updated post about reusable cloth baggies in the near future.]
Disposable plastic sandwich and snack baggies are some of the biggest sources of lunchtime waste. When I was growing up, I brought at least two or three of them to school every day: one covering my sandwich and a couple more protecting my carrots and Cheese Doodles. But we have a ton of reusable cloth baggie choices now. All of them are better than disposables. But they are not all created equal. Here’s the rundown…
Graze Organic Cotton Sandwich/Snack Bags
I love the Graze Organic bags because not only is the fabric natural cotton without any plastic lining, but it’s also organic. The bags come in several different sizes to fit sandwiches and snacks. While they may not be as leak-proof as plastic-lined baggies, I believe they are healthier.
Graze Organic is giving away a set of 3 bags to a lucky Fake Plastic Fish reader. See the end of this post for instructions on entering the drawing.
Update: The winner of the Graze Organic bags is Denise Yribarren. Congratulations!
Also, Graze is offering a 15% off discount from now through 11/14/2010. Use promo code: fpf at the bottom of the Graze Organic check out page. After entering the code, you must click on “Apply” to redeem the coupon.
UpCycled Cotton Baggies
Sustainable Homestead makes baggies from repurposed cotton fabric. Not only do these bags reduce plastic waste but also cotton fabric waste. I’m offering one Sustainable Homestead cotton baggie to a Fake Plastic Fish reader. See give-away rules below. Update: The winner of the upcycled fabric bag is Anna@Green Talk. Contratulations!
Recycled Umbrella Baggies
My friend Cat lives in New York City, where she scrounges for broken umbrellas. They’re not hard to find. She brings them home, gives them a bath, and turns the fabric into Blustery Day Flip Flap sacks — leakproof snack baggies. These baggies are not plastic-free and not for you if you won’t want any plastic in contact with your food. But I do love that they are made of a material that would otherwise have been trash. And I love that there is minimal processing required since Cat is taking already existing fabric and repurposing it, rather than, for example, grinding down a plastic bottle to make into fabric.
I’m giving away this set of 2 recycled umbrella bags to a lucky Fake Plastic Fish reader. See instructions below. Update: The winner of the Blustery Day baggies is greg. Congratulations!
Cotton/Hemp Wraps Coated with Beeswax
Abeego snack and sandwich wraps are made from “hemp/cotton fabric infused with a blend of beeswax and plant extracts.” I like the idea of using beeswax to waterproof the wraps instead of plastic. I haven’t tried this product, but I’d probably recommend it whole-heartedly if the company would disclose the plant extracts in the coating.
Citing proprietary concerns, Abeego does not make public all the ingredients in its plastic-free coating. And how can I in good conscience condemn plastics manufacturers for refusing to disclose the chemical additives in their products and let “natural” product companies off the hook? Just because something is derived from a plant extract doesn’t make it safe. I want to know what all the chemicals are that are in contact with my food.
That said, Abeego wraps are certainly a better alternative than those with petroleum-based linings and coatings.
Cloth Snack/Sandwich Baggies from plastic
Now, here is a list of many other reusable sandwich/snack bags I found on the web or that have been sent to me. This is not a comprehensive list as new bags are popping up every day. And all have pros and cons and varying amounts of plastic. But the fact is that choosing these bags over disposable baggies will save a lot of plastic waste in the long run.
Insulated Sandwich/Snack Sleeves made from Recycled Plastic: Blue Avocado’s Fresh Pak is made from post consumer (PET bottles) and post industrial fiber waste. Pros: Insulated. Reduces waste. Leakproof. Recycled fiber. Cons: Some new plastic. Plastic in contact with food.
Cotton Sacks lined with Nylon: ReUsies, ReSnackits, and WasteNot Saks are 100% cotton bags lined with Nylon for water-resistance. Pros: Reduce waste. Leakproof. Cons: Some new plastic. Fabric not organic or recycled. Plastic in contact with food.
Cotton Baggies with Polyurethane Coating: Lunchskins are made from cotton fabric coated with a “food-safe polyurethane liner.” Pros: Reduce waste. Leakproof. Cons: Some new plastic. Fabric not organic or recycled. Plastic in contact with food.
Cotton Baggies with Nylon & Polyurethane Coating: Snack Taxis are made from cotton fabric with a polyurethane coated nylon lining. Pros: Reduce waste. Leakproof. Cons: Some new plastic. Fabric not organic or recycled. Plastic in contact with food.
Fabric Wraps with LDPE lining: Wrap-n-Mat wraps fold out into a placemat. They are made from fabric (the exact type of fabric is not listed on the web site) with a low-density polyethylene (#4 plastic) lining. Pros: Reduce waste. Waterproof. Cons: Some new plastic. Fabric not organic or recycled. Plastic in contact with food.
Nylon Resuable Sandwich/Snack Bag: ReUsit bags are made from 100% Nylon. Pros: Reduce waste. Waterproof. Cons: All virgin plastic. Plastic in contact with food.
LDPE Reusable Sandwich/Snack Bag: The Kids Konserve Food Kozy is made from 100% LDPE (#4) plastic. Pros: Reduce waste. Waterproof. Cons: All virgin plastic. Plastic in contact with food.
EVA Plastic Reusable Baggies: Fresh Snack Pack is made from 100% EVA (Ethylene-vinyl acetate) and can be wiped clean. Pros: Reduce waste. Waterproof. Cons: All virgin plastic. Plastic in contact with food.
Make Your Own Lunch Baggies
Why buy someone else’s lunch baggie if you’re handy and can make your own? FreshLifeDesignCo provides patterns, pictures, and instructions for creating your own set of insulated reusable sandwich and snack bags. The bags do seem to be lined with plastic. But the beauty of making your own is that you decide what materials to use. If your priority is to do without any plastic, leave that part out. If it’s important to you that the bags be waterproof, use what makes sense for you.
Support Etsy Sellers
As I mentioned, my list is by no means comprehensive. In addition to the companies listed, there is a whole host of craftspeople like my friend Cat selling their reusable cloth sandwich and snack bags on Etsy.com. Search for “sandwich bag” or “snack bag” and you’ll find thousands of listings. You could spend all day perusing your choices. But isn’t it nice that we do have so many alternatives to disposable baggies to choose from?
Win REusable cloth lunch bags
To enter the give-away, please leave a comment below with the order of your preferences (Graze Organic bag, Blustery Day Nylon umbrella bags, Upcycled fabric bag) and one thing you will do this week to cut disposable plastic from your life. I’ll announce the winners in a couple of weeks. Update: The winners have been chosen. See updates above.
Disclosure: Give-away products were provided for free by Graze Organic, Sustainable Homestead, and The Green Cat.