Are you still relying on plastic baggies, bags, or containers to pack lunches for school or work? Are you concerned about the chemicals that can leach out of plastics into the foods you or your kids eat? A lot of plastic food containers are touted as BPA-free. But BPA-free does not necessarily mean safe because the chemicals used in place of BPA can have the same harmful effects. And plastics like polypropylene may contain antibacterial chemicals like Triclosan, which have been found to leach.
Here are a few of my favorite reusable cloth and stainless steel sandwich/snack baggies or containers. My criteria for selecting them as my favorites are that 1) they contain the least amount of plastic or other synthetic polymers, and 2) I know and respect the owners of the companies that make them. This is by no means an exhaustive list of the offerings out there.
Life Without Plastic Baggies and Containers
Life Without Plastic was founded by Jay Sinha and Chantal Plamondon, a Canadian couple who have devoted their lives to providing useful alternatives to plastic. Having met both of them in person, I can attest to their commitment to creating a better world.
I’ve reviewed Life Without Plastic’s products before: their airtight stainless steel containers, airtight glass containers, and even plastic-free insulated lunch bag. And here are their latest lunchtime offerings:
LWP’s adjustable juco bag rocks. It’s completely plastic-free: no velcro, no nylon lining, no plastic coating, just juco fabric (75% jute and 25% cotton), a cotton string loop and two wooden buttons to adjust the size of the bag to either a large sandwich or a small snack of nuts or fruits.
As an alternative, Life Without Plastic also offers mini, sandwich, and large pouches, utensil holders, and other products made in Canada from 45% cotton and 55% hemp by eco-TAV creations.
If you’re worried about your sandwich leaking or getting squished, perhaps a stainless steel sandwich container is more appropriate. LWP’s newest invention is truly different from any of the other offerings out there. It’s an airtight rectangular sandwich container with a silicone ring (which does not come into contact with the food) that can be removed for washing.
The fasteners on the sides of the container work a bit differently from ones you may be used to. The latch is at the bottom, but instead of pulling up from the bottom to release it, you first pull down a lever at the top:
Life Without Plastic offers many other sizes and shapes of lunch and take-out containers, and all their products are shipped and packaged without plastic. Browse their site, but don’t get lost.
ECOlunchbox Lunch Bags and Containers
Another company I love is ECOlunchbox. It was founded by Sandra Harris, a Bay Area mom and green living advocate, whose small garage office space happens to be walking distance from my house, so I was able to easily go and visit.
Like LWP, ECOlunchbox is also committed to innovation and creating products that are eco-friendly and practical. She and her staff showed me some of their designs.
ECOlunchbox lunch bags come in gorgeous, colorful patterns and are made from 100% cotton with no plastic coatings or linings. The Furoshiki ECOsnackpack is very versatile. You can put snacks into it directly, or in a container inside the bag. And the bag can be worn on the belt as a fashion accessory.
ECOlunchbox also offers square and rectangular sandwich/lunch containers. They’re not leak-proof, but honestly, I’ve never had one leak on me. The lid fits pretty tight without any silicone ring. That said, I wouldn’t put anything particularly messy in it and toss it into my purse.
Lunchbots was the first stainless steel sandwich container that ever worked properly for me. The LunchBots Uno all stainless container is a little shallower than LWP’s or ECOlunchbox’s sandwich containers, but I still love it.
Eco Ditty Cloth Baggies
One other option I will promote even though I haven’t actually communicated with the company owner yet are Eco Ditty sandwich/snack bags. I discovered them at the Berkeley Ecology Center store last year and love that they are made from 100% organic cotton without plastic coatings of any kind. They come in lots of fun patterns and colors. However, they do contain a bit of velcro (which is plastic) to keep them closed.
Cotton/Hemp Wraps Coated with Beeswax
If you’re looking for a cloth bag that is more waterproof, you might want to consider those coated with beeswax rather than plastic. Choices include Abeego, Bee’s Wrap, Suzy’s Bees Wrap, and others. You can also learn to make your own wax-coated wraps and cloth bags. Read about my experiments with beeswax-coated wraps here.
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 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. Just beware of those coated with plastic or advertised as PUL or oil cloth (aka vinyl.).
Make Your Own Lunch Baggies
Why buy someone else’s lunch baggie if you’re handy and can make your own? Just Google “make your own reusable cloth sandwich baggies” for a plethora of instructions and patterns. Just watch out for those that require plastic materials or coatings, especially vinyl.