Green Bag It: Lunches to Go

By Michelle Edelbaum, March/April 2009

Eco-friendly bento box lunches bring nutrition to the table, and reduce trash.

Take-along lunches are back in style. Packing your lunch saves money, encourages you to eat a healthy meal and can reduce waste. Lunches packed with disposable items, such as plastic baggies and yogurt containers, create an average of 67 pounds of waste per year, per person, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Eco-conscious California moms Amy Hemmert and Tammy Pelstring created a line of reusable bento-style containers called Laptop Lunches that make packing a lunch fashionable and launched a website of useful resources, Waste-Free Lunches (

During an Earth Day activity at a Sacramento elementary school last year, Hemmert and Pelstring taught students how to reduce waste through food choices, such as buying a quart of yogurt to portion out instead of several individual containers. The children designed nutritious lunches and the following week they brought them to school in their reusable bento containers.

“The scene was exactly what Tammy and I envisioned when we came up with Laptop Lunches,” said Hemmert. “We saw happy, healthy children enjoying nutritious, waste-free lunches. We had envisioned schools committed to teaching environmental stewardship and reducing waste. And there it was.”

If you don’t have a bento box, use reusable containers to pack a waste-free lunch.

5 Tips to Pack a Bento-Style Lunch

Related: Our Favorite Bento Lunch Boxes