Brown Baggin’ It – A Guide to a More Sustainable Lunchbox

Disclaimer: Despite the title of this piece, my lunch bag is not brown, it is purple with yellow polka dots. Also, for your own safety, do not Urban Dictionary the phrase “Brown Baggin’ It”.

I’ve found that making a packed lunch for work every day can be a bit of a battle. It’s not hard, it’s just my laziness. This was a particularly bad habit of mine that needed to change if I wanted to take this whole sustainability thing a bit more seriously. Gone are my days of plastic or foil bags of chippies, whosits and whatsits wrapped in clingfilm, and endless takeaway coffee cups. I’ve also managed to (kind of) curb my penchant for daily delicious takeaway treaties, though this old temptress does still get me from time to time.

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Some lunch treats from last week (coffee, crackers and bread to make my avo on toast!)

The biggest hurdle was actually getting into the lunch-making routine. If you are new to this game, my top tip is to organise everything at night before you go to bed. I find it immensely difficult to wake up at my 5.45am alarm. If I had to get up even 10 minutes earlier to prepare food, I would literally explode. (Remembering to collect aforementioned packed lunch from the fridge the following morning is equally important, and is where my well-intentioned plans often fail)

Another smart tactic is leftovers. If you are aware that you will be up until midnight watching a Dance Moms marathon and will most likely be waking up late, just cook extra dinner, chuck it in a reusable container and you are good to go!

Since beginning my search for sustainable lunchtime products, I’ve come across a few that rapidly became my favourites. I will talk about them in more detail below so if you are interested, please read on!

My lunchbag

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The lovely Pip at Empire Eco Designs sent me one of her lunch bags to try a while back and I have become completely obsessed with it. I am in the staffroom at work showing it off at every possible opportunity. Before having this I used to chuck my lunch food (if I had bothered preparing any) into a plastic container or a supermarket bag, or just into my handbag where I would forget about it and find it a few weeks later. Because my new lunch bag is so cute and useful, I find that it actually encourages me to pack lunches because I want to use it all the time! My workmates often compliment my lunch bag, which is nice because I like compliments. It is super handy because it fits a whole lot of stuff in it, but still folds down quite small when not in use. They are made of quality fabrics and to a very high standard. They are also easy to wash if they get a bit dirty. You should definitely check out these bags and Pip’s other awesome creations.

Food wrap options

You can get relatively creative with this one. Plastic shrink wrap is something I used to use an awful lot, and never even thought about looking for alternatives to it, but it has probably been the easiest part of my sustainable lunch transition.

Something I have become very fond of is reusable beeswax foodwrap. There are quite a few different business making this stuff now, which is very cool. My 2 favourites from NZ owned companies are Happbee Wrap and Honeywrap. The ones used in the above images are from Happbee Wrap, who very kindly sent me some of their stuff to try. They come in a range of sizes and designs, so there is something for everybody. I find them really simple to clean, they can be rinsed or wiped easily and put back in the cupboard for their next use. As well as using them in your lunches, they’re great for covering leftovers in the fridge or wrapping up those halves of tomato or avocado, etc. As you can see from the pictures above, I have my Happbee Wrap in a very cute owl pattern, but they have heaps of different ones to choose from. Beeswax wraps have eliminated so much unnecessary rubbish from my lunches, so if you are getting serious about reducing trash I highly recommend giving it a go.

Honeywrap, made in Auckland, is becoming a very popular brand; I’ve probably had 10 people ask me to put it up on the blog so I’m finally doing it! We are very lucky to have had a review for Honeywrap written for us by Anja Hess, which has just gone up today. I will link to that here, so for more info on their amazing products, be sure to check that out 🙂

There are also plenty of other alternatives that you might already have around the house. Things like glass jars, jam jar covers, or just using plates or bowls to cover foods in the fridge. Reusable containers are always a good and easy option for transporting food to and from work. Greaseproof paper can be recycled as long as it is clean, or it can go in the compost!

Water bottles

Single use plastic bottles make up a lot of the worlds waste. It is estimated that 1500 plastic bottles end up in landfill every second! So with this in mind, finding a good reusable bottle is very important! At the moment, I’m pretty sold on the Camelbak Chute. I have the .75L but there is also a 1L option. I really like the wide mouth cap – not having any fiddly sipper bits means it’s easier to keep clean than traditional drink bottles. Camelbak have created the very awesome Ditch Disposable pledge, which encourages people to get on board with the reusable movement. They also set up refilling stations at various festivals and events throughout the US to promote reusing bottles as opposed to throwing them all away. If you want to steer away from plastic, their range is very thorough and includes glass and stainless steel options, as well as insulated and filter bottles.

If you are looking for an NZ owned company, it would be worth checking out EcoTanka. They have a great range of stainless steel bottles and have met a number of international certifications which you can read more about here. I am yet to try an EcoTanka for myself, but they are on my list of things to check out, so they will hopefully make a proper appearance on the blog sometime soon!

Coffee cups

Finding a good reusable/travel coffee mug took a few attempts. Most of the ones I tried weren’t very reliable, tended to leak and didn’t keep warm for long. As I was already a coffee fiend and a Camelbak user, when they released their Forge insulated travel mug, it only made sense that I gave it a try. I’ve been using it for about a month and it’s by far the best travel mug I’ve come across. It has been dropped on the ground numerous times and proven to be rather robust. I haven’t noticed any leaking yet either and I carry it lying down in my lunch bag most days. It can keep my beverages warm for about 4 hours, which is very impressive! I’ve never had any issues getting it filled at cafes, and some places will even offer you a discount for bringing your own cup, so it’s definitely worth it! (for Christchurch locals – the Riccarton House coffee stand at the Deans Bush market offer this deal!)

Well, that’s all for now. Hopefully this will be of use to any of you trying to de-trash your daily lunches. It’s actually much easier than I thought it would be, plus now I have all of this cool stuff to show off around the office (which let’s face it, is the real goal here). Thanks for reading, see you again soon! 🙂

– EB

3 thoughts on “Brown Baggin’ It – A Guide to a More Sustainable Lunchbox

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