It’s back-to-school time and even if no one in your household is actually going back to school, it always feels like a reboot time of year. Our friends at Seven Generations Ahead have created this flyer to give you ideas about ways to up your lunch game from disposable to reusable. They suggest that you “Turn a Wasteful Lunch into a Zero Waste Lunch”. Share it with your school administrators or PTAs if you haven’t already received something like it in your child’s backpack or virtual backpack.

Budget versus Investment

You may already have some containers you could reuse that don’t look exactly like the ones in the flyer. I like how our friends at Chicago zero waste store Eco & The Flamingo phrase it: budget versus investment. You may not need to necessarily buy anything new to cut out some of your waste.

Ask in your Buy Nothing groups if you want a new lunchbox, particularly if you’re not picky about what color or style it is.

It’s been a while since I’ve needed to pack a school lunch so I popped onto Mighty Nest’s website to look around at what’s new. Here’s what I found when I searched for lunch on their website. Lots of cool stuff!

I’ve never heard of an avocado sock. It keeps your avocado from getting bruised and aids ripening. That’s hilarious! I wish I’d thought of that. I might have to knit myself one or make one from a holey wool sock. It looks like the fruit buddy is a similar product with a cuter name and a face and ears.

Sometimes I don’t get it together to pack myself a lunch. Where do you go for a sustainable lunch? Below are a couple of our favorites.

Farmers Fridge

Farmers Fridge is based in Chicago. I vividly remember the Good Food Festival where I met the founder Luke Saunders and learned about his new company. They have what they call smart fridges where you can buy one of their mason-jar-style salads as easily as you could buy a candy bar. They originally placed them in 7-11 stores. I loved that because they were a very healthy alternative to the other food offerings there.

The fridges are in both public and private places. Whenever I discover one at a new location, it’s like running into an old friend. I most recently discovered that there is one at Robert Crown Community Center in Evanston. That discovery made me ridiculously happy because I was there charging my car in the parking lot.

They compost at their prep kitchen in Chicago. Though their jars are plastic, I find they are good containers for making my own mason-jar-style salads.

There are so many recipes online for mason-jar-style salads. Here is one example:

When you’re making your own salads, you can put the dressing in the bottom of the jar. (I understand why Farmers Fridge needs to put their dressing in a small plastic container, I just don’t love it.) The layering basically goes like this: dressing, sturdy vegetables that can hold up to hanging out in the dressing, other stuff maybe a protein like beans or chicken, with lettuce and other greens up top.

Farmers Fridge provides compostable kraft paper boats in the side of their fridges, as well as compostable plastic cutlery. But you don’t need those because you’ve brought your own bamboo set, right?

I really like Bamboo To-Go Ware. I’ve been recommending them for years. I only recently learned that ChicoBag and To-Go Ware are owned by the same company. Makes sense since their missions, to eliminate single-use plastic usage, are so aligned. It can be empowering to whip out your own cutlery. Practice saying this: “No thanks. I brought my own.”


We compost for the sweetgreen restaurant in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago and they’ve just opened another in Evanston. I’m counting 15 locations in Chicagoland. They’re doing good work on both a micro and macro level. They use compostable paper bowls and lids. They cook from scratch and they are committed to reaching carbon neutrality by 2027. You can read more about their carbon commitment here on their website. I’m a fan of the Shroomami warm bowl. It’s labeled as “low carbon” in the area on the menu where calories, protein, carbs and fat are also listed. That made me curious. Apparently the Shroomami is part of a low carbon collection that also includes Crispy Rice Bowl, Guacamole Greens, and Super Green Goddess. They have a carbon footprint that is less than the average American meal.

When I emailed their customer service to ensure that their bowls did not use PFAS, I got a super speedy response. They are indeed PFAS-free and I like that their bowl lids are also paper.

Oui Yogurt

I know that a lot of people like to eat yogurt on-the-go. If you’re flexible on the type you’d be willing to eat, I’d recommend Oui yogurt both for the quality and because it comes in cute little glass jars. That’s not exactly new news, but I discovered recently that you can buy lids for them. On their website they sell plastic lids in either blue or clear. But other places, there are wood and bamboo lids of all descriptions. These aromatic cedar ones look very beautiful and probably smell good too. Some, maybe all, come with a silicone gasket. There are kits for turning them into a windowsill planter. There are even crochet covers for the jars themselves. It’s like I’ve encountered an alternate universe where all you need is Oui yogurt jars to accomplish anything. I’d use them to store crunchy bits to add to my mason-jar-style salad.


We need a better word for leftovers. Something more positive that celebrates them. I tried finding one but the synonyms are even worse, trust me. Preserving a little bit of dinner for lunch saves both time and energy. It’s a weight loss technique, when eating in restaurants to pack up half of your dinner immediately. I’m not necessarily advocating dieting here, I’m just thinking that in my own experience there have been times when the leftovers didn’t seem like enough to bother packing up. I never feel that way now. I have containers of all sizes in my car, even tiny ones for sauces and a small silicone spatula for getting every morsel off the plate or bowl.

Too Good To Go

Have you downloaded this app yet? This is how they describe themselves: “Too Good To Go is a service with a mobile application that connects customers to restaurants and stores that have surplus unsold food.” They are aiming to reduce food waste by facilitating the sale of unsold food to consumers who are flexible enough to take what is offered at a reduced cost. It bears repeating that reducing food waste is one of Project Drawdown’s top suggestions for drawing carbon out of the atmosphere and mitigating climate change. More impactful, dare I say, than composting. But the two, along with eating a plant-rich diet are a potent trifecta.


I just looked up the definition of this word. And the second definition actually brought tears to my eyes: able to be upheld or defended. It is my fervent hope that we are able to uphold and defend our beautiful planet and all of its inhabitants.

Author Details
Zero Waste Consultant | Collective Resource, Inc.

Mary Beth strongly believes that, “It’s always better to be doing something rather than nothing.” If you’re thinking of composting at home, she can help you work out what your particular “something” can be.

She’s confident a solution can be tailored to fit anyone’s needs and ambitions. “Anyone who eats can be a CRI customer, whether you are an individual or a large organization. I want you to understand the advantages of composting, and I can show you how CRI can make it easy.” Mary Beth has successfully designed waste diversion strategies for individuals, schools, houses of worship and other communities. She’s received the governor’s Environmental Hero award for her work at her daughter’s school. Whether you’re starting with a backyard bin, a kitchen bucket, a worm farm, or large-scale commercial collection, Mary Beth can be your good-natured guide.