Bringing Your Own Lunch to School or Work is Green

Bringing your own lunch to school or work is green—good for you, good for the planet, and good for your wallet.

School Lunch

Author's Son's Thomas the Tank Engine Lunch Box and Basket with FruitOur kids took lunch to school, first in lunch boxes and then brown paper lunch bags. Lunches consisted of sandwiches, fruit, chips, and dessert. For a time, the kids took disposable drink boxes for lunch. I shudder to remember a brief dalliance with package intensive, minimal nutrient, prepackaged lunches.

Having your kids take lunch to school has several benefits:

  • You and your kids know what it is in the food your kids are eating for lunch.
  • Your kids have an opportunity to learn about food and how to make healthy choices.
  • Your kids learn responsibility by helping to make lunch or preparing their own.
  • Your kids have more time to eat, relax, and play during lunchtime.

My Work Lunches

Throughout my working life, my lunch habits have varied widely.

When my job entailed visiting client’s offices and job sites, I frequently drove through fast food restaurants and ate in my car while driving (I know that is a bad habit). Other times I would go out to lunch with coworkers and we would split the bill. Mexican and sushi were my favorite types of food.

I ate at my desk more often than I would like to admit. The best lunches were those I packed myself and ate with a few coworkers at a local park.

For the past several years, I have been working out of my home office so I eat lunch at home. Lunch menus consist of peanut butter or tuna salad sandwiches, salads, soups, or leftovers.

Eating Lunch Out at Work

Over your work lifetime, eating lunch out can really add up in more ways than one. Let us say you eat lunch out 3 days a week for 48 weeks a year over a period of 40 years (3 x 48 = 144 days per year X 40 years = 5,760 lunches out).


For our example, we will assume a mix of different lunch venues with an average cost of $10.00 per meal. Over 40 years, eating lunch out would cost you $57,600. That does not include gas and wear and tear on your vehicle if you drive to lunch (or greenhouse gas emissions). Imagine what you could do with an extra $57,600.


Scale with Tape Measure and FruitRestaurants put ingredients and additives in food to make it taste good and keep you coming back. Foods that seem healthy, like a salad, may turn out to have a whopping calorie count and high-fat content. Some restaurant meals contain more than an entire day’s worth of calories.


The restaurant industry produces a huge amount of food and packaging waste.

Fast food and fast casual restaurants often serve meals in single-use, throw away packaging that ends up in landfills or sometimes on the side of the road. If only 50% of the 5,760 lunches in our example were of this type, visualize the pile of packaging waste that would be created by 2,880:

  • Carry Out Bags
  • Sandwich, Burger, Salad Packages
  • Chips, Fries, Dessert Packages
  • Drink Cups, Lids, Straws or Stirrers
  • Napkins (how many people grab just one?)
  • Catsup, Soy Sauce, Sugar Packets (how many people take just one?)

Taking Your Lunch to Work

Taking your lunch to work has similar benefits to taking lunch to school as well as saving money and reducing waste. With a little effort, taking lunch to work can be easy, inexpensive, healthy, and green.

  • Author's Gott Lunch Tote and Basket with FruitTake your lunch in a reusable insulated bag or another carrier, with a cool pack if needed.
  • Use reusable containers, utensils, napkins, and cups or bottles.
  • Just say no to bottled water.
  • Skip prepackaged frozen or ready-to-eat meals.
  • Assemble lunch the night before and leave it in the fridge (this is especially helpful for non-morning people like me).
  • Get out of the office at lunch. Eat on an outdoor patio, take a walk to park, or run errands on foot.

I have read several articles and blog posts aimed at helping people add variety to their “boring” homemade lunches. Interestingly, some health experts say simplifying meal choices and even eating the same thing for one meal every day may help people eat healthier. This would certainly streamline the process of preparing your take-to-work lunch.

Related Posts



Make, Bake, and Grow Sale Goes Green

What shall I take to the “Make, Bake, and Grow” fundraiser for my P.E.O. Chapter?  How about something “green” which would be unique and perhaps spark interest in ways to save the planet.

P.E.O. is a philanthropic organization for the education and advancement of women. Twice a year, our chapter hosts a “Make, Bake, and Grow” sale to earn money for the scholarship fund.

Something Green

Ginger Snap CookiesI planned on making my ginger snaps which are always a favorite. What would be something “green?” My daughter had given me a reusable mesh produce bag and I thought, “How about something like that?”

On Google, I typed in “reusable produce bags” and one of the first hits was  Upon opening the website there was the perfect item, a set of 5 reusable, small, see-through mesh, drawstring, polyester bags just perfect to use at the market as a smart alternative to plastic produce bags. I placed my order and it arrived quickly.

Green Marketing

To encourage a purchase I put a piece of fruit in each bag and priced them to sell. Alongside the display, I had a 4″ x 5″ card describing the benefits/merits with small stickers of fruit and vegetables along the edges of the card to draw attention to my display.

Reusable Mesh Bag with Produce from ReuseitGo Green – Reusable Mesh Produce Bags

  • Breathable, durable polyester
  • See-through mesh produce bags for easy checkout
  • A smart alternative to plastic produce bags
  • Compact & lightweight with drawstring closure
  • Saves time at home – rinse produce right in the bag!


As expected the ginger snaps were snapped up quickly. It was encouraging that 3 out of 5 reusable mesh produce bags had been sold, a good beginning. Maybe next time I’ll put the ginger snaps inside the reusable bags.

Reader Note: this is a guest post by my mother, Joan.