By Kim Robson:
I don’t know about you, but washing, drying, and reusing small plastic zipper sandwich bags is just too much hassle. Sure, I’ll reuse the big gallon-size bags, but those flimsy sandwich bags? They tend to get thrown away. That makes me feel guilty, and I hate feeling guilty. So let’s explore some sustainable options for reusable sandwich (and snack) packaging.
One option is to wrap your sandwich in wax paper or parchment paper. This helps retain the optimal moisture level, so your sammy doesn’t get soggy from trapped condensation in a zipper bag, but it doesn’t dry out, either. If your sandwiches aren’t super messy, you’ll be able to reuse a sheet of wax paper several times. There are several complicated ways to wrap sandwiches deli-style in paper, involving much onerous folding and tucking of flaps. This method isn’t too complicated, though:
A more sustainable option is to invest in a few washable, reusable sandwich holders such as these:
sandwich and snack bags are stylish, dishwasher safe, durable, and easily cleaned. One LunchSkin bag replaces 500 plastic bags in its usable lifetime. They comply with FDA food safety standards and are free of BPA, phthalates and lead. The quick-drying, lightweight fabric comes with a zippered closure.
’s Wrap is made from organic cotton coated with beeswax, organic jojoba oil and tree resin. The jojoba oil and beeswax have natural antibacterial properties and, along with the tree resin, provides a moisture barrier to help keep your sandwich fresh. Fold the corners around your sandwich and secure by wrapping the string around the wooden bee button. When you’re hungry, unfold it and use as a 13” by 13” placemat. Hand-washable in cool water with mild dish soap, they come in a variety of designs and sizes, suitable for wrapping everything from cheese to partial veggies or fruits to entire loaves of bread.
Of course, if you’re really ambitious and and good at sewing, your most sustainable option is to make your own DIY reusable sandwich wraps from oilcloth. In the late 19thand early 20thcenturies, oilcloth was made from heavy cotton canvas or linen that had been repeatedly saturated with boiled linseed oil and dried. The resulting fabric was more waterproof and stain resistant than untreated cotton, and it became a popular material for everyday-use tablecloths.
Nowadays, though, so-called “oilcloth” is synthetic, backed with plasticized polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Instead, be sure to use oilcloth that’s backed with a thin, nontoxic acrylic coating, which makes it just as impervious to stains but with a much more natural, less “plasticky” look and feel. Acrylic-coated oilcloth also doesn’t bring the health or environmental risks associated with PVC-based vinyl products.
Cut two 13-inch squares out of oilcloth. Place one square on top of the other so pattern is facing out. Sew the two pieces together at the edges and trim. To use, lay the square so that one of the corners is pointing at you, like a diamond. Place sandwich in the center. Fold left and right corners toward the center so the points overlap. Repeat with top and bottom corners to create an envelope. Secure with a pair of buttons and an elastic hair band, or dots of Velcro. Or just use good old-fashioned twine.
Here’s another variation on the envelope design that’s a bit more “sealed.” This would also work brilliantly with wax paper:
Bottom line, there’s no excuse for tossing single-use plastic sandwich bags when there are so many other alternatives. And I just bet your sandwich will taste better, too, without the side order of guilt!