Everybody knows that single-use plastics are bad for the environment, but in reality, all plastics are pretty terrible. So when it’s time to replace your food containers, instead of reaching for the first plastic container you see on the shelf, it might be a better idea to think about the wider impact your purchase will have.
But even if you exclude plastics from your search, there are still so many options when it comes to food storage containers. So in this guide, we’ll go over the different things you should look out for when picking an eco-friendly food storage container. At the end, we’ve also got a list of our 10 favorites for you to start your search.
How to Choose an Eco-Friendly Food Storage Container – Buying Guide
Deciding what to bring into your home is a multi-faceted, personal decision that requires you to weigh your priorities and convenience. And if that means going for something that’s more or less eco-friendly, then that’s completely fine. In either case, this guide will show you the ropes.
Pick a Material Based on Longevity, Use, and Recyclability
When it comes to finding an eco-friendly food container, choosing the right material is probably the most important factor. There are pros and cons to each, so be sure to consider how you’ll use your containers before you make your decision.
Bamboo and Plant Fiber Have a Low Environmental Impact but Wear Down More Quickly
Bamboo and plant fiber containers are probably the best bet for those looking to cut down on environmental impact. Made from either sustainable, quick-growing bamboo or leftover plant fibers, these containers are lightweight, heat-safe, and free from harmful chemicals.
However, they may wear down more quickly than other options. However, many will still last you several years of fairly heavy use.
Stainless Steel is Lightweight but Not Microwaveable
Stainless steel containers are great for taking on the go. They’re lightweight, durable, and can still be used even with a few dents and bumps. You can use them for as long as they’re not rusted, which, with proper care, can often mean decades. On top of that, stainless steel is very easily recyclable, and most recyclers should be able to handle it.
However, stainless steel containers are not microwaveable, so if you’re looking for something that will go directly from fridge to hot meal, then this might not be the best option. And when picking a container, be sure to look for food grade stainless steel, which is higher quality and unlikely to rust with normal use.
Glass and Ceramic Will Last Forever but Can Be Heavy
If you’re looking for something mostly to use at home that will last forever, why not go for glass or ceramic? While they are heavier than other options, glass and ceramic are some of the sturdiest, longest-lived materials available (granted you don’t drop them!) and will stand literal centuries of heavy use.
If you do end up breaking something, rest assured knowing that glass is easily recyclable, and while ceramic is not, it will break down into earth-friendly materials over time.
The Type of Lid Depends on the Type of Food You’re Storing
If you’re trying to keep foods fresh for more than a couple days, it’s important that your containers have an airtight seal, particularly for wet, perishable foods. This could come in the form of a silicone lid or cork stopper or a plastic lid with a thin rubber or silicone gasket.
If you’re planning on storing/transporting soups or other liquids, make sure the lid is leak-proof. If you’re storing leftovers to heat up for later, it also helps if the lid has a small opening to allow steam to escape while microwaving so it doesn’t collapse.
Be sure to double check that any plastic or silicone used is food-safe and to separate the gasket from the rest of your container when it’s time to recycle! If you want to recycle the lid or gasket, just note that silicone is not readily accepted by most recyclers, so you might have to do a little extra research to find one that will take it.
Size and Shape Should Also be Determined by Space Considerations
Of course, the capacity of your container mainly depends on what and how much food you plan to put into it. But there’s a few other things you should try not to overlook. Is the container short and thin enough to fit on the shelves of your cabinet or in your refrigerator?
Is it round or square? Square containers are best if you’re short on space. You can stick them on top of one another or pack them close together with no gaping holes in between. Round jars allow for even airflow within the container itself and are therefore best for thawing foods.
Look for Dishwasher-Safe Containers for Leftovers and Lunch Boxes
It can be all too easy to forget about a container of leftovers in the back of your fridge or accidentally leave your lunch box in your bag for a day (or two). So it’s best to look for something that’s dishwasher safe to get the best (hottest) clean possible. Just remember to check whether the lid can also go into the washer.
Top 10 Best Eco-Friendly Food Storage Containers to Buy Online
Now that you know what to look for in an eco-friendly food storage container, here are some of our favorites to get you started.
10. BriGenius Bento Lunch Box
Plant-Based Lunchbox with Microwave Vent
This plant-based lunch box is lightweight and perfect for both kids and adults. It features a two-layer lid–an inner one that’s leak-proof with a vent for microwaving and an outer one that holds a fork and spoon.
However, do note that this container does contain some BPA-free plastic, so while it still has a fairly low ecological impact, the impact is not zero, and those hoping to avoid plastic might want to look for something else.
|Materials||Wheat straw, BPA-free plastic, silicone|
|Capacity||8.7″ x 7″ x 2.7″|
9. Uno Casa Ceramic Tortilla Warmer
Ceramic Container for More Than Just Tortillas
While this bright container is technically a tortilla warmer, it also makes a great storage container for other foods, too! It’s microwave-safe, dishwasher-safe, and the perfect size for leftovers.
While the lid is not air- or water-tight, it is quite heavy and will keep your foods fresh for several days. For those planning on using it solely as a tortilla warmer, though, be warned–some reviewers note that tortillas don’t stay as warm as they’d like!
8. Bayco 16-Piece Glass Food Storage Containers
Dishwasher-, Microwave-, Freezer-, and Oven-safe
For meal preppers and those who like to know that all their lids will match all their containers, this set of 8 glass containers is for you. They are dishwasher-, microwave-, freezer-, and even oven-safe, so you can feel safe using them anywhere.
However, do note that the lids are made from BPA-free plastic, so if you’re trying to cut down on your plastic use, these might not be right for you.
|Materials||Glass, BPA-free plastic, silicone|
7. 77L Food Storage Jar
Airtight Container for Liquids or Dry Goods
This handsome container is perfect for storing almost anything from liquids to dry goods and looks good while it’s at it. And it comes in two smaller sizes if you’re looking for a full set.
Its hefty bamboo lid is airtight, but not leak-proof, so do your best not to tip it over or store it on its side. If you’re not totally happy, this container also comes with a 100% satisfaction guarantee.
|Materials||Ceramic, bamboo, silicone|
6. Sweetzer & Orange Glass Food Storage Containers
Super Strong Glass with Lids that Pop
This set of four containers is made from borosilicate glass which makes them thicker and stronger than your average food jar and great for use in the dishwasher and fridge.
Their bamboo lids are airtight and give a satisfying pop every time you open them. If you’re not happy with your jars, they also come with a 1-year warranty.
|Materials||Glass, bamboo, silicone|
|Capacity||19 oz – 60 oz|
5. Tavva Stainless Steel Lunch Container
Easy-to-Use Silicone Lid is Great for Kids
Unlike most stainless steel lunch containers that come with latch-on lids, this container comes with a silicone lid that’s easy for kids to use. It’s lightweight and heat-safe up to 400º for those who prefer to warm food in the oven.
However, some reviewers note that the lid feels a little on the thin side, but if there’s a problem with yours, this container also comes with a lifetime guarantee, so you can get it sorted out easily.
|Materials||Stainless steel, silicone|
4. Razab HomeGoods Extra Large Glass Food Storage Containers
Extra Large Containers You Can Cook In
These extra large containers are perfect for storing or cooking large amounts of food in. They’re oven-safe to over 900º (minus the lid) and are also suitable for freezer and dishwasher use.
However, the lids are made from plastic, and some reviewers have noted that the gasket tends to wear down rather quickly, so always be sure to remove it when using the dishwasher.
|Materials||Glass, BPA-free plastic, silicone|
|Capacity||27 oz – 74 oz|
3. Butifoc Stainless Steel Food Storage Containers
High-Quality Stainless Steel for Snack Storage
This set of three stainless steel containers work perfectly for storing snacks or leftovers and nest for easy storage. Aside from the dishwasher, feel free to toss them into the freezer as well.
However, some reviewers note that the silicone lids are a bit too thin to comfortably stack on unless the container is completely full.
|Materials||Stainless steel, silicone|
|Capacity||7.5 oz – 24 oz|
2. Weck Mold Jar Combo Pack
Easy-to-Clean, Lower Profile Canning Jars
Less complicated and lower-profile than most mason jars, Weck jars are built for canning, so you know they’re tough as nails. Feel free to use them in the dishwasher, microwave, and freezer.
Unlike other canning jars, these have a wide mouth with no inner ridges, which makes them not only super easy to clean but also super easy to scoop food out of.
|Materials||Glass, rubber, stainless steel|
|Capacity||9.8 oz – 28.7 oz|
1. Cal Tiffin Stainless Steel Canister Food Storage Set
Large, 100% Stainless Steel
These extra large, 100% stainless steel canisters are made to hold bulk dry goods but can be used for other foods as well and are built to last for years. They can be heated up on low heat in the oven.
Their lids do not have a silicone seal but do fit snug and firm enough to be functionally airtight. But if you’re unhappy with them, they come with a 90-day no questions asked guarantee.
|Capacity||36 oz – 86 oz|
So there you have it–a quick guide to finding the right eco-friendly food storage container for you! Hopefully you’ve found the right one (or few!) for your home and can rest easy knowing that you’re doing good for both your food and the environment.
By Jacqueline Oshiro
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