Brown Bag It! for the Air, your Wallet and your Waist


What do you do on your Lunch Hour?
Building a Zero-Waste Lunch
Thinking Outside the Lunch Box

 Downloadable "Brown Bag It" tip sheet



Just because you bring your lunch to work doesn’t mean you have to eat at your desk. Just ask Bill Huebner with the National Park Service.

“At lunch, I frequently take walks to take a mental break from whatever I am working on and get a little exercise while I walk and eat my peanut butter and jelly sandwich,” says Huebner. “When I get back to the office, I am mentally refreshed and more able to focus on what I was working on.”

The benefits of bringing your lunch to work range from eating healthy and saving money to expanding your horizons culturally and saving the planet.

“There is also a lot of art to check out downtown,“ says Huebner. “I always have to find out what is happening at the International Gallery of Contemporary Art, or the latest exhibit at the Museum. When I have to get in my car, I become more preoccupied with traffic and less able to take a mental break and get my body moving.”

The picnic area behind the Alaska Railroad headquarters is an ideal place for employees to take a break, have lunch and enjoy good weather.

The Nerland Agency staff can enjoy time away from their computers and soak up some Vitamin D during lunch on the company's back deck.

Do you have a favorite “clean air” lunch spot or activity? Please share it with Green Star at

Health Benefits

Bringing your lunch is the easiest way to eat healthy because you control what you eat and you know how many calories are in your lunch box. You also can benefit from the extra time you gain by bringing your lunch to walk or work out instead of driving to get food.

Environmental Benefits

Bringing your lunch to work not only frees up time for exercise during the lunch hour but also spares the air. For example, say you travel around two miles each way in a vehicle for lunch for a total of four miles. That’s the distance from the U-Med District to Midtown. Factoring in waiting in line and finding a place to park, your short lunch trip just cost you $2.08 in gas and vehicle ownership, wasted 15 minutes of your time and emitted 3.66 lbs of CO2.

Financial Benefits

Bringing your lunch to work is a lot less expensive than buying your lunch every day. If you go out to lunch five days a week at $10/lunch, you’ll spend about $2,400 on lunch annually. If you bring your lunch, the typical cost is about $3/lunch, or about $720 annually. Over the course of a year, you can save $1,680 just on the cost of food. That doesn’t even factor in the cost of driving to get food each day.


In a zero-waste lunch everything can be eaten, reused, or recycled.

  • Use a reusable insulated bag or lunch box instead of a brown paper bag. A reusable ice pack can be used to keep perishable food items cold.
  • Use reusable containers that can be washed and used over and over instead of using disposable plastic sandwich bags for sandwiches and snacks. If you use sandwich bags, you can rinse these out and reuse them. Several companies even sell bag-drying racks for next to your kitchen sink, or build your own!
  • Use a thermos or reusable jug instead of a bottle of soda or a juice box.
  • Use metal silverware or wash plastic utensils and reuse them instead of plastic utensils that are used once and thrown away.
  • Buy in bulk and pack individual servings in reusable containers. Create your own snack packs rather than purchasing the over-packaged, over-priced store-bought versions.
  • Use cloth napkins that can be washed and reused instead of using paper napkins or paper towels.



Perk up your lunch and make it as interesting as if you were eating out.

  • Keep a bottle of hot sauce at work. It can perk up anything from a sandwich to a salad. If hot sauce isn’t your thing, be sure to stock mini salt and pepper shakers in your desk.
  • Don’t forget snack and dessert time.
  • Buy a nifty reusable lunch box. It'll make any lunch more fun.
  • Pack your lunch the night before to save time in the morning.
  • Keep a few cans of soup or microwave meals at work just in case you forget your lunch or are pressed for time.
  • Make extra portions for dinner that can be enjoyed the next day for lunch.
  • There should be foods from all of the major food groups, including fruits, vegetables, and grains, as well as dairy products and lean meats.
  • Avoid soda and other high-calorie, high-sugar drinks. These drinks contribute to energy loss in the afternoon and add empty calories.