5 Greenest Take-Out Containers

Learn about materials you can use to avoid the traditional doggie bag or Styrofoam container

When you’re ordering take-out from your favorite restaurant, it is both impractical and messy to try to carry the food home in your bare hands. Thus arises the problem of take-out containers. Sure, they're necessary, but they're just one more thing we throw away and add to our already overused landfills. So rather than stockpile our planet with styrofoam packages that will never biodegrade, we need to look at some greener, earth-friendly options. Here's are some of the five greenest types of take-out containers. Try to patronize establishments that use any of the following types of packaging.

Containers made from vegetable starches

The Environmental Protection Agency is big on this kind of highly biodegradable, compostable packaging, which is usually made of potato, corn, sugar cane or rice starch, or some combination thereof. Not only is this packaging earth-friendly after its usage, but it requires less energy to manufacture than most types of traditional containers.

Cardboard containers

In general, cardboard containers are not able to be recycled after they've been in contact with food products. The Mother Nature Network points out that they are, however, compostable. So throw these green take-out containers in the pile with your food waste, and in a few weeks, no more cardboard.

Bring your own container

Most coffee joints let you bring in your own mug or thermos to cut down on the use of disposable cups. Some restaurants will let you fill your own container for carry-out orders — they save money on packaging if you provide your own. Some grocery stores even give a small discount if you bring your own bag.

Recycled paper containers

According to The Technical Association for the Worldwide Pulp, Paper, and Converting Industry, an organization of experts in the paper-making industry committed to environmental solutions, nearly 45 percent of paper in the U.S. is recycled back into paper or paperboard products. Although many food containers are made with partly recycled materials, very few are made with 100 percent recycled materials. But some part recycled is better than no part recycled, since making products with recycled materials uses less energy than making things with virgin materials.

Aluminum foil

Some cities' recycling programs take aluminum. And aluminum isn't nearly as limited a resource as trees. The Daily Green, an eco-wise organization that's supported by the National Audubon Society and the Natural Resources Defense Council, reminds us that aluminum will rust and break down into aluminum oxide without releasing any greenhouse gases, unlike styrofoam or plastics. It does require energy to refine and process the metal, but all in all, it's not a bad option.

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