Q: My kids love bringing lunch to school on days when the menu includes “mystery meat” or other scary dishes not typically found outside a cafeteria. They are too old for aliens or cartoon characters. We need lunch bags that are fun and, hopefully, Earth-friendly. Got any ideas?

A: I admire parents who take the time to help growing minds escape that gray, gravy-laden mass called “mystery meat.” In a previous column, I offered tools to make lunch less of a landfill hazard. Start by packing lunch in reusable containers. Here are a few options to update your kids’ goodie box for the new school year:

Green and smart: A few years ago, squishy neoprene served as the go-to fabric for everything from laptop cases to lunch bags. Unfortunately, this man-made rubber is made using petroleum. Lunch boxes from GreenSmart maintain the squish factor, but ditch toxic adhesives and 25 percent of the petroleum used to make neoprene. Dome-shaped Sifaka bags from GreenSmart come in cool colors like tangerine and eggplant, and 10 percent of the company’s profits go to organizations that help the planet. Buying their Sifaka lunch bag actually could help a cute, cuddly Coquerel’s sifaka. (What’s a sifaka? In honor of your favorite science teacher, I suggest that you look it up!)

Brawny basics: Bamboo may be the only plant that grows faster than your kids. A basic lunch bag from New Wave Enviro combines a renewable material with sturdy functionality.

Happy family: Form and function merge in Japanese bento boxes, which feature neat compartments for various lunchtime goodies. Mr. Bento stacks four large plastic bowls, ranging from 6.8 ounces to 15.2 ounces, in one stainless steel jar with a lid. The kit also includes a zippered bag and a spork with a cover. For those who like the bento concept without the bulk, Ms. Bento does the same job, but with three containers rather than four.

Uncommonly cool: An organic cotton bag simply labeled “LUNCH” speaks volumes for monosyllabic teens. The large (11 inches by 8 inches by 5 inches), phthalate-free organic bag holds plenty of food, and a removable lining makes cleanup a no-brainer. Dad may even want to tote the off-white lunch bag that’s available at Uncommongoods.com.

Quite cute and almost cuddly: BPA-free Quaddie lunch boxes from The Container Store feature four compartments to hold a sandwich, salad and a few snacks. There’s also an 8-ounce container for beverages or salad dressing. It’s available in four colors — pink, blue, teal and green.

Get a not-so-new bag: Just reusable shopping totes that can be folded into nothing, Envirosax bags will carry a full lunch, then fold into 4 inch by 4.5 inch rectangles for the trip home. Made with recycled fiber, they also help your kids pay it forward for the planet. Now that’s what I call smart.

Go retro: Skip plastic altogether and try packing lunch in stainless steel “LunchBots.” Lunch kits include a nontoxic fabric tote bag, and two organic cotton napkins with space on the label for you to add your child’s name (just like you did with their underwear). Another popular stainless steel option from To-Go Ware features two stackable, pyramid-shaped containers that hold up to seven cups of liquid goodness.

-- Morieka

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Photos: Uncommon Goods, GreenSmart, Amazon.com, Container Store, LunchBots

I need fun, Earth-friendly lunch bags without aliens or cartoon characters. Any ideas?
Morieka Johnson can help you send the kids (and Dad) to lunch in green style.