Don't Put Your Lunch Bag in the Fridge

crowd of people looking at a massive paper bag

A couple of weeks ago an email circulated around our office, the contents of which focused on lunch bags in the refrigerator. The message: don't put them in the fridge. My prognosis... best idea ever!

There are actually a couple of really good reasons why you don't want to put these lunch bags in the fridge if you can avoid it. Our office was doing it because we were running out of space, but allow me to delve into the green side of this issue.

  1. They actually do take up too much space
    I remember when I was a kid my lunch bag was nothing more than a brown paper bag that could basically only last 1 week before it was shredded into oblivion. Nowadays, lunch bags are huge, space sucking behemoths. I kid you not, there are some people in my office who use their lunch bags as backpacks and purses.

    So what's the environmental impact? Well bigger lunch bags mean less space for everyone else. Think of it as the inefficient packing of the refrigerator space. If my lunch bag takes up the room of 2 paper bags, then only half the number of people can use the fridge.

  2. They make the refrigerator less efficient
    Yeah, I am not lying, big bags equal big inefficiency. Refrigerators work on the premise that they circulate cold air around everything. If things are packed up too tightly, the air can't flow as smoothly and the refrigerator become less efficient. So cold air gets blocked up and no every item in the fridge is cooled evenly.

  3. The bags insulate against the cold too
    It actually doesn't make sense put an insulated bag into a refrigerator because the bag will insulate itself against the cold anyways. It is like wrapping your individual food items up in a parka and putting them in the fridge. The same principle that keeps your food cold in a warm space means that the contents of the bag won't actually benefit from being in the refrigerator anyways.

  4. What's the point? Aren't you going to microwave most of your food anyways?
    Of course I understand that you don't want to have your food spoil before you eat it. But do you actually know how much time it takes for something to go bad? Mayonnaise, for example, can be left at room temperature for hours before it starts to become a problem. If you have it in a state-of-the-art lunch bag (sarcastic), you should be able to leave it for a whole day before thinking twice.

    Also, the odds are you are just going to microwave your lunch anyways. I know that you might have yogourt or something that you ant to keep cold but if you are just going to throw your cold left overs into a cold fridge and then microwave it.... well you are just going to have to microwave it for longer before it heats up. This consumes more energy on behalf of the microwave. Also.... the microwave will also be doing some bacteria killing for you.
So the solution? Either take your contents out of the bag and put them in the fridge or don't put your lunch in the fridge at all. Of course this requires a bit of common sense on your behalf. Don't prop your lunch up against a heater and then try to eat it the next day, that would be silly. But do realize that if your lunch bag can't keep your lunch warm for a couple of hours between you leaving to come to the campus and eating your lunch... why are you using a giant space age super duper lunch bag anyways? Maybe it is time to go back to the paper bag.

~jON - campus sustainability manager
photo credit - jonathan rausseo


growgardengrow said...

those lunch box/bags are often placed on the floor or other unclean surface then put in the fridge... ugh! how unclean!!

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Linda Kuenster said...

Each nite before I start my shift I have to dig thru the insulated lunch bags in the fridge to find a spot for my lunch in its non insulated makes me crazy as I see the fridge stuffed full of insulated lunch isn't their lunch insulated against the fridge keeping it gonna print+hang this on the fridge (well see how long it lasts)as proof of what I've been saying all along..meanwhile I dig for a spot for my lunch(actually middle of the nite as I work 7p-7a) to stay till I eat it