You may have noticed how both new and old food brands are touting eco-friendly packaging as part of their appeal. For example, our co-founder Will recently saw a ButcherBox ad that centered its fully recyclable packaging. Or there’s Cometeer, the future-thinking instant coffee brand that makes frozen pucks encased in “truly sustainable” aluminum capsules. This front-and-center focus on sustainability isn’t solely due to the fact that founders, CEOs, and investors care about the environment — it’s because customers do, too.

When starting a food business, getting your packaging right is an important piece of the puzzle. And in 2021, choosing a sustainable solution is key — whether that means recyclable, reusable, or biodegradable. What works for you might not be what’s right for the juicer down the street or the baker across town, but the good news is that there are plenty of options to choose from. Understanding what those are is a crucial first step.

For inspiration (or potential partnership), here’s a quick roundup of some of the eco-friendly packaging solutions that are being tried and tested by a host of innovative companies.

Reusable Containers

Zero Grocery is an online grocer committed to removing single-use plastics from the food system. They buy everything from fresh produce to your favorite snack brands in bulk, then package it in jars, boxes, and other sustainable containers. People who sign up to be members can leave emptied reusable packages outside of their doorstep for Zero Grocery to pick up when they drop off their next order. They’re currently operating in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

DeliverZero is like Zero Grocery, but for restaurant take-out and delivery in New York. When a customer orders from a restaurant that utilizes DeliverZero’s reusable packaging, they can either have their containers scooped up by a courier the next time they order, or drop them off at any participating restaurant.

For Planted Table, the vegan meal kit company based in the Bay Area, utilizing eco-friendly containers is a core part of doing business. Dishes like sesame ginger soba salad and barbecued king oyster mushroom “ribs” arrive in plastic-free vessels, which customers then wash for Planted Table to pick up and eventually refill for the next week’s meals.

Compostable Vessels

The nascent meal kit delivery company Quinn gives consumers the ability to select a simple recipe to make at home then have the ingredients delivered to their door in biodegradable packaging. It’s New York only, for now.

Box-Free

With cardboard-free deliveries, Olive’s goal is to eliminate single-use packaging in e-commerce. They supply “two-way” shippers made from recyclable materials to brands like Adidas and Everlane, whose clients can return them by requesting a pickup.

From bamboo takeout containers to protective cushioning made of mushrooms and compostable packing peanuts, the materials available to entrepreneurs in the food space are better for the environment than they’ve ever been before. Who said delivery can’t be sustainable?