For many years, restaurant operators have sought new ways to boost sustainability efforts, from reducing food waste to composting to using energy-efficient appliances. Major players like McDonald’s and Starbucks have joined in as well, seeking greener options for both their food and food delivery containers. 

It’s the smart move to make, considering a majority of diners may be willing to pay more for a meal from a restaurant they perceive as "green.” Overall, consumers, particularly Millenials and Gen Z, care about what the brands they interact with stand for — now more than ever. Making small changes to make your business more green can benefit more than just the environment: it can help you build a following of loyal customers who are fans of both your food and your sustainability practices.

One way to advance your sustainability efforts? Offering eco-friendly food containers. As delivery surges due to COVID-19, restaurants have the opportunity to extend sustainable practices into all areas of operations — and packaging is no exception. 

According to a survey by Asia Pulp & Paper, nearly two-thirds of Americans demand sustainable packaging and clear labeling — and a staggering 92% of consumers feel that minimalist, eco-friendly, or biodegradable packaging matters. Green food delivery containers are more than just the packaging for your food – they’re an important part of the customer’s experience with your business.

Ready to go green? Read this guide to choosing the right eco-friendly food delivery containers for your restaurant. 

Food delivery containers: 5 key factors to consider 

1. Invest in eco-friendly packaging

Many state and local governments have already passed legislation limiting the use of styrofoam packaging, which doesn’t naturally degrade and is therefore filling the world’s landfills. Accordingly, a variety of more eco-friendly food containers are available for just about every dish you can think of — designed to retain heat, maintain durability, and deliver fresh food to customers without sacrificing the quality of the experience. Check out the DoorDash Store to browse eco-friendly containers that have been tried and tested by thousands of restaurant owners.

2. Take precautions against COVID-19 

When choosing packaging, don’t forget about COVID-19 safety. Closing your bag with a quality seal will instill trust in customers — showing them that proper precautions were taken as their meal was prepared, which is especially important during the pandemic. You should also take COVID safety into account as you pack takeout bags, leaving out utensils or napkins that could get contaminated and constantly washing your hands or switching out gloves.  

3. Enhance the guest takeout experience

Eco-friendly does not mean low-quality. It’s possible to select eco-friendly food containers. The eco-friendly food containers you choose should be able to keep your food as fresh as possible while it’s being delivered. For example, this clamshell is a house favorite for transporting burgers. In fact, on the DoorDash Store, all packaging was specifically selected for high-quality. The best containers keep hot food steaming — and mess-free — upon arrival, so don’t feel like you need to go with “one-size-fits-all” options for specialty items that require extra care. 

4. Showcase your brand with custom food delivery containers

You spend hours deciding how your dishes are presented in the restaurant  — don’t skimp on how you showcase your best delivery dishes. Your packaging is critical to the guest experience. Consider customizing bags and boxes with your unique logo or a brand slogan to elevate the delivery order, or perhaps to take the place of flyers or paper menus that will likely end up in the recycling bin. Merchants who buy a case of to-go packaging in the DoorDash Store will also be sent a link to upload their logo onto rolls of custom stickers and bag seals. Uniquely branded packaging goes one step further in showing customers that you’ve invested in their experience and value their business, no matter how where they’re eating your food. 

5. Vary the shapes and sizes of your to-go containers

There’s a different shape, style, and function of to-go food containers for nearly every kind of food — so choose accordingly. In the DoorDash Store, you can choose between a variety of eco-friendly food containers perfect for any kind of food, at no risk. In fact, we guarantee a refund or return for merchants who aren’t happy with the packaging they selected. To-go packaging options include: 

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Clamshells: DoorDash compared five of the most common types of packaging for burgers and found that the 6" Clamshell performed the best on an overall score that ranked heat retention, taste, and texture. These eco-friendly food containers are compostable commercially and at your customers’ homes.

unnamed (8)Salad bowls: Made from bagasse, a sugarcane byproduct, these compostable salad bowls have wide edges perfect for filling with salad fixings or grain bowls. They’re sturdy and can be easily stacked in bags.  

unnamed (44)Soup containers: Avoid potentially disastrous spills with these lined recyclable soup containers designed to keep hot soups hot and cold soups cold. For smaller servings, they also come in a 12 oz or 16 oz. size

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Folding boxes: Perfect for sandwiches, wraps, and other dry goods, these folding boxes made out of Kraft paper are perfectly compact and convenient for stacking. They’re available in four sizes and easily recyclable. 

sealtopSeal top boxes: A go-to for pastas, entrées, and other saucy foods, these seal top boxes are made from recycled plastic, or polypropylene, and can be recycled or reused. The secure lids are ideal for preventing spills and keeping food at the perfect temperature during transport. 

Eco-friendly food container materials, explained

Compostable. Biodegradable. Recycled. Reusable. You’ve heard all of these terms before—but what do they mean, really? Let’s break it down.

  • Compostable: Compostable materials break down quickly when disposed of properly, either in a commercial or home compost, naturally becoming nutrient-rich materials that can be used in soil to encourage plant growth. Containers made with sugarcane/bagasse, bamboo, and some bioplastics are typically compostable. 

  • Biodegradable: Products like bioplastics and other materials made from plants (i.e., not fossil fuels) are biodegradable, meaning they will naturally disintegrate over time by biological means (bacteria and fungi). However, the rates of decomposition vary based on the material, and some governments are beginning to set regulations for using the label based on how much and how quickly the material breaks down – so remember to research local policies to determine the best biodegradable packaging options for your area. 

  • Recycled: Packaging made with some plastics are recycled, or made with materials that have existed previously, and are often recyclable themselves — cutting back on the need to create new materials. Kraft paper products are made with virgin fibers, but are renewable, recyclable, and easily customizable.     

  • Reusable: Products that are able to be used again after their initial use, like sturdy plastic containers, reusable coffee cups, or reusable salad bowls are great ways to cut back on your environmental footprint. If you frequently have people ordering coffee to-go, consider offering a discount if they bring their own thermos. 

Additional sustainability steps you can take

Beyond switching to eco-friendly food containers, there are many simple steps you can take to increase your sustainability, which customers will notice — and appreciate. 

  • Remove utensils, straws, and napkins from to-go food packaging. When people are ordering delivery, they probably already have forks and knives at home. Spare them the waste — and you the expense — by allowing them to opt in or out of unnecessary cutlery when they order. 
  • Reduce excess packaging. By investing in high-quality to-go food containers, you’re less likely to need added layers of packaging, like plastic wrap, cardboard, or double bags. 
  • Avoid unnecessary marketing materials. If your customers ordered online via DoorDash or your website, it’s a safe bet that they already know where to find your menu online. Save your paper menus or other marketing materials for passersby who drop in wanting to take one home with them, and skip it in delivery orders.

Upgrade your restaurant’s sustainability efforts today by ordering your food delivery containers through the DoorDash Store. You don’t need to be a DoorDash partner to shop, but if you’re looking to bring in new revenue and customers, sign up here to see how DoorDash can help you grow your business – while shrinking your environmental footprint. 

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Ali Cottong
Ali is a freelance content marketer with a wide range of experience crafting content and strategy for brands that include a world-renowned design agency, a men's artisan boot company, that app you use to request money on your phone, and more. Ali originally earned her nerd cred as a world-class Quidditch player and has competed in the Quidditch World Cup twice. She currently lives in Oakland where she's traded her broomstick in for a bike.