Kirsten Quigley co-founded a company that makes reusable sandwich bags. Single-use bags made from biodegradable materials were recently added.
When her four kids were young, Kirsten Quigley was packing about 20 lunches a week—using lots of plastic baggies.
“It hadn’t even occurred to me to question that part of our routine,” says Quigley, 48, who grew up in Rockville and lives in Potomac. Learning that an estimated 20 million plastic sandwich bags were thrown out every day was an “aha” moment that made her think about what she could do differently.
Quigley, who had worked in development and communications at the nonprofit Nature Conservancy, brainstormed alternatives to plastic baggies with Potomac mom Cris Bourelly and designer Jennie Stoller-Barakat, who lives in Los Angeles. In 2008, they co-founded 3greenmoms and launched LunchSkins, a line of reusable bags made of dishwasher-safe fabric with a Velcro seal.
The original bags, with designs such as red apples and blue sharks, appealed to kids and were widely sold as fundraisers through schools. Kids leave a footprint, and this was a way they could make a difference, Quigley says. “They can’t drive a Prius or build solar panels, but kids can use this and feel empowered to be greener.”
The business was based out of Quigley’s home before moving into an office on Bethesda’s Arlington Road about three years ago. She’s now chief operating officer on a four-person team that has been expanding the LunchSkins line. (The other two co-founders left the business in 2015.)
To appeal to adults, the company has created patterned bags in muted colors—adding larger sizes and zipper closures. This past summer, LunchSkins introduced single-use paper sandwich bags made of biodegradable material that can be composted. Sold in boxes of 50, the new bags are made from a tightly woven paper with a peel-away adhesive strip.
The company estimates that reusable LunchSkins bags have replaced more than 1 billion single-use plastic sandwich and snack bags (estimating that one bag lasts two years and replaces the use of nearly 500 plastic bags in that time).
Quigley is optimistic about the future of LunchSkins products, which are sold nationwide at outlets such as The Container Store and Target; locally at MOM’s Organic Market, Broad Branch Market, Safeway and Strosniders Hardware; and online. “Green is trending up, not down,” she says.