Say No to To-Go

It’s Friday night. What are you eating? Huge Burrito? Steaming Pizza? Are you going out or eating in? If taking it to go, consider the environment when ordering.

While packaging is part of the deal with to-go orders, various restaurateurs and patrons are devising fresh approaches to make take-out more lean and green. Happily, some environmentally responsible techniques are delightfully simple but often forgotten about. Other efforts to reduce waste take a bit more effort. Still, if it is kinder to the environment, each bite is going to be so much tastier.

Speak Out

If you are like me, when you get take out, you are probably annoyed by the silverware that comes with the meal. Do they not know that I have silverware at home? So be prudent when taking food to go. Tell them you do not need to throw away more plastic. Also deny the condiments that you are not going to use. Finally, if you get a menu to take home, ask them if they are online and say no thanks to the extra paper.

Perhaps they will be inspired to be more discriminating with others and ask before automatically including extras, or maybe they will consider using earth-friendly alternatives to what they are using now.

Plenty of establishments are switching from traditional polystyrene and plastic containers to more eco-friendly packaging and utensils made with materials such as bamboo, potatoes, and sugar cane. Lots of coffee and tea shops in the Chippewa Valley serve their to-go beverages in compostable cups, which is way cooler for the environment. Other environmentally preferable packaging includes recycled paper products that are chlorine-free.

Spread the inspiration to use green products with printable suggestion cards available through the Green Restaurant Association (GRA). Print them out (on recycled paper!) and hand them to the manager, or stick them in the folder with your check.

BYOB

Make Mother Nature happier when you eat out by bringing your own bags and containers to bring home left-overs or take-out orders. Check out Usbox.com. Also remember to bring your own cup when getting coffee on the go. In addition to bags, add other items to the bring-your-own repertoire such as coffee mugs. Like many grocery stores, coffee shops may offer a cash-back incentive for bringing your own. Starbucks coffee lovers apparently are taking advantage of that approach: according to a Starbucks spokeswoman, customers supply more than 20 million mugs each year.

Recommend Reusables

Does the owner of your favorite place know you by name? If you are friendly enough with them, ask them if they would stock reusable to-go containers, such as glass or stainless steel. Tell them you will return the container when you are back for another dinner. It is sort of a library approach to packaging. You drop off the used containers and pick up fresh ones packed with food each time you go. The advantage to the restaurant is reduced costs on disposable packaging and loyalty of regular diners.

No matter what your favorite take-out joint may offer, you can take these easy steps to maximize your eco-friendly efforts and minimize your footprint. Restaurants will appreciate your increased patronage, and you will feel good about taking your trash levels down a notch or two.

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