Are you trying to lead a more sustainable lifestyle? Are you trying your best to cut down on waste and eliminate the use of plastic and single-use items? Great job… but how good are you at maintaining those good intentions when you’re out of the comfort of your own home? Specifically, how do you avoid waste when dining out?
Whether it be a quick lunch break, or a relaxing sit down meal, restaurants can be filled with obstacles that someone striving for a zero waste life has to keep dodging. Challenges range from avoiding plastic cutlery, single-use straws, to even having to choose between throwing away leftovers or taking them home in a plastic container.
Be prepared for single-use items
500 million straws are used in the US every single day. As common as the use of straws is, it is also the easiest single-use plastic item to avoid. How? Simply ask for no straw when placing your order! If you absolutely can’t do without sucking on your favorite drink or cocktail, then make it a point to always carry around your reusable metal steel straw, perfect win-win situation!
As far as refusing chopsticks and/or cutlery on the other hand, well, in that case you can’t really do without if you haven’t got a reusable options in your purse/pocket with you. Of course you can always kindly ask for a reusable set and see if the restaurant has a hidden stash locked up somewhere, and they simply choose to not use it to avoid the hassle of washing up, but hey, if reusable cutlery is really not available, unfortunately you really have no other option than to use it.
The only way to avoid being caught up in these types of dilemma’s and ending up eating with guilt knowing you are using something that is harming the environment, is being prepared! Always have with you a set of whatever cutlery you use most, for forks to knives, to chopsticks!
No need to go out and buy brand new item to take around with you, if you already have chopsticks at home, use those! You can keep them safe and clean in a reusable metal carrying case and be sure to never be caught without again!
Did you know that in the US the average restaurant meal is more than four times larger than it was in the 1950s? It can also be up to eight times larger than USDA or FDA standard serving sizes, which means we are not only eating more than we should, but we are also wasting a lot of it too! In fact, according to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) “Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — gets lost or wasted”. Avoiding food waste doesn’t mean stuffing yourself even if you’re not hungry, it means asking for smaller portions, sharing a meal, and, most importantly not throwing away leftovers. Most restaurants already ask whether you would like to take leftovers home which is great, but how is that food handed over to you? In a plastic container! Don’t get caught off guard, Bring Your Own! You may get funny looks walking in with an empty container, but we can deal with funny looks, what we can’t deal with is the consequences of plastic pollution!
Get to know your eco-friendly restaurants
Explore and ask around! Yes really fancy restaurants won’t have plastic and paper in sight, but we can’t always afford to eat fancy, and let’s be honest, even if we could, we probably wouldn’t go there every single day anyways. Keep your eyes and ears open and make notes of restaurants and eateries that use reusable cutlery, and that try to be more sustainable and that participate in community initiatives by donating excess food to shelters or people in need.
The overall tip for avoiding waste when dining out is BE PREPARED! Have a couple of fixed staples in your bag at all times (reusable straw, cutlery, chopsticks, container for leftovers) and most importantly SPEAK UP!
Let’s not be afraid to tell people what we are doing and why we are doing it. Tell your hostess or your waiter about zero waste living, this will help them help you during your meal and make sure certain measures are put in place.
The more of us speak out, the more awareness is raised, the more action will be put in place!