One of the parts of life in which a lot of waste is produced is when people eat and drink away from home, whether they pack their own food or buy food and beverages while away from home. Often, people end up purchasing food or a beverage that they were originally not expecting to purchase. And when people are expecting to eat while out, most people either pack their food in single use plastic bags or they purchase fast food with a lot of single use packaging (like from a fast food restaurant). And depending on the restaurant or fast food place people choose, the types and amount of waste they produce can change drastically.
Luckily, these habits are relatively easy to change. One of the main things that makes this change easier than others is because much of it involves prepacking a zero waste to-go kit for eating in a bag you will take with you every day. To create this kit, think about the single use items you tend to use when you eat out. These items often include:
· Forks, spoons, knives
· Coffee cups or other beverage containers
· To go containers
· Grocery bags
These items can be easily avoided by putting together a kit of reusable replacements for these items. You can use metal or bamboo eating utensils, cloth napkins, and stainless steel, bamboo, or glass straws (make sure to also keep a straw cleaning brush on hand). A good replacement for single use chopsticks are wooden, bamboo, metal, or other material chopsticks. For beverage containers, you can use silicon, glass, ceramic, stainless steel, or other material reusable beverage containers. These can range from water bottles, travel coffee mugs, or other variations of beverage containers, and you can choose to keep only one that use will use for all drinks, or keep multiple for any beverage situation you will encounter. At many restaurants and fast food places, food comes in to go containers and plastic bags to keep all your food together. Instead of using these disposables, include a couple reusable bags in your kit and invest in a sturdy to-go container in which the food can be placed instead of in the disposable containers provided by the restaurant.
Another part of reducing the waste you produce while eating out includes the meals and snacks you pack for yourself. Instead of using single use plastic bags, prepacked single serving chip bags and drinks, and prepacked snacks like granola bars, nuts, and fruit snacks, use reusable versions of these items and choose food that is not prepackaged. For example, get a durable reusable lunch bag and ice pack to keep your food cold. Purchase a set of reusable silicon bags or small storage containers made from durable plastic, ceramic, glass, or other materials. Avoid single serving prepackaged food items and drinks, and instead favor food that came with little to no packaging or that was made from scratch.
When purchasing food while out, favor places that do not use disposable utensils, wrapping, napkins, or straws (better yet no straws), and places that use compostable or recyclable disposables when single use items are necessary.
Here are some basic rules that you can follow to reduce the waste you produce when eating out:
· Favor sit down restaurants over fast food restaurants (less packaging and disposables)
· Favor eating at the restaurant rather than taking your food to go
· Ask for no straw
· Order only an amount of food you know you will be able to eat
· Make sure to have your reusable to go box with you, just in case you end up with leftovers
· Favor coffee shops that give you normal mugs instead of disposable coffee cups when you are staying at the shop
· Favor restaurants that use all recyclable or compostable disposables rather than disposables headed for the landfill
Some restaurants in the Pullman area that are good for these types of practices include Birch and Barley, South Fork, Breakfast Club, and La Casa Lopez. Birch and Barley uses cloth napkins, does not put straws in their water glasses, and uses all reusable silverware, glasses, and plates. However, Birch and Barley does use Styrofoam to go containers rather than using compostable carboard containers. South Fork, Breakfast Club, and La Casa Lopez all use the compostable carboard containers and La Casa Lopez also does not provide straws in their water glasses. Unfortunately, South Fork does put straws in their water glasses. The fast food restaurants all around all use single-use wrapping that is all destined for landfill, including all the chain fast food restaurants as well as Cougar Country Drive In.
In addition to restaurants, these rules should also be applied to coffee shops and bars as much as possible. For example, Roost, Thomas Hammer, and Pups and Cups all have the option to choose to put your drinks in normal mugs for drinking your coffee at their shop. Roost even puts all their food on ceramic plates instead of using disposable plates. When it comes to bars, Mike’s uses plastic disposables for everything (straws, cups, food containers, etc.), so when it comes to waste production Mike’s is probably not the best choice for someone who is going zero waste.
Overall, when it comes to eating out and going zero waste, you just need to be prepared and make wise choices about where you would like to eat. Have fun exploring all the restaurants around here! Let us know if you find out any more tidbits about any of the restaurants!
~Written by Jennifer Beyer; Contributed to by Madeline Gray and Jennifer Beyer~