Avoiding Plastic While Eating Out


If you’ve been paying attention to the amount of trash you produce, you’ve probably realized that our food habits are some of our biggest sources of waste. Because of food packaging, it’s not necessarily easy to reduce plastic waste when you eat at home, but dining out presents some especially difficult challenges.

At home, you control the shopping, the cooking and the cleanup. In a restaurant, much of that is in the hands of others. So, how can you avoid plastic when you’re eating out?

Do Research Beforehand

One of the best ways to dine out more sustainably is to research restaurants before you leave the house. Explore their websites and social media and review sites. On the business’s website and social profiles, look for commitments to sustainability.

There are also apps and web tools available that will help you find sustainable restaurants. You can download apps that give you information on specific food items, provide you with information on the sustainability of different types of seafood, and help you find vegetarian and vegan restaurants.

Dine In

When possible, dine in the restaurant rather than getting takeout or delivery. While it’s possible to avoid plastic when taking your meal to go, it can be much more challenging. It’s easier to ask your waiter or the worker at the counter not to give you plastic items than when you’re going through the drive-through or getting delivery. That’s because you often won’t see the workers until after they package your food.

Dining in also requires fewer plastic items. You don’t need as much packaging as when you’re carrying out, and depending on the type of restaurant, you might get reusable utensils instead of plastic ones.

Ask to Skip the Single-Use Items

Restaurants will often give you plastic items by default, which you often might not really need. Straws are a quintessential example of this. If at a restaurant, tell the waiter when you order that you don’t need straws. If you’re at a fast food joint, you can simply not grab a straw.

You can take a similar approach to plastic cup lids and other items. Let the restaurant know you don’t need them or just steer clear of them.

Another easy change to make it to order drinks from the fountain or brews that are on tap as opposed to bottled.

Bring Your Own Stuff

If you still want to use some of these things but also want to cut down on your plastic use, you can bring your own.

Many coffee shops, for example, let you bring in your own reusable travel cups. They may even give you a discount for using them. After all, not having to shell out one of their cups saves them a little bit of money.

You can do the same thing with other items as well. Consider bringing a small reusable container if you think you might not eat everything the restaurant gives you. That way you reduce food waste without having to use a throwaway doggy bag box.

You could also bring your own utensils, cloth napkins and even straws if you buy a reusable one. Try making a kit that you keep in your car that includes all these items packaged in your potential doggy bag box. That way if you have to stop for a quick bite, you’re prepared to go plastic-free.

Even if you to grab your food and get back on the road, you could still order to dine in and then repackage it in your own reusable box.

Reducing plastic use is an important part of living a sustainable life. If you eat out a lot, doing so could be a major contributor to the most of plastic waste you create. Luckily, you can still dine out and avoid plastic.

Emily covers topics in sustainability and green living. You can read more of her work on her blog, Conservation Folks, and follow her on Twitter for her latest updates.


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