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Our Guide to Zero-Waste Takeout

April 25, 2019 0 Comments

Our Guide to Zero-Waste Takeout

If there is one situation where waste occurs unintentionally it's when we're on the go. Maybe your morning was hectic and there was no time to pack a lunch, or maybe you grab a spur-of-the-moment coffee on a walk with a friend—whatever the situation it's all to easy to end up with an accidental plastic fork or unrecyclable food wrappers (it happens to everyone, no guilt-trip necessary). As you have likely realized, getting take-out food can be a really wasteful experience, paper bags overflowing with single-use cutlery, napkins, sauces, condiments, wrappers, etc. Even if the establishment is progressive and provides recyclable or even compostable versions, those products still require energy and resources to be manufactured and delivered before they are passed over the counter to you, not to mention the resources required to dispose of them. The good news is getting food or drinks on the go can be done totally zero-waste with only a bit of organization and planning. 

The first step is to assemble a takeout kit that you either carry with you at all times or leave in your car/by the door for easy access. At a minimum, we carry with us a water bottle and insulated traveller at all times. To get food, here is our list of essentials:

Of course, this kit does you no good if it's left at home, so our strategy is to always have it on you. This step is crucial, so here is our process:

  • Repack the items in your kit right after its been washed
  • Leave it with your bag or hanging on the door handle.
  • The next time you leave the house, grab it and stash it somewhere handy (in the car, at work, etc.).

Successful Zero-Waste Takeout

At the order counter, notify the person taking your order that you have your own containers before you even ask for food (you can do this over the phone as well). This helps establish whether they will accept the container, and prevents your order from getting accidentally wrapped. Surprisingly (or not), presenting your own containers for takeout is still a relatively rare occurrence. You will probably be met with raised eyebrows, but carry on! Own it friends! We have found that bringing the issue up right away smooths the process out considerably and prevents the possible annoyance of interrupting workflows or expectations. Make sure your containers are super clean, both as a courtesy and to prevent refusal because of health codes, etc. 

Be Prepared to Talk About It

Some of the best conversations about zero waste practices we've ever had happened at the order counter. People will ask you why you are doing this, they will be curious, or maybe skeptical and challenging. Either way, keep friendly and open. Sometimes people automatically say no simply because they are unfamiliar with the process. We've had many occasions where just talking it through changed minds. Thank them profusely!!! You probably just made a friend who will now be doing some thinking of their own.

More Tips

  • For liquids, know the size of your cup beforehand so that clerk knows what to charge you.
  • If your container gets refused because of health codes, simply ask for it to be given to you on a plate, and then transfer it into your container yourself.
  • Drive-through windows almost never accept containers, so you will have to order in person. 

A big thank you to Danielle Taylor for the photos (aren't they gorgeous?) and to the North Muskoka Good Food Co-Op for allowing us to take photos. We appreciate you both!