Green Tip 4 - Eating out? Skip The Straw, Pass on The Plastic Cup, Down size


This week's green tip: being gentler on the environment when eating out. People who know me might wonder how I could write on such a topic because they don't think I ever eat out. Although the vast majority of my meals are made at home with organic/fresh food (locally grown whenever possible), we cart our healthy snacks/ drinks in the car every time we leave the house (in reusable containers), we do occasionally eat out. To some people's surprise, at times, we will even stop at a fast food restaurant (even though this is not the healthiest nor an environmentally friendly option).

The fact of the matter is that Americans are a people constantly on the move and we do eat out, some people fairly often. Whether you dine at a fast food, fast casual or sit down full service restaurant, there are things you can do upon ordering and while at the restaurant that are better choices for a healthier environment.

Fast Food Restaurants/Fast Casual
1. Upon ordering, specify how many napkins (1 napkin per person), condiment packages you need (most times you get a pile of excess napkins and condiments that are just thrown away).
2. Refuse the cardboard drink carrier (most cars have enough cup holders to hold drinks).
3. Skip the kid's meals with the plastic toys/plastic wrapper (kids have so many little trinket items that are only played with for a short time and then discarded).
4. Skip a value meal package and share items (for example, I will buy a value meal, individual item for my boys and we will share a medium fry from my meal- less packaging used, less waste, just the right amount of food for our bellies).
5. Carry your own reusable drinking water container in your car, so that you don't have to order a bottled water or cup of water).
6. Don't order a bigger sized meal unless you really know that you will finish everything. Know your limits.

Sit Down Full Service
1. Upon ordering specify that you do not want disposable plastic drink cups for you or your children over 4 years old. Most children over 4 years old can drink out of a real glass or reusable/washable plastic cup provided by the restaurant.
2. Skip the straw. Most fast casual and sit down full service restaurants will automatically give you straws. Since you are drinking out of a real glass with no lid (item #1, you can reduce more by not using a straw). Straws are simply unnecessary and very wasteful.
3. Share a meal with a friend or split one meal for your kids (many establishments have portions that are simply too large for little children even the kid's menu items). This way you don't have to take home a wasteful container such as Styrofoam or cardboard.
4. Don't accept refills on any drinks including water if you simply will not drink it all. Look around when you leave a restaurant at all of the glasses full of drinks. The waste will astound you.

Again, these tips are simple and easy, but they do take a moment to digest and apply. Don't get frustrated and overwhelmed if you forget. It takes a little time to form a new habit. Most of these tips will save a restaurant and you money. All of them will truly help to save the environment.

Byline Bio: Gwen Corbett, Owner of Bear's Den Cottages, Green Lodging
Helping Individuals and Businesses Go Green