Friday, November 7, 2008

Would you like a CFL with that?

Bleatings from EnviRambo.

Yesterday Hubby and I did something we rarely do anymore. Ate at a fast food chain. I try to avoid these as much as possible. There is the obvious lack of nutrition, cost of convenience, and then there is the waste. The paper napkins, individual packets, paper wrapping, plastic lids and straws, polystyrene clamshells and on and on. So yesterday we were in Subway and at the counter they had a sign posted for Change a Light Bulb, Help Change the World.

Okay, so Subway is helping get the word out about CFL's. It is a good, easy first step towards going green. Which is great, but I think nearly everyone knows about changing their light bulbs. It has been driven into our brains for the past few years now. So after reading their sign and paying for our order, the cashier handed over our food in a plastic bag. We filled our beverage cups, forgoing the straw and lid, and found a booth. Scanning the store I noticed they had CFL's in all individual light fixtures. Hmm. I felt a little better about our stop. Then I started unpacking our order. Plastic bag, two paper wrapped sandwiches, two individual bags of chips, two wax covered paper cups, and a handful of paper napkins. So much for feeling good about our stop. I watched people come and go, many taking their order and leaving. Then I began focusing on those who ate their meal in the store, carrying their sandwich from the counter to the booth in that plastic bag. Ding! The CFL in my head came on.

Is the bag really necessary? Why not ask if the order is for here or to go? If they are eating in the store skip the bag. The bags are made of #2 high-density polyethylene, which most municipalities do recycle. However, Subway has no separate bins for recycling. Besides, it is better to avoid plastic in the first place than to recycle it. Think of the money Subway could save. Think of the environmental savings! I think I need to write a letter.

All ready to fire away, I logged on to for contact information and found a whole lot more. Apparantly Subway has several sustainable initiatives under way.
Did you know...
  • The first SUBWAY® Eco-Store opened November 9, 2007 in Kissimmee, FL. (Two more have since opened in Oregon and more are in various design stages).
  • Since August 2006, SUBWAY® restaurants with low-flow sink aerators have saved 41 million gallons of water annually.
  • Only 100% hormone free milk is served at SUBWAY® restaurants.
  • New SUBWAY® Cards are being manufactured using 30% recycled plastic, as we continue to explore additional ways to diminish negative environmental impacts.
  • SUBWAY® take-out menus contain 10% post consumer content and come from sustainable forests. This will preserve 160 trees and save 68,000 gallons of water annually starting in 2008.
  • The chain is often recognized for its clean stores and friendly service. As well, all liquid cleaners used in SUBWAY® restaurants are non-corrosive, readily biodegradable, and are manufactured without the use of phosphates and ammonia.
  • Many of our products come in re-engineered corrugated boxes which equates to a savings of 2 million pounds of corrugated materials or 16,607 trees annually.
  • SUBWAY® Napkin saves approximately 60,500,000 gallons of water and an additional 147,000 trees annually because they are made from 100% recycled fiber processed chlorine free.
  • The footprint of the SUBWAY® four-cup carrier was reduced by 20% in 2006. This reduction saves 35 tons of paper annually, which is equivalent to 595 trees.
  • The packaging for the wipes used to clean tables and counters at SUBWAY® restaurants was recently changed to an interleaved dispenser box, which will reduce the box size by 25%, saving 340 trees and resulting in 25 less truckloads on the road, annually.
  • Our Salad Packaging and Catering Tray supplier for the US, Canada and Europe moved their facility from West Virginia to Texas in 2006, 1,000 miles closer to our re-distribution center. This move saves 1,120,000 miles, 160,000 gallons of gasoline, and 3,867 barrels of oil, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 1,663 metric tons of CO2 annually.
  • The SUBWAY® Plastic Drink Cups in US and Canada were changed from PS (Polystyrene) to PP (Polypropylene) material. This change took place in 2005, and reduces the raw materials used by 8%, saving the equivalent of 10,421 barrels of oil annually.
  • The dish detergent, floor cleaner, glass cleaner, degreaser, and restroom cleaners used at all SUBWAY® restaurants are non-corrosive, readily biodegradable, and are manufactured without the use of phosphates and ammonia. All of these features combine to provide an environmentally sustainable cleaning chemical program for SUBWAY® restaurants.
Why was there no information about this in the store? I for one am far more likely to patronize a business for programs like these than I am because they promote CFL's. Now instead of a scathing letter on their wasteful business practices I need to write a letter applauding their efforts. I still plan to make suggestions on more they can do. In particular the no plastic bag for dining in. If you feel so inclined to show support of their efforts or more importantly have suggestions for further improvement use this online submission form. If you would like to send your comments and questions by ground mail, please use the following address:
I will post an update of any reply I receive to my letter.


Chile said...

Thanks for all your research on Subway!

The fast food chain we're most likely to end up at is Chipotle's Mexican Grill. I prefer take-out orders because everything is re-usable/re-cyclable. The burrito is wrapped in a small square of foil. I wash and save these, reusing them many times. If I forget to tell them "no bag", it's not the end of the world. It's a paper bag that I can reuse, recycle, and even compost.

If I eat there, I have to ask them not to put the burrito (wrapped in foil) in their serving basket (which they reuse) because they line the basket with wax paper which gets trashed.

(Chips come in a paper bag, too. Extra guacamole or salsa for the chips does come in a little plastic cup with a lid. It's recyclable but I save them for putting away little bits of leftovers as well as for taking little samples to the CSA.)

Heather @ SGF said...

This is all really cool stuff. You're right. It is surprising they don't promote this more. And don't forget you can always take the "green" in your own hands by brining a water bottle and a cloth napkin. Every little bit helps.

PS I used to eat at Subway all the time. It was cheap, easy and I could eat veggie without a scene :)

JessTrev said...

Love this post. I had a memorable Subway moment when my 2nd child was a teeny baby, carrying him in a carrier on my front, holding freeweights in each hand (to avoid the plastic sporting goods store bag), skipping the plastic bag for the sandwiches, and trying to stop at a 2nd hand store to find a jean skirt. It was a bad move, the trying for the nonessential shopping with 2 kids and no bags. But you know that stubbornness, right? The 'I should have remembered the cloth bag' so I can't take a plastic bag? Anyways...the info about Subway is pretty awesome. I have long thought from a health standpoint that they were a pretty decent choice, fast=foodwise, and now I think so even more what with the no-hormone milk. Wish they would tackle their meat sourcing as well like Chipotle. Great info and most interesting - thanks.

organicneedle said...

Great information. I had no idea they were doing all this. As far as the bag goes, I take that upon myself to just say no everywhere I go.

Green Bean said...

Great to see this. I wish they would promote this more - make non-eco people more aware and egg other businesses on. I hope they continue along this paths. They can do better than 10% post consumer content for their menus. Gotta keep pushing the envelope.

Thanks for the info though. Good to know if, in a pinch, we end up on the road and in need of food. :)

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

The plastic bag thing is huge. I've finally trained myself to take my canvas bags into the store (I had to force myself to leave the loaded cart and go out to the parking lot so many times before I got it).

When I'm just getting a few small things from the drug store I put them in my purse. When you really stop to think about it there are so many times a bag is unnecessary.

Kellie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kellie said...

That kills me about Subway too. I blogged about this awhile back as well. ( I love that they are doing so much to go green but, like so many other businesses, it seems that they choose the green ideas that will save them money (CFL's) and often times ignore things like the plastic bags their sandwiches come in and the plastic gloves they wear to make the sandwiches.

Kim said...

It all depends on the Subway since each is individually owned. Our Subway asks whether you are eating in or taking it out. They use trays if you are eating in and the trays are lined with the napkins you will use (no extra disposable tray liners like McDonalds) The employees don't use those plastic gloves they just wash their hands before making your order. Yes the cups are lined with plastic and each of the side items are in plastic bags but on the whole it was much better than the other fast food places in our town.

Jen said...

That's great to hear Kim. I've taken my tupperware container to quite a few subways, and they have always put my sandwich in there no problem. You just have to ask.

It's weird how our society has evolved to where fast food restaurants are trained to give out a stack of disposable napkins thinking it's good customer service. Pretty soon, not giving them out will be considered the environmentally responsible norm.

greeen sheeep said...

chile - We rarely eat fast food so I have yet to find one like yours. Even the sit down restaurants around here have some greening to do.

heather - You are so right about taking matters into our own hands. This is one area I have yet to do this in. I will forgo the lid and straw, but I should also start carrying a eat out kit in my car. Cloth napkin, reusable utensils & beverage container.

jess - I have also done the juggling act with no bag, but my kids are older so they end up being another juggler.

organicneedle - I say no to the bag everywhere else I go, but fast food joints hadn't dawned on me yet. Perhaps because we spend so little time there. I surely will be more aware now.

greenbean - Right, with the world becoming more eco focused you think they would be shouting this from the rooftops. I saw no mention of anything other than cfl's in their store. If they starting boasting about their green initiatives I am sure McDonald's and others would follow suit.

jenn - There are many times when a bag isn't necessary, but boy the cashier sure likes to stick one item in one! That drives me nuts. I always say, "No thanks, I have hands."

kellie - I read your post about Subway and love what you said at the end.

"I guess I see "going green" as more of a continuum rather than having a definitive arrival point."

Right on momma.

kim - It's great that your Subway has taken steps to reduce their impact. Do you know the store# and location? I would like to include their efforts in the letter to mine. Maybe mine would be more likely to change if there is already an example in the company to follow.

jen - I commend you for taking your own containers. I haven't evolved to that level yet. I believe some day many things we consider the norm now will be reversed. Some day.

Anonymous said...

Clearly I am way behind on blog reading. Have you written the letter yet? If the policies in each store are different, perhaps it would be more productive to speak directly with the manager about the plastic bags. It would be great if they'd ask "for her or to go?" and skip the plastic bags when folks are eating in.


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