Inspired by the TakeOutWithOut campaign, I've been working on eating out without producing waste. Thus far, there have been two factors holding me back from being a waste-free eating Marathon Runner:
Factor #1: My post-kids memory.
Isn't it a scientifically proven fact that once a woman has kids, she loses half of her brain cells? I can remember to take my grocery bags to the store because I go every week, and it has become a habit. I can't remember to take my own napkin and utensils to a restaurant because I go so infrequently and most of the time spontaneously.
Solution #1: To-Go Kits
Because there are five of us, I decided it would be easier to pack one big Family To-Go Kit rather than individual kits. I scrounged up an old free tote and filled it with two thermoses, an extra set of utensils, cloth napkins, a plastic container for take away items, and one Glass Dharma straw.
The kit hangs out in my trunk where it's handily accessible for even the most spontaneous evenings out.
If you don't have a large family, you may want to consider individual kits a la Mindful Momma:
Place your eating utensils and straw in a napkin. Fold the top and bottom over, and then roll up like a burrito, securing the utensils inside the napkin. Tie with a ribbon. (And forgive my grungy napkins. They have been well used.)
Factor #2: I'm EcoShy
I'm happy to be green, but I don't always like to draw attention to my greenness. To me, bringing your own napkin to a restaurant is like announcing to the world, "Hi, everyone, look at me. I'm the weird eco-zealot nut!"
Solution #2: Get over it!
I'm working on it...Last weekend, my husband and I went on a date (holy cow, no kids!) to a local restaurant, and when the server brought us our drinks, I told her, "No straw, please," and pulled out my glass straw.
A few minutes later, a different server came over and told me the whole serving staff was abuzz about my glass straw. She asked me where I got it and why and seemed pretty interested in the whole concept. Later, my original server came back and told me she'd wondered about the straw but had been afraid to ask. See! Shyness works both ways!
Refusing a straw at a sit-down restaurant is pretty noticeable, but even if you're eco shy like me, there are plenty of ways to use your To Go Kit discreetly. I'd bet that a server wouldn't even notice if you pulled a small container out of your bag, packed up your leftovers, and slipped it back into your bag. And at a fast food restaurant, no one will even glance your way.
And the more of us that do it, the less nutty it will seem.
Have you used your own items at restaurants? What kinds of reactions have you gotten?