Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Take Out With Out Forgetfulness and Shyness

Examples of making your own to-go kits from The Conscious Shopper

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?

14 comments:

knutty knitter said...

I've never had that problem. All restaurants here use proper cutlery and china plates anyhow. It would be considered pretty down and out to use anything else. The same goes for lunch places and afternoon teas - all china and real cutlery.

I do like the idea of the glass straw - that would be useful :)

I don't do fast food anyhow. I once had a mac and it was sooo bad I never went back! We do get fish and chips occasionally but that comes in a layer of paper (usually unused newsprint) so no problem there either.

viv in nz

Anonymous said...

I always carry a Tupperware container in my purse for leftovers. I don't get many comments when I pack up my leftovers, but they all been positive - but more on the order of it being more leakproof than its greenness.

Still working on refusing straws and paper napkins.

Ivy said...

Interesting. My big problem has been the habit thing. I don't eat out much and it's usually on a whim, plus I don't have room to just add more stuff to my purse! Between my purse and laptop bag, I already feel like a pack mule. Sigh.

utahlawyer said...

As for being eco-shy, I got over that when I realized that someone has to go first. If I am the one who goes first, some people will think I am an eco-nut, but there will be others that will be encouraged to do the same because someone else is doing it too.

me in millions said...

I think I would feel awkward bringing my own tupperware to a restaurant for leftovers. But then I feel awful when they bring me back my food in styrofoam. It's a tough balance!

Sense of Home said...

Great idea. I keep my canvas bags in my car, why not my take out containers. Still working on feeling brave in this area.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

@me in millions - Where I live in North Carolina, many people aren't interested at all in green living, so I definitely stand out. Most of the time at the grocery store (except Whole Foods), I'm the only person I see with cloth bags, and at first I was very self-conscious and worried that I was annoying the cashiers. Now it's become such a big habit that I don't even notice. I think using reusable containers in restaurants will eventually be like that - especially if more people start doing it.

Daisy said...

I haven't used my own items at a restaurant, but we've learned to cut down on take-out. Hubs loves Chinese; he asks for no small packets of sauces. We have all the sauces we need at home. The containers are great for the freezer, so they get reused.
We could do this, though. I like the simple kits with napkin and utensils.

Tony R. said...

we use metal straws out and bring our own silverware to use when needed. I keep saying that I should bring my own to go container but i never thought to just leave it in the car.

We try to share meals or order less food so that we don't have leftovers.

I also use a mason jar when I stop for coffee. My wife made a nice cozy for it so it doesn't burn my hand.

Jaime said...

The first time I took my own container for leftovers, I was sooo proud of myself — until the next morning when I realized I'd left the container in the diaper bag. (Which is where I'd hidden it so I wouldn't be embarrassed being seen carrying it out of the restaurant!)

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

@Jaime - Too funny! I could definitely see myself doing that.

Tony R. said...

I remember another simple thing we do...bring our own chopsticks instead of using the onetime use ones.

Lisa Sharp said...

Shyness isn't an issue for me at all when it comes to being green. If you just check out my t-shirts you will see I'm very proud of my eco-ness lol. (One of my favorite shirts says "Don't Be Trashy, Recycle." :)

Anyway I always have a People Towel and glass straw in my purse. When I go out of town or will be gone very long I bring a reusable coffee mug and water bottle (sometimes my to-go-ware). The kit sounds like a good plan though!

Natasha said...

What a great idea! I have stainless steel chopsticks I made a little wrap for to stick in my purse. The straws are a great idea though, you just have to catch the waiter before they stick it in your drink (and then have to toss it out after you refuse it).

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