Sunday, June 5, 2011

Bringing Back The Clean Plate Club: Eating in Restaurants

End-user waste: that’s a value neutral term denoting all the food we trash.  Along with the food, we also waste all its embedded energy and the expense of growing, processing, marketing, buying, and transporting it.  This is crazy, no?    
Avoiding household food waste is a snap - all that is needed is planning, discipline, and commitment.  Unfortunately, when it comes to food, we humans aren’t very good at any of those.  Food is cheap, demands on our time are ever growing, good intentions fall by the wayside.  Out the food goes.
In American Wasteland, Jonathan Bloom includes many practical suggestions for shrinking our waste “food-print”, like sticking to a prepared list when shopping.  

When going to a restaurant:
Know restaurant strategy:  labor is expensive, food is not.  There is an arms race for portion size, so don’t be all surprised when gargantuan dishes come to the table.  Expect it and plan for it.  Order an appetizer instead of an entrée, or split an entrée.  If by some chance you are still hungry (this has never actually happened to us, but it’s a possibility), order more food.  Why do we care what the waitstaff thinks?  They should care that we are upset by the idea of their providing so much food that it practically guarantees waste.
Typically restaurants will provide huge styrofoam clamshell containers to take home, no matter what size your leftover is.  Plan ahead and bring ziplock bags with you.  Or perhaps upgrade to a covered plate and tote designed for just this purpose.  Don’t be shy about taking bread, since restaurants are not allowed to serve it to the next patrons, and as soon as you leave the venue, in the dumpster it will go. 
Let’s all try to get past our embarrassment, worrying someone will think we are cheap.  Why is it tacky to take home food, and OK to throw it out?  It should be the reverse. 
Lastly, eat what you order.  If you don’t want to overeat, you need to under-order.  There are much better ways of watching your caloric intake than throwing away uneaten food.



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