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Here are some super easy eco-friendly and green tips when eating out!
Bring your own utensils:
While some restaurants have silver ware, many restaurants, fast food chains, delis, and carry out places only offer disposal plastic utensils. To help reduce waste, I carry my own utensils in my bag when I am out doing errands; they come in handy when I need a quick bite to eat! Many companies make utensil sets: they are made in a wide variety of materials (metal, regular plastic, biodegradable corn plastic, or wood), come with different utensils, and are usually packaged in a convenient bag. There are many different options: the kit I have is made with bamboo wood, and comes with a fork, knife, spoon, and chopsticks, and I can attach the little pouch to my bag (the pouch has a clip on top). My sister has metal sporks and chopsticks that she carries around. Many eco and camping stores have utensil kits, but you could easily make your own kit with silverware or just bring your own plastic or corn plastic utensils; it is easy to sew a pouch for them, buy a little bag to hold your utensils, or just keep them in your food containers (see below).
If you forget to bring your own utensils, just use the eatery’s disposal plastic utensils, and after eating, wipe them off and rinse them (if possible) and stick them in your bag, so you can reuse them next time.
Bring your own containers:
Another green tip is to bring your own containers to package leftovers (most restaurant servings are huge so I often have food to bring home when eating out). Many restaurants use containers that aren’t that eco-friendly, such as styrofoam boxes, or containers that are single use only (which break easily or are made of paper). So I usually just bring a small plastic food container with me. A few companies make containers made from recycled plastic, which are also recyclable. Other companies make light weigh containers or lunch boxes in a variety of materials (wood, metal, or plastic); you can find some of them in camping stores, online, or in Japanese and Asian super markets (look for bento boxes). Or a super easy solution: you can reuse the plastic containers you’ve gotten from food stores, delis, or carry out buffet places.
One simple way to eat green when eating out is to go vegetarian! Eating vegetarian is not only healthy but also good for the Earth! You don’t need to become a full time vegetarian to enjoy the ecological and health benefits (though you can if you want to! I became vegetarian many years ago as a teen partially because of ecological reasons). When eating out, opt for the vegetarian versions of some of your favorite dishes: such as vegetarian curries, eggplant parmesan, lasagna, pizza, quesadillas, veggie burgers, or stir fries, etc. Or if you are feeling adventurist try something new! Many vegetarian dishes are healthier choices: they tend to be lower in fat, salt, and are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and nutrients. Be sure to choose vegetarian options loaded with lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and protein rather than junk food.
Vegetarian Resource Group is a great resource for information on all kinds of vegetarian related topics, such as nutrition, recipes, an online guide to vegetarian restaurants, books, as well as a vegetarian journal. Their site also has some information on the environmental impacts of eating meat.
Link to an entry from my eco blog (Solarkat’s Eco Blog) on some vegetarian and vegan cookbooks:
My sister’s vegetarian blog has a lot of delicious recipes and also reviews of restaurants in Philadelphia, New York City, Northern Virginia, Washington D.C., and a few other places.
Interesting news article about the U.N.’s stance on meat and the environment
Some information from PETA (People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals) http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/meat-and-environment.aspx
A blog entry from Live Earth (one of Al Gore’s environmental sites)
Please visit Earth Alkemie: my all natural, eco-friendly, vegetarian skin care and mineral makeup line.
About The Author:
Li Wong has a B.A. in Environmental Studies (Biology) and a M.S. in Environmental Science and Policy. She has been crafting natural cosmetics and studying aromatherapy and herbalism since 2001, and is currently a student of Jeanne Rose’s Aromatherapy Studies Course. Environmental interests include conservation, botany, ethnobotany (uses of plants by indigenous peoples), mammals, organic standards in cosmetics, urban wildlife issues, environmental education and awareness, and public perception. She is the owner of Earth Alkemie, an all natural, vegetarian skin care and mineral makeup company.
For more information on environmental issues, Eco Living, natural cosmetics, aromatherapy, and herbalism check out: Solarkat’s Eco Blog. http://solarkatecoblogspot.com