Waste: when “carry-out” food gets “carried away”!

condi pktAhh… Fridays.  The infamous Friday night “Carry-Out Food and Movie Nite” in the Mom Goes Green household.  The night when I don’t have to think about “what’s for dinner” and instead can rely on the simple question of where to get the food.

While this has become a tradition for us, it also brings the concern of all the waste that can be created when I don’t do the cookin’!  Who hasn’t experienced this with their order?: large, rustling bag; unneeded plastic utensils; mountains of paper napkins; a sea of condiment packets; towers of containers; single-use cups… the list could go on and on (and that list has a harsh consequence for landfill waste).

So, consider this when placing your next order:

  • Coffee – Americans use approximately 15 BILLION paper coffee cups per year.  If your order includes coffee, bring your own cup… they’ll fill it for you.
  • Condiments – really, if you’re taking it home, you probably have the same condiments waiting for you in your refrigerator.  Instead of thinking “Well, I PAID for them”, think “No thanks.  I have them already” and they aren’t in a dozen tiny packets, cups and containers.
  • Napkins – skip ‘em.  Tell them you don’t need any since you probably already use cloth napkins at home…. righplst frkst? 🙂 Right.
  • Utensils – goes without saying… we all DEFINITELY have those at home, so tell them you don’t need them either.
  • Containers – many restaurants provide you with some decent containers but, while it’s nearly impossible to refuse them, you can reuse them.  Clean them, reuse them and consider them the next time you reach for a Ziploc or other disposable storage container.
  • Cups – I certainly voiced my dislike of all the kids disposable cups during a dine-in meal, but many of those are also reusable, for beverages, storing craft supplies and lots of other projects.
  • Bags – walk in with your own.  Tell them you don’t need their oversized plastic version… after all, you ALWAYS keep your reusable bags in your car…. riiiight?  🙂

If you follow all of these suggestions, imagine this… you would have zero-waste…. AND you would have a nice relaxing evening, with a clear conscience and absolutely zero cooking too!

(Fast) food for thought… you’ll be shocked… or maybe not!

I have a story that NEEDS to be shared…

I recently attended a local PTA Council meeting and went to a special session on “Health & Nutrition”.  I had no idea what would be discussed, but having two young children, I’m always interested in the topic and how I can improve upon our overall health.

What I learned nearly made me fall off my chair.

burgrThe presenter began by asking everyone to pass around a plate that held a McDonald’s hamburger and Burger King fries.  My stomach churned at the thought, because we really avoid fast food (especially these two chains!).

When I was the (un)lucky recipient of the plate my stomach churned even more than expected.  Everything looked dried out and completely unappetizing… as if they had been sitting in a low-heat oven for a few hours.  (Note: they looked nothing like these photos!)

After the plate made its rounds, the presenter asked for thoughts about the “age” of the food.  Guesses ranged from a few hours to a few days.friese

Guess what?  That burger & fries were four and a half years old… yes, I said YEARS!

They had never been frozen, never been refrigerated, never received special “treatment”… they just sit around in their original containers.

The point?  There was no mold, no decay, no visible bacteria, no growing “green fuzzies”.  Nothing.

And what does this tell us? Essentially, these foods are so processed, so preserved, so lacking in enzymes and usable nutrition, that not even bacteria, mold or microbes could locate enough nutrients to develop and grow.  Can you, therefore, imagine was it does (or doesn’t do) for our bodies?!?

Enough said. The next time you’re looking for a “fast food”, grab a banana!

Green your drive-thru and carry-out orders.

drive-signEven the greatest of moms have to occasionally rely on a drive-thru or carry-out to fill the dinner menu! While the nutritional content of the food already has us feeling guilty, a green mom often cringes at the waste and excess that accompanies the food.

Who hasn’t received an order that crushes all of our environmental rules?!

Here are a few simple ways to put at least some of the guilt at bay:

  • First, park the car! Truly… idling creates more emissions than actually driving your car! And contrary to belief, stopping and restarting your car does not burn more fuel.carry-bag
  • Skip the plastic utensils and napkins. If your order is going home with you, tell them you don’t need these items (that may only get thrown away).
  • Take only what you need/want. Avoid that 16-year old’s full grip on 12 packets of ketchup! Tell them exactly what and how many of the condiments you need instead of accepting those you don’t.
  • Say no to beverage holders. If you can manage it, use your car’s cup holders for beverages instead of taking a holder… but if you do take it, recycle it!
  • Use your own cup. If your order will include coffee, hand over your travel mug and ask them to use it.
  • Take your own bag in with you. Forgo that enormous, rustley, non-recyclable plastic bag that holds your carry-out order and tell them you’ll put your order in your own bag instead.

While these ideas might help satisfy your green side, I can’t guarantee that you won’t feel slow, sluggish or that overall sense of “ick” after your order gets consumed!

Is your favorite restaurant thinking green?

Having just celebrated Mother’s Day it’s likely many of us got treated to at least one “dining out” meal over the weekend.

dinnerWe celebrated at one of my favorite local joints because I prefer to forgo the overabundant waste and excess of those overpriced Mother’s day buffets!  I was also sure NOT to walk away with any Styrofoam to-go containers and brought my own cup for my to-go java after our meal.

But aside from those two little eco-friendly tricks, what do we really know about the restaurants we frequent and if the prep of our food isn’t leaving an eco-UNfriendly footprint the size of Mount Everest?

I recently learned about Ruby Tuesday’s on-going initiatives and it’s so amazing to hear about a chain of more than 900 family-friendly restaurants making strides to be more environmentally-friendly as ruby-tuesdaywell.  From their supplies and paper products to packaging for their foods, they’re making a tremendous effort to cut down on the waste.  Other changes include using menus on recycled paper with soy inks, glass washers that use less water and soap, CFLs, better thermostat controls and low-flow water nozzles.  They have even enacted a policy that prohibits delivery trucks from idling in their parking lots.

Applause to you, Ruby Tuesday!  They have even developed a site, www.AGreenRuby.com, so guests can track all their changes and hear updates.

greenhouse-tavernAnd if you are lucky enough to live in Cleveland, you need to visit The Greenhouse Tavern – Ohio’s first certified green restaurant.  The Greenhouse Tavern combines organic and environmentally-friendly ingredients with a commitment to recycling, composting and alternate energy to serve you the greenest meal in the state!  I haven’t been there yet, but you better believe I will be soon!

On the other hand, there are plenty of times when a quick run for fast food becomes a necessity, especially with kids.  Greenopia has compiled a great list of fast food giants (and sogreenopiame of the growing chains) and rated them on their eco-friendliness, using their “4-leaf green rating system”.  Take a look, for those occasions when you need a quick bite, and you’ll feel better about making good choices.

Wherever we choose to eat, I like supporting restaurants that have standards and support my green values. Maybe you feel the same? After all, we are giving them our green, so it would be great to know which ones are “giving back” a little green too!