By eating out, I’m referring to fast food. During my Zero Waste Challenge, I stress that it’s important to severely reduce eating fast food as it’s not great for our health, our wallets, or the environment. Did you know that most litter (49%) that ends up in our oceans is fast food waste? And it’s no wonder considering just how much disposable nonsense comes with our burgers and fries.
When my husband and I decided to challenge ourselves to live zero waste, it was all because of this type of waste. We decided to pick up trash around our neighborhood as apart of our “doing something” for Earth day and found ourselves picking up buckets and buckets of waste in only a short distance. Fast food cups, straws, plastic lids, paper bags, condiment packages, and napkins littered our small block. It was disgusting. But sadly, we are a convenience-based society so yea, that’s why this happens.
Please, don’t take this as me passing judgment on those who eat out, because I am not. We eat out from time to time. With busy lives and demanding careers, sometimes eating out is a life saver. I get it. So how does one avoid trash while eating fast food? I’m not going to give you all of these ways to prepare food at home in advance to be more ready to avoid fast food, instead, I’m going to give you some tips to reduce trash when you do eat out. I’ll save that for another post.
How to Reduce Your Waste While Eating Fast Food
You typically get way less waste when you get your food to stay rather than in the drive-thru. You also have more control over what you receive and what you can refuse when you’re standing in front of the cashier.
Probably the most impactful way to avoid trash while eating out is to utilize reusable alternatives instead of the vast array of disposable junk that comes with your meal. Use your own utensils, cloth napkins, and reusable cups when going out. I use my stainless steel water bottle at the soda fountain or just drink water I bring from home.
Refuse Lids and Straws
If you don’t have your reusables on hand, these items are easy to refuse because they aren’t really that necessary.
Ask for a Real Glass
It doesn’t hurt to ask. Many restaurants I’ve visited normally give drinks out in plastic cups but actually have real glassware behind the counter upon request.
Get Your Food To-Go in Reusable Containers
This sounds complicated but, trust me, it is a lot easier than you think. Instead of getting your food to go in the disposable packaging, get it put in your own containers. Call ahead to verify it’s ok then bring your containers to the counter upon pick up. An even easier way to get your food in your own containers is to order your food to stay, then transfer it all to your containers yourself.
Order Minimally Packaged Items
That Nachos BellGrande from Taco Bell might not be the most minimally packaged item to order if you know what I mean. Look for items that have the least amount of packaging like a taco wrapped in paper or a sub.
Choose Your Restaurant Carefully
Choose restaurants that have minimally packaged items like sandwich shops. When you go to order, request that your food is minimally wrapped or not wrapped at all. Pizzas are also a good option as they come in recyclable and compostable cardboard boxes.
Be Responsible With Your Waste
The waste that you do produce and acquire should be responsibly dealt with. Recycle or compost the paper and recycle any plastic if you can. Take complete ownership of the waste you create.
How do you reduce your waste while eating out?