7 steps to dining out sustainably

1.  Eat plants!

Locally grown fruits and vegetables take far less resources to produce than meat while simultaneously providing clean for us to breathe. Who doesn't want to support that?  The meat industry is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gasses and water pollution on the planet, and that statistic doesn't even mention the fact that nearly all meat once processed its individually wrapped with plastic and styrofoam to be shipped long distances across states and countries to each supermarket.  


2.  Eat Local

I'm certainly not the first person to say this, nor will I be the last, the environmental footprint behind importing ingredients from halfway around the world is of course substantially more than eating locally sourced ingredients.  That being said, seasons change, most fruits and vegetables have seasons so look for a restaurant who changes their menu based on whats available from local farmers, plus its more fun for you to go to a restaurant with new menu items.  If a restaurant has exactly the same menu for years on end, they're probably needing to source fresh ingredients from different spots around the globe depending on the time of the year.  If you can't find a restaurant who changes their whole menu based on what's available locally, their daily special might reflect what's being grown nearby.  

3.  Avoid Single use

This is the thing that drives me the most crazy about some restaurant's practices,  I absolutely HATE IT when restaurants serve food on disposables plates or in god forbid styrofoam clamshells for dine in!  The same goes for disposable silverware.  I recently wrote an article about Whole Foods rarely providing reusable plates and never providing metal silverware for their customers who eat from the salad/hot bar, a majority of whom eat the entire meal at Whole Foods on their tables and chairs.  This especially bothers me as Whole Foods presents itself as a leader in sustainability when in fact they are perpetuating this single-use, disposable mentality that we need to be steering away from.  Whole Foods is certainly not the only food establishment doing this, so I suggest avoiding spending your money at places who would rather pump huge amounts of unnecessary trash into a landfill rather than wash a fork. If for some reason you cant avoid restaurants who are doing this, bring your own container or plate and fork, or tell the manager or owner how important it is to you and other customers that they start using reusable plates and silverware, perhaps you'll start a revolution in your own community!

4.  Bring your own

Getting take out?  Bring your own container.  Some health departments don't allow restaurant employees to plate your to-go food into an outside container, but don't worry there's an easy solution.  When you're calling ahead or ordering in person, tell them to plate your food up as if you are dining in and just transfer it to your own container yourself!  Or if you're eating in but think you might have leftovers, bring a small Tupperware or even mason jar in your purse for possible leftovers to avoid any disposables.  I also personally think the type of to-go containers provided by a restaurant tells a lot about what kinds of ingredients they use.  No one is buying local organic kale and serving you the most high vibe food in a styrofoam container.    

 

5. Skip the straw!

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With the exception of rare conditions and disabilities, adult humans are completely capable of drinking straight from a glass every time without issue.  We've all seen that horrific video of the biologists extracting the straw that had been deeply lodged in a sea turtle's nostril.  And when you specify to your server "no straw please" there is a zero percent chance that your straw will harm wildlife of any kind.  Americans use 500 million disposable drinking straws every day, but as people become more conscious that number is decreasing, be part of the solution, no the problem. At Moku Roots, we actually use naturally hollow papaya stems which we grow ourselves as straws, I don't know for a fact, but I bet there is a plant in cooler climates that is hollow and can be used as a straw.                  

6. Whats wrong with the Starbucks cup you got yesterday?

Very few things are as habitual in today's society as is coffee and maybe you're one of the 8 billion people who gets Starbucks every day.  When you're done with that cup in 10 minutes, that plastic cup that is chemically designed to last tens of thousands of years, before you throw it in the recycling or trash (check on your community's recycling policy, you might be surprised what does and doesn't actually get recycled.  For instance, Hawaii doesn't recycle any plastics that aren't bottles with necks or handles, ie, your Starbucks cup goes straight in the landfill)  you might think to yourself "wow this cup, if i were to rinse it, is exactly the same as the cup that I would get tomorrow".  What I'm saying is bring your own cup- whether its a plastic cup you got yesterday or a mason jar or a hydroflask.  Even if it does get recycled in your community, depending on where you live, it probably has to be put on a truck to a large port city, then put on a barge and shipped to somewhere in Asia where it will be disregarded if it is at all contaminated, or maybe if you're lucky, melted down, trucked to a new factory where it can get made into something else, wrapped in more plastic, trucked to a port, shipped on a barge back to a large city on the west coast such as LA, then put on trucks to whatever stores will sell them.  Let's also remember that plastics can only be recycled a few times, whereas glass and metal can be recycled infinitely without any compromise to their quality.  

7.  The truth about Bioplastics

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You know the eco-cups and other things that look like plastic but are made from corn and are marketed to be "compostable"? What they don't tell you is that they can only be composted in an industrial facility, throw them in your own compost pile at home (or a landfill) and they'll still exist for hundreds of years.  I know for a fact there are no industrial composting facility suited to break down bioplastics in the state of Hawaii and there are few on the mainland so check if your community has one, but the sad truth is they probably won't.  Part of the reason is that there is currently no infrastructure for collecting massive amounts of these eco cups and containers which you would need to efficiently run a facility.  They also can't be recycled with traditional plastics and if they sneak into a plastic recycling they can contaminate the whole batch.  So as they might be arguably better than plastics as they come from corn rather than petroleum, but when  faced with the "which is the lesser of evils" of disposable containers unwaxed cardboard is always the best.  I hope to see other restaurants start doing this as well, we don't use bioplastics or even cardboard, we use locally grown ti leaves or taro leaves to wrap to-go food in and tie it with a banana husk which is a totally zero waste solution to our carry out food.  Ti leaves aren't the solution where ti leaves don't grow, but there I have no doubt that there is a leaf grown in every part of the world that would work fabulously as a to-go wrapper.