Hope you’re all doing well!
We all know that most of the take-out food that we purchase from restaurants (to eat at home or in the office) is bad for our health. However, research has shown that our take-out habit is also harmful to the environment as well.
For example, here in the U.S. if you go to your local fast food place to order some food to go, you will notice that along with your order, you will receive lots of extra napkins, plastics, utensils, paper or plastic bags, and packaged condiments.
Some of the extra stuff that comes with take-out is recyclable however, most of it is just waste. These bags and wrappers may seem insignificant, but here in the U.S. packaging makes up the largest category of local waste.
On top of this, single use items such as napkins, plastic utensils, etc. make up 10 percent of all waste. Obviously, the problem is not just limited to take-out food.
The larger problem is that 29 percent of our greenhouse gas comes from how we make, consume, and dispose of stuff. It takes a lot of energy to make single use items that we only use for such a short amount of time and we then trash out.
Without a doubt, recycling is great but for the sake of global sustainability our long term goal should be focused on minimizing our waste by reducing the amount of single use items we use and focusing on using reusable items.
There are a few important steps that we as individuals can take to reduce our waste. The following are just a few of the examples.
- A large number of universities and hospitals have started using reusable take out containers for people who eat at their cafeteria. The way it works is that once you enter a cafeteria you check out a reusable food container (much like you check out a book from the library) you use it and once you have finished your meal you return the container to a designated area so they can wash them. It definitely may take a while for this to become a widespread trend but if you’re going out for a meal consider taking your own reusable container so you can store your leftovers in it.
- Plastic water bottles are a huge problem. Around the world people buy around one million plastic water bottles every minute and most of these eventually land in the landfill or in the ocean. Without a doubt, if the only thing that we all do is start carrying a BPA free reusable water bottle, we would be significantly decreasing the amount of waste.
- When you go shopping consider taking your own reusable shopping bag to reduce the use of plastic bags. Here in California we have a law that requires this because it now costs 10 cents for each plastic bag. At first, I have to admit, it was inconvenient but as time has gone by we have become used to it.
- You can often cut the amount of packaging by buying stuff in bulk.
- When at home stop using disposable plates. I actually know a few people who use disposable plates at home because they feel it is easier and they feel that they are saving water. I live in drought stricken California so I understand their point but I think that the amount of waste that accumulates in the long term is not worth the potential water saved.
- In the kitchen, many people suggest using cloth instead of paper towels. I admit I don’t do this as much as I should but this can definitely help cut back on paper towel and napkin waste.
- If you get a lot of junk mail in your mailbox consider calling and cancelling as much of it as possible. I know that this is inconvenient but in the long term you will reap its benefits. Once again, I have to admit I don’t do this but I do try to make good use of the junk mail by using it as a cover under my birds cage to hold their droppings. I need a sheet of paper each day for them so instead of using other paper I use the junk mail.
- Finally, a lot of people suggest buying used clothing and other products instead of new ones. Consider visiting your local thrift store and you might be surprised at what you can find! I once found a small Burberry bag for $3 at my local thrift shop. Of course, now thanks to technology their are a lot of online options as well!
These were just a few of my suggestions so please feel free to let me know of any recycling or reusing tips that you may have in the comments section below!