What’s a girl to do when half of London is sitting in a pub garden enjoying the Friday evening sunshine but she’s working and “on call” over the sunny weekend. You don’t want to sit in a pub garden with cheery TGIF’s and you don’t want to cook or sit in a stuffy restaurant so you get a takeaway to eat in the garden. Bliss
… Except every time we get a takeaway I recognise that I’m being incredibly wasteful.
Since finding Bea Jonsons Blog about her zero waste lifestyle one thing I’ve really wanted to do is eliminate the packaging waste associated with getting takeouts. Zero Wasting is all about slowly (and occasionally not so slowly) whittling down your waste. Identifying habits that lead to unneeded rubbish in your bin and changing those habits one by one.
Sometimes it’s easy – like buying used not new or refusing a plastic shopping bag.
Sometimes it takes effort – like making a packed lunch every single dreary morning
Sometimes its a little more expensive – like buying a veg box.
Often it’s much cheaper – like using a moon cup or using solid shaving soap and a DE razor.
And then there are the times when it’s just downright embarrassing – like asking your local takeaway/ cheesemonger/ butcher to fill up your reusable container rather than using their customary bit of clingfilm or foil carton.
Now, anyone who knows me knows that my embarrassment threshold is pretty high and it’s certainly much higher than Chris’. Sitting here on my sofa talking about my Zero Waste Mission (Capital letters required for such a calling) I am confused how anyone could find it difficult to take a container to a local purveyor and ask to fill it with produce. It’s a perfectly reasonable request, why on earth would anyone find this odd.
And yet, despite thinking about it often, I’ve never done it. Why?! It’s a massively quick win. The restaurant saves money on not using packaging and you get a yummy meal you don’t have to feel guilty about when chucking your packaging in the recycling or worse bin.
Initially I told myself that I didn’t have the correct containers. I needed to buy a beautiful tiffin box I told myself. Preferably just like this one.
And yet we all know this is total Bollox. Reducing one’s waste footprint does not start with buying new stuff
In all honestly the problem was that I was too shamed to walk into our friendly local Indian restaurant and ask them to use my containers instead of theirs.
It had to stop. I had to take control of my shame.
Last night I managed it. I found the courage. I (wo)manned up and I took my containers to our lovely local indian Cinnamon. Whoop Whoop.
Not, however, before a lengthy discussion with Chris over the suitability of the containers I had selected. To cut a long story short. I felt a set of matching bowls with plates to cover them and may not be the most practical option but would look prettier and so more “proper” and less “mad”. Chris felt that a couple of giant (and let’s face it fugly) Tupperware boxes would be more suitable given the fact that they could be suitably sealed with a lid. Gah! Why did I marry such a practical man weighed down with such mundane issues. He also secretly hoped that the large size of box might mean we would get a bigger portion. Having worked in a restaurant years ago I knew our portion size was unlikely to change on production of our ugly tuperware but did feel it would make us look greedy and unprofessional. Yes I did just say unprofessional. As in, “hello Mr Restaurateur. I am not a mad lady from down the road, I am a professional ‘container taker to restaurants’ and that makes me ‘not mad’”
In the end we conpromised. After ordering;
two main meals, one rice and one naan
two bowls with a plate for a lid for the main meals
one less giant lunchbox for the rice
one giant plastic box for the naan.
We took our boxes and plates along almost dying of embarrassment and expecting at best confusion and at worst hostility from the staff. Instead the man who took our order loved the idea. He seemed more sold on zero waste than us. Perhaps it’s seeing the number of containers being given out every night that gives him perspective or perhaps he was just being polite. Either way he made it so easy for us we couldn’t believe we had ever hesitated to ask.
20 minutes later we were enjoying a yummy meal on our half built patio feeling just a little smug.
It wasn’t a complete success as the photo’s show. Unfortunately we received a plastic bag of salad, a polystyrene pot of sauce and a paper bag of popadoms none of which we had ordered and so had not provided a box to put them in. As Chris had predicted, the restaurant didn’t use the containers as I had planned and didn’t like the idea of a plate as a lid. The naan bread came in the usual foil lined bag and the rice bowl was sealed with clingfilm.
On balance it was far less packaging than we usually gather but more importantly I now know that I can do this every time with no shame. I know that with a bit of practice I can cut out all the waste full stop. So what did I learn?
1) Lids are important! Apparently chefs feel like Chris about the superiority of lids over plates (Damn you lovely husboybandfriend for being so right) If you neglect the all important lid detail then your friendly chef will panic about spillages and you will find clingfilm covering your pretty yet lidless bowls.
2) realise that the chefs will probably use the containers in a different way to the way you planned and so pack extra so that they can choose which are the most suitable. Extra containers will come back empty but too few containers will mean that the chef will have to use his standard packaging options.
3) Admit that you will be offered freebies and act accordingly. Either refuse them or include extra containers.
Every time we order we get free popadoms, sauce and salad and yet I felt it would look presumptuous to put in containers for these things. Enough messing about already. If you like the extra’s then put in the containers I have pleanty of mini containers (with lids) but didn’t give them to the chef. epic fail. – As explained above it’s always helpful to include extra containers and what’s the worst that can happen? The containers come back empty?
The first mantra in Bea’s Zero Waste lifestyle is Refuse Refuse Refuse. Complimentary items are usually ones we don’t want, don’t need and wouldn’t have bought new and are usually massively wasteful. Complimentary pen anyone? By accepting freebies you make a market for them and the waste involved in their provision. The salad in the plastic bag is mostly onion. We always get it and it usually goes straight into the composting. Regardless of what the salad is packaged in that’s a waste! Next time we order I’m going to just mention that we don’t need any salad. No plastic bag and no compost caddy stinking of raw onions all week. Result all round I feel.
Phew! Who knew getting am almost zero waste takeaway was so easy. I should’ve done it years ago. However, in light of the lids thing I am defo going to find a second hand tiffin box. I knew it was necessary.