Over the last 20 years, there has been a dramatic rise in consumption of food away from the home, be this eating out or getting take-away. These treats and time savers create situations where individuals have less awareness of where their food is coming from, and thus how sustainable it is.
Anyone who has worked in hospitality knows how potentially wasteful the industry is; uneaten food, huge amounts of single use cleaning equipment, excessive use of plastic wrap and handing out hundreds of single use cups/straws/plates/cutlery and other packaging.
As someone who loves a good pub lunch and understands that socialising often revolves around food and drink, I have decided to share my top tips to staying sustainable even if you can’t scrub up your own grub.
BYOE (Bring Your Own Everything)
As with our barbeques, the more of your own stuff you bring, the more likely the planet will survive your adventure into the great world of eating out. I don’t mean bring your own food this time but avoid potential waste by bringing your own cutlery, straw and even a cup just in case your eatery of choice only offers disposable options.
Equally, if you bring your own box in case of leftovers, or if they do not offer plates, then you are preventing another plastic-coated plate or pile of food waste joining the tonnes that already lie in landfill. Eateries are usually totally ok with you bringing your own pots, and if they kick up a fuss, you can remind them that you are saving them money on packaging costs, and you will know for next time to take your money elsewhere.
USE YOUR CONSUMER POWER
Using your power as a consumer is one of the strongest individual actions you can undertake.
Try to support local businesses rather than major corporate chains. You can chat to the business owners about their sustainability plans. In expressing a desire for green eating, you are providing reason for the business to make eco-conscious changes; sustainability has become a selling point.
Equally, you can convey your desire for environmentally friendly eateries where possible by ordering vegan and locally sourced food and drink, abstaining from products made by corporations such as Coca-Cola, and avoiding other foods with negative environmental impacts, such as avocados.
When considering lunch/quick meal options to go, consider picking somewhere you can get your sandwich made onsite rather than a pre-packaged one (a bonus is that freshly made produce is also often much healthier), as it will be served with a much smaller amount of plastic.
PICK YOUR PACKAGING
When you have arrived at your desired eatery, you can then make choices which will reduce the amount of waste you are contributing.
Order a drink that comes in a can or glass bottle which you can either recycle there or at home, and drink straight from it – rejecting the plastic cup you may be offered. You may also want to consider places that use Vegware/Bioware or other biodegradable packing, but try to make sure this packaging is disposed of in a designated food waste bin, as it is designed to biodegrade most effectively in food waste disposal units.
STAY INSIDE KIDS
Where possible, I would advise eating in house as proper plates and cutlery is more likely.
When drinking at a pub or bar, sometimes if you are sitting outside or are taking your drink away they will serve it to you in a plastic cup. Request your drink in a proper glass, and if they will not allow this, then order a drink which comes in recyclable packaging. At my college bar for example, they get fussy about you requesting a glass as they often get taken away by students, so I try to remember to order a bottle beer if I am drinking there. Also, speak to the staff or write a review mentioning how nice it is to use proper glasses and cutlery to encourage them to give them to people when they get positive feedback!
GET (B)READY TO CHANGE YOUR PUB SNACKING HABITS
Nothing beats a beer and some crisps on a Friday night after a long week. Nothing except plastic free snacking that is.
If you are in a bar which serves food you can order a side of bread instead of a packet of crisps, as the bread will (hopefully) be cooked there. Even if the bread isn’t cooked onsite it will have less packaging compared to the food you get from it.
Some bars/pubs also offer nuts or olives which come in bowls from a larger dispenser and this follows the same packaging to product reduction.
Overall, eating out can be sustainable. It is clear that the more you cook for yourself, the more you have potential to follow an environmentally friendly diet. However, in a society where socialising is so focused around food and drink, it is good to have some tricks up your sleeve to get your green on, without missing out on the fun!
Over and out, Bea