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    3 Ways to Help Limit Disposables When Dining Out

    It’s 9pm. I have no more food prepped from the meals that I made during the weekend (that is if I even had any, to begin with). In fact, my refrigerator is completely empty. My stomach is growling, and I’m getting really ‘hangry.’

    I cave in.

    After scrolling on my phone to find the nearest take-out spot that’s still delivering at this hour, I see something new.

    Close to check-out, I notice a checkbox that I haven’t seen before, which asks, “condiments and utensils?” It has a couple different options that ask whether I need a plastic fork, spoon, knife, or any sauces that may accompany my meal.

    In a hungry and deluded haze, I check the boxes for whatever sounds good.

    But do I really need half of these things that restaurants are offering? It certainly sounded right in the moment. In reality, maybe those extra ketchup packets are just going to gather dust in my kitchen drawer.

    Let’s face it: I know for me, when I throw stuff away, it’s hard to think about where they go, or who has to deal with it; “out of sight, out of mind.”

    Conservation scientist and UCLA visiting researcher M. Sanjayan produced a video through the Climate Lab at the University of California, Irvine and Vox Media that explores the environmental impact that this type of single-use packaging has, as well as ways that companies and universities have combatted this.

    Like this video reports, it’s a severe problem. In 2014, The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a report stating that plastics comprise approximately 18.5% of what winds up landfills in the United States. With so much plastic and other inorganic material sitting around, there can be ways to help dial-back its use.

    Here are three simple things that I have tried for reducing my own carbon footprint when it comes to dining out.


    1. Say “no thanks” to unneeded condiments and utensils when ordering online

    When placing an order, many websites now offer a section where you can specify which condiments and utensils you may need, as well as indicate how many people you may be enjoying the food with. Invite yourself to uncheck boxes for things you don’t need. Also feel free to turn down the plastic bag or extra napkins that may be offered at the register if you’re picking up your food in person.

    2. Use a larger condiment dispenser when picking up food in the store

    Many places offer a large dispenser on-site where you can press and pour whatever you need.  That order of fries you’re about to enjoy can be doused with a puddle of ketchup before you close the box, rather than with using individually packaged packets of condiments. You can also nix those little plastic cups that restaurants spend time pre-packaging.

    3. BYOC

    You might have a tumbler or thermos at home that may not be getting the love that it deserves. Feel free to bring your own cup to carry your favorite beverage in when you stop by to pick up your food. Single use cups are often hard to recycle due to Styrofoam or the occasional plastic lining inside of a paper cup.

    Readers, what have you done to reduce your dining-out impact? Tell us in the comments.

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    Abraham Kou

    About Abraham Kou

    Originally from Corona, California, Abraham Kou is an alcohol and drug counselor right here in Philadelphia. Along with working to try and encourage more conversation about mental health, he is also concerned about ways to reduce plastic pollution. In his free time, you can find him running, getting into a good book, or falling off an indoor rock climbing wall.

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