5 Easy Ways to Reduce Waste While Dining Out

Note: The best way to avoid waste while dining out is to not eat out.

Think about the last time you “ordered out”.  What did you eat?  How was it packaged?  The amount of waste used for most takeaway is often unnecessary and most of the packaging is landfill or sometimes with recyclable or compostable materials, but how often does recycling actually make it to recycling?

Disposable takeout.jpgSometimes eating out can be very wasteful.

Photo Source: istock.com | Milkos

Eating out uses valuable resources and our goal is to have zero waste.  

  1. Try planning your dining out experience to eat-in whenever possible, ESPECIALLY when they have reusable dishes.
  2. Carry a water bottle with you EVERYWHERE.  This is good for all parties, so stay hydrated, prepared, and avoid wasting a cup for only a single use.
  3. Carry reusable utensils.  Include a fork, knife, spoon, chopsticks, reusable straw, and napkin.  You’ll be impressed by how convenient this is, and who doesn’t like convenience?!
  4. Carry a collapsible container if you plan on dining in and decide to take leftovers home.
  5. REFUSE straws when you order a drink.  I do this almost by instinct with an occasional slip up that usually results in a straw.   Nothing really makes me stressed as straws. Probably because they are so wasteful and the abundance of them is maddening.

Be firm, confident, friendly, and to the point when you ask for no straw.   

If the person reacts uncomfortably, laugh it out to help ease any tension.   I never have issues refusing straws and sometimes you meet someone who is happy to hear this request.

feminist poster vintage girl

You’re probably thinking, “wow this broad wants me to carry a massive bag full of supplies for survival”…  Well, this is a fight for survival!

**Make sure to support local restaurants that have sustainable practices and support a greener planet.


Be savvy about it and ultimately prepare for what you plan on doing. 

For example:

If you will be dining at a familiar restaurant and know they have reusable plates and disposable utensils, then bring your pouch of reusable utensils.

Or, if you decide to get a massage and the host offers you a drink, just say, “Is it ok for me to use my reusable bottle?”

Regardless of your current routine, taking the steps to dine consciously will blossom into a rewarding experience.


If you are using anything disposable at home, STOP NOW. 

There are a lot of alternative products which not only help reduce waste but also helps you save some hard-earned money.


A fun game I like to play is called, “Oh, where have you gone to my lovely”.  Where I ponder about an object’s journey before landing in my possession.  This game usually ends with an interesting, whimsical, and sometimes dark revelation.  

For example:

Even a simple paper plate uses many resources.

Water to grow the tree.  Gas to cut the tree.  Gas to transport tree.  Power to process tree.  Gas to transport tree pulp.  Power to make the plate.  Packaging to wrap the plate.  Gas to transport the plate.

Did you think it would have so many steps or waste so many resources?  This doesn’t include the biodiversity harmed during the whole process.

Try this game out and take a moment to reflect on any object you have in your possession.  Focus on the object’s journey from start to ultimate end. 

Let me know what you learned and if any of it shocked you.  


Check this out: 

The clothing industry is filthy, and no I’m not talking about dirt.  This documentary that explores the impact of the global clothing industry on people and the planet.

What a Waste!

Take a moment to think about how much waste you produce in a week. Roughly, between my boyfriend and myself, we go through about one regular size garbage bag a week. Now multiply that by 52 weeks, times billions of other people. That is a lot of waste, and that doesn’t include the 2 bags of recycling that goes out each week, I’m sure other homes produce a lot more.

Does this waste just disappear never to be seen again? Where does it go?

These thoughts plague my mind.

My journey into zero waste began with instant obsession for the movement and I quickly attempted to replicate the lifestyle.

What a tremendous mistake…

Mistake #1: FOOD

At the time I wasn’t cooking much at home and had very little motivation to do so. I was militant and thought zero waste meant not buying anything with packaging, so I bought a lot of vegetables and items from the bulk section.

I made my own almond milk, ate salads, smoothies and oatmeal every day, and tried to use every bit of the produce, including eating strawberries whole, fuzzy green tops and all.

The issue here was that I had no plan of action and grew tired of eating the same thing every day, so most of the fresh produce became waste.

How hypocritical is that?

Mistake #2: HYGIENE

This issue seemed easier to transition into than food waste, but the minor adjustments to my daily routine eventually sprouted negative consequences to my well-being.

My shower routine consisted of cold water, a single bar of biodegradable soap, and would last less than 5 minutes. This was a great routine for sleepy mornings or hot days but bottom line, cold weather showers are torturous, the icy water shocked my nerves, soap didn’t completely wash out and I always felt dirty. Oh, and forget about taking a shower before bed, because that freezing rain would wake you up like it was a brand new morning.

Another attempt to reduce waste included my bathroom habits. According to the Boston Standard Company, the average American uses 50 pounds of toilet paper a year. Also stating that global toilet paper production consumes 10 million trees a year.

At first, I tried to use as little toilet paper as possible, even using 1 square for a short period of time—which was useless.

I had read about people using a system called family cloth. Family cloth is a neat concept: Up-cycling old cloth to use to wipe oneself. After continued research, sanitation and repeated use concerned me, so I never tried this system.

MISTAKE #3: JUDGEMENT

Whenever out in public no one could escape my judgment. I’d watch others drink out of Styrofoam cups with straws and then proceed to unconsciously toss everything into a garbage can.

The stress was killing me, and it was like no one cared.

Nowadays I think to myself, “no one is perfect, especially me”. Which serves as a reminder that I’ve lived a careless lifestyle in the past.

THE RESULT:

After avoiding any product that could produce waste, starving myself, feeling dirty and miserable all the time, I quickly plunged back into bad habits.

I broke down.

Depression took hold, anxiety clouded my mind, and felt pity for myself.

CONCLUSION:

Over time I restored myself and I continue the transition into a zero waste lifestyle.

If I crave food or want to buy something new and shiny, I resist the urge and after a while, the desire is gone.

When I need something, I try to buy it used, if possible. Shopping at thrift stores has actually become a fun activity. Sometimes I may not find what I need but when I do, they are often more unique than something new, I save money, and the discovery is like finding buried treasure.

When shopping for groceries, I still focus on fresh produce and bulk items but now I am not afraid to buy other items with packaging. My rule for packaging is that it should be glass, aluminum or [at least] recyclable plastic.

I only buy recyclable toilet paper now and try to be conscious of how much is used. I still take cold showers but if I am not in the mood for one, then the water becomes warm.

I’ve learned that 30 odd years of habits cannot change overnight, that changes need to be made gradually over time. The fact that I am attempting to make change is a step in the right direction and there is no reason to get upset with myself or others.

We are a product of our environment and a culture of garbage, but with each additional step forward we can make a stampede of change.

Next time you buy or throw something away, try to think about the journey of how it came to be and what will happen to that “trash”.

Coffee Tumbler Litter.jpg

Conscious Living in a World that Throws Everything Away

A few months back while doing research for gardening and composting on YouTube,  a video showed up featuring Bea Johnson, discussing her lifestyle called “Zero Waste”.

Those two words say it all and my mind quickly began simmering the idea of zero waste and soon after I became obsessed!

Johnson’s blog and book, “Zero Waste Home”  began a movement that has spread across the globe, inspiring other environmentally conscious individuals like myself.  Johnson has brought back a lifestyle that our ancestors have lived for thousands of years that include canning, making vinegar, cooking without waste, reusing what is available.

Bea Johnson believes you can live simply by following these simple guidelines, the 5R’s:

Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot (Not only in that order)

Johnson believes all habits can be adapted to this lifestyle, but a lot of regular habits may have to be sacrificed.

I’ve continued my research into this lifestyle by joining the Zero Waste Reddit community, researching books at the library, and by watching YouTube videos discussing their attempts at this lifestyle along with the frustration that comes with it.


Some frustration that I’ve personally experienced includes:

Feeling Overwhelmed

  • How do I even begin living this lifestyle?
  • What do I do with the things I currently waste?
  • Everyone I watch in public is so wasteful!  ARRGGHHH!
  • I have pets and taking care of them is wasteful.
  • The numbers game – Learning how much is wasted makes the heart feel heavy.

These are all complications I’ve come across and still struggle with during my journey.

To cope with the overwhelming amount of wastefulness I try to be non-judgemental of others, continuously restructure my habits until I find a system that works, and communicate my feelings to others and try to teach others about easy habits to reduce waste.

One of the key factors for adjusting to this lifestyle is the realization that I cannot expect to be waste-free overnight, it will take time and effort to attain a completely zero waste lifestyle.  

Being Unknowledgeable

  • What is considered to be waste?
  • Is recycling worth it?
  • What products are available for this lifestyle?
  • Needs Vs. wants.

I’ve delved deep into learning as much as I can about zero waste within the past couple of months and there is still much more to learn.

One dilemma I’ve experienced is how to get rid of the wasteful things I currently own.  I have nail polish, plastic wrap, plastic Tupperware, personal care products, toilet paper, random kitchen gadgets, and more.  

I currently just have these items sitting around, waiting for its life purpose to be fulfilled.  I still need to figure a solution for most of these items, but until then, I do the following:
  • Use or recycle the Tupperware.
  • Do not buy anything that has wasteful packaging or that is not recyclable.
  • Create family cloth. (A reusable cloth for wiping your bum)
  • Donate these items to a thrift store.
Bea Johnson points out an important detail:

Don’t buy anything new, you can find almost anything used at a local thrift store or on eBay.  Buy your food in bulk form and locally and in season.  Be conscious of what you are buying and think to yourself “Do I really NEED this?”

Get out of your comfort zone and try new things like crafts, growing herbs/other produce, cook more or try making your own almond milk or cheeses–You’ll be impressed with what you are capable of and honestly, you’ll probably enjoy being self-sufficient in these areas.

Being Lazy or Reverting to Old Habits

  • Making excuses.
  • Putting leisure before productivity.
  • Eating out because “I’m hungry now”.
  • Feelings of frustration resulting in inactivity

Altering decades of old habits is challenging and require constant motivation, determination, and effort.  I’ve realized that planning ahead and organization is crucial to success and includes daily journaling, meal planning, and attainable weekly goals.

Eating Out

  • Ordering takeout.
  • Avoiding straws.
  • Over-ordering.
  • Utensils
  • Refusing plastic bags

Eating out is difficult when you are trying to be zero waste.  You have to deal with disposable cups and utensils, becoming full before finishing so you are stuck with either food waste or a wasted container, straws being forced to you, and ordering takeout is completely out of the picture unless you bring your own reusable container.

I have a past addiction to Mitsuwa’s pastries, ice cream, shaved ice, and other desserts featured at Ry-Leaf.  In my continuous effort to be less wasteful, I now bring reusable cups, containers, choose a cone Vs. a cup, and request no disposable straw/utensils.

My first attempt at bringing a reusable container to Ry-Leaf started off without a struggle until the cup I had brought was too large for their machine.  The employee decided to use a styrofoam cup to transfer the ice, so without thinking, I reacted with anguish expressing that the cup was not necessary and the whole experience became awkward.

Now when I ask for a business to use my own container I instantly say “I know, I’m crazy–Don’t worry about it!” and usually go on to explain WHY I am asking them to accommodate my strange requests.



I’d like to end this post with my Earth Day messaged which was shared on Facebook:

Today is Earth Day, and while every day should focus on our precious Earth we need to all take a moment to reflect on our actions.

We all group up wasteful, we are wasteful as a species and the neglect needs to stop.

Take a moment today think of ONE thing that you can do to help Earth and all the life that struggling with it.

500 MILLION plastic straws are wasted EACH DAY. This is an easy habit to break and it all begins with REFUSING. Do you really NEED a straw? Think about it.

Plastic is killing the remaining wildlife and the oceans. If you love animals and/or love seafood, help protect them! It is our responsibility to reverse our destruction to this planet!

Thank you for reading. 

Included in the post was a button for friends to donate to the Earth Day Network.  I raised $95 including my donation of $20!