How to help take out restaurants reduce waste

Filed in Blog, Guest Posts by on March 18, 2010 8 Comments
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Lisa encourages us to help restaurants reduce waste

Lisa encourages us to help restaurants reduce waste

Our guest post this week is from Lisa Borden, who is an eco-advocate and mother of three. Her business is a direct reflection of her commitment to better, more responsible living. She is a dedicated workaholic, admitting that it takes a lot of time and effort to change the world, especially in her non-preachy, fun, engaging and inspiring ways.

Lisa consults, writes, engages the media, runs private workshops, and enjoys speaking to large and small groups. Her full-service marketing firm, Borden Communications + Design Inc. is based in Toronto, Canada and takes great pride in being an ethical business providing exceptional ideas.

Today she’s talking about the amount of waste created by takeout restaurants.

Convenience and waste

It takes approximately 20 seconds to put our food into take out containers. Convenient? No, actually extremely inconvenient.  The packaging can remain in our landfills forever, causing continued damage to us and our world. The American population tosses out enough paper bags and plastic cups, forks and spoons every year to circle the equator 300 times ( Wouldn’t it be better to fill our stomachs and not our landfills?

Take out, outside the box

Since restaurants add so much to our waste-line (read as waist-line too!), and we frequent them regularly (of course, taking your meals from home is the best way to go – check out all of these “Eating outside the box” ideas and tools ) help your restaurant help you reduce your waste (and it will be great for all of us too!).

Here are 10 easy things for restaurants to do that will, in the end, be great for our health, wallet and the world! Don’t worry about taking notes or memorizing the list, you can download wallet cards for FREE and pass them along to everyone.

Take out with out

Join Take out With out, the campaign to reduce restaurant waste.

It’s free, helpful and will fill you up with some great ideas and free downloads

Ditch the disposables

Use reusables instead of disposables for everything possible.

That’s your job – yes, people might stare, but remember, you are a trendsetter and it’ll soon catch on – just like reusable water bottles have over the past years.

Compostable tableware

Encourage them to use compostable, safe options for their required disposables.

We get that restaurants don’t want to give takeout patrons a cloth napkin, but no need for them to use virgin paper all bleached and processed! Ick!

Reduce packaging

Reduce the amount of packaging to what is only absolutely necessary.

No double bagging please. If you aren’t going to use them, don’t take a handful of ketchup packets, soy sauces, straws or cutlery! Supply and demand. If you are taking your takeout meal home, we’re hoping you have cutlery there?!


Suggest they sell smart & safe solutions (reusables) such as bottles, containers, straws, bags etc.

Imagine seeing an amazing container or a glass straw…it might inspire you.  You may buy one or more. The restaurant will make money while encouraging new habits and creating awareness.  If they offer an incentive to keep bringing the container back, you’ll be a more loyal customer.  The restaurant will have less of a need for disposables, saving them money, and saving our precious resources. Win, win win!


Encourage them to incent their customers to bring/use reusables by offering a discount or something for free (they should be able to afford it – see #5 above).

Who doesn’t love getting supersized? Wouldn’t you bring your own mug if you were getting more? Or bring your own bag if you were able to get something for free because of it?

Recycle and compost

Recycle and compost on site.

This is an easy one. In Toronto, we are already sorting everything at home into compost, recycling and garbage. It should be happening everywhere else in the city also.


Suggest donating surplus food to a community meal service or directly to those in need.

Random acts of kindness rock our world!


Applaud them! Change comes from without.

Tell them how great they are and send customers their way because of all the good they are doing.

Spread the word

Let them know to pass this on to others and encourage them to be TWO champions.

They will want to inspire others just like you’ve inspired them!

Together we can change the outrageous amount of unnecessary waste we create everyday as well as drastically reduce it. Don’t’ forget, we are the customers, and aren’t we always right? Your power lies in your wallet and your voice matters.   That’s got to be worth trying for!

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (8)

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  1. In a world where it has become normal to complain about everything and to fight the status quo–it is so engaging to read such an article which instead encourages us to give positive feedback to those who feed forward.
    Forward to full use of foods, forward to re-cycling of goods. i can digest that easily. thanks for posting.

  2. Layla says:

    Great post!! Must read it again when less sleepy!!

    Have been discussing options for an eco (possibly zero waste?) event locally – not sure how well we can do? (No big composting facilities locally – so not sure, would compostable plates be at all okay? How safe are they for a garden/farm, what procedures and materials are used? Plastic plates are tricky, perhaps could be recycled if rinsed at least and brought to the factory that recycles them. Not sure if manufacturers might switch plastics there too. Event organizer said she wouldn’t want to fish hired reusable plates out of the bushes! So…??)

  3. Colin Hall says:

    In the UK we used to be cutting edge where fast food packaging is concerned. Our classic Fish and Chips used to be served in old newspaper, which I have to say makes for a crispier chip than when presented in a sweaty plastic box. We underwent a social update when McDonalds and BK became a more glamorous competitor and sadly I think we lost something very valuable. Maybe, with customers looking for a more environmentally friendly option, our great British chip shops could re-invent themselves again. Who knows they might even steal some market share back from the corporate giants 😉

  4. Mrs Green says:

    @Colin Hall: Hi Colin, welcome to the site. Fortunately I visit a chip shop that will still wrap in paper – not newspaper, but at least it’s paper. Yes they do have the polystyrene containers but now they know me and I don’t even have to ask! I think there are a few around like that … But wouldn’t it be lovely to wrap it up in yesterday’s new once more … 😉

  5. Chris says:

    This suprises me – here all the chip shops in this end of York wrap in paper, then newspaper which then goes in the paper box.

  6. Mrs Green says:

    @Chris: Lovely to hear traditions continuing in York. Chris 🙂

  7. Teresa says:

    @Mrs Green: If I get chips wrapped in a polystyrene box or placed in a flimsy plastic carrier bag I would get annoyed. Paper is enough and when I was young the chips were wrapped with newspaper only but for health and safety reasons this has stopped. Use greaseproof paper and then newspaper to wrap chips in. When it comes to hot takeaway though such as a curry there is no need to use polystyrene boxes as recyclable/reusable plastic boxes and waxed cardboard cartons are alternatives.

  8. Mrs Green says:

    @Teresa: We now have a local chippy that knows our preferences and uses only paper 🙂 IN addition, curry is served in foil containers which can be reused or recycled. We’re very lucky around here!

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