With the new age of sustainability, you can still treat yourself and eat out from time to time. While restaurant dining can sometimes be frivolous and create unnecessary waste, there are ways to minimize that and eat out responsibly. Sustainable Eating is not about being perfect, but rather finding balance and doing your best to create a more responsible world for all — whether you’re cooking at home or dining on the go.
1. Go Plant-Based
Plant-based foods are more sustainable because they use less resources and energy to produce. Even if you’re not usually eating a plant-based diet, you can make a bit of effort to go out of your comfort zone, especially if the place you’re dining at has an impressive plant-based menu.
2. Cut the Meat
Even if you can’t go completely plant-based, going vegetarian while you’re out can make your meal a bit more sustainable. It’s not about being perfect, it’s about doing your part however you can.
3. Take Your Leftovers
Food waste is a big problem, and with so many people tossing out leftovers and leaving food behind when they’re through with dining, you can make a bit of a change simply by taking your leftovers home. Even if they seem insignificant, why not keep a snack for later?
4. Bring Your Containers
Whether you’re bringing home leftovers or getting takeout to go, you can minimize disposable waste by bringing your own takeout container. Bringing a glass or plastic container will reduce the need for cups and boxes that get tossed away immediately.
5. Ask for Tap Water
As long as you know that the tap water is clean and safe in the area you’re dining, it’s great to ask for tap water if the other options involve waste, such as bottled water or soft drinks. Plus, it’s often cheaper, and it’s better for your health than sugary drinks.
6. Say No to Straws
Everyone has probably heard by now that plastic straws are nearly downright evil. If you forget your reusable straw at home every once in a while, you don’t have to mourn the sea turtles for the rest of your living days, but you should do your best to avoid plastic straws. Have a reusable straw on hand, and if you’re eating out, simply decline the offer of a straw when your server comes around with them.
7. Pay Attention to Ethics
Sometimes, eating ethically isn’t about what you do, but where you go. Research the ethics and practices of businesses you frequent. Do they contribute to waste? Do they ship things all over the planet? Do they pay their workers a living wage? These are all important things to consider when you hand your money somewhere.
8. Support Local Operations
Local businesses are often more sustainable than large chains by default. There’s often less waste, better treatment of employees and more care taken in each step of the business process. Plus, when you eat local you’re not giving your money to a giant company — instead, you’re investing it back into your community.
9. Find Local Foods
In addition to supporting local businesses, you can go a step further to find businesses that source their food locally. The transport process is often one of the largest contributors to the carbon footprint of any business. That’s why sourcing more local and seasonal foods is the most sustainable way to eat.
10. Be Mindful
This can apply to many parts of the dining experience. Simply understanding what you’re doing each step of the way, remembering your ethics and not being wasteful can help you make better choices. Order food you know won’t go to waste, listen to your body, and dine out in moderation.
Sustainable eating habits look different for everybody, but each person has the power to do their fair share. You can give back to the planet no matter who you are, even while you’re treating yourself.