Create Less Waste When Ordering Takeout

The holidays are here, which can mean shifting our energies to house decorating, party planning, and present buying. While it is indeed “the most wonderful time of the year,” schedules can get a little chaotic. We’ve all been there: too tired to cook, or even conceptualize a menu, let alone grocery shop for the necessary items.

Days and nights like these usually lead to takeout, and with food delivery services popping up nonstop — like UberEats, DoorDash, Postmates, and more — it is easy to get what you want, when you want it. And fast!

But there is a downside to ordering takeout, whether someone else drops it off or you pick it up on the way home from work, and that is the unbelievable amount of packaging that comes along with it. From plastic bags to disposable cutlery, and paper menus to styrofoam containers, you take home a lot more with your takeout order than just your tikka masala.

The good news is that with a little bit of planning and awareness, it is possible to create less waste when ordering takeout. These include dropping off your own containers if the restaurant is amenable to it.

Here are just a few ideas to keep in mind.

Be Polite and Knowledgeable

You should feel compelled to walk into any restaurant with your container in-hand and act like this is the norm. When you are polite and knowledgeable with your reasons, it is a lot harder for someone to say ‘no.’

Most people just want to know the ‘why’ surrounding your request, and in this case, confidence can go a long way with many restaurants. Phrase this as a polite question to get the conversation started: “I’m trying to create less waste when ordering takeout. Would it be okay if I used my own to-go container today?”

Clean, Clean, Clean

Many restaurants may hesitate to allow you to drop off your own containers because they are worried about cross-contamination and getting the blame for making you or others sick.

If you are using glass containers, make sure they are crystal clear when you bring them in. This includes being free of water spots, so give them a good rinse before you pack them up. If you don’t already have containers to use, here’s a smart option. If you’re dining in, these can also be used to take home any leftovers you might have.

Network with Local Restaurants

You are much more likely to get a ‘yes’ from a local restaurant when it comes to using your own to-go containers. So, spend some time researching environmentally-conscious restaurants in your area who share your same respect for the ecosystem.

While your request may seem extraordinary at first, chances are, they’ll respect your proactivity the moment they hear that your motivation is to create less waste when ordering takeout.

Timing is Everything

Though it may not seem so to us patrons, takeout orders tend to be pretty routine at restaurants. Someone takes the order, prepares it, and packages it in take-out containers before it is picked up.

Introducing your own containers might disturb the flow of things, but not too significantly if you place your order when the restaurant is less busy. Plan ahead and call in your order when you know the restaurant is quieter. This will give them more time to help you in your quest for less waste when ordering takeout!

Here’s a Tip

Because you are making a special request, it is customary to tip more than you normally would. Trust us: the next time you call in your order, they will be more than happy to help you!

When In Doubt, Dine-In

For some restaurants, personal containers may be too great a request. This is especially true of larger chains, but that doesn’t mean you have to avoid them!

Consider ordering to dine in (which will allow you to have your meal without the excessive packaging) and taking your own containers with you. Have a seat and place your order, then transfer it to your container and head home if you truly wish to veg-out in front of the TV. No judgment!