Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Asking For Greener Options

The other day, I was at a sandwich shop getting a veggie sandwich. The person in front of me was obviously a hardcore vegan. The thing that clued me in (and made me think) was that she requested every person who made her sandwich to change into new gloves. The eye opener for me is that every one did, without complaint. This was an epiphany for me - I've never even thought to ask for such things. 

Thinking about reducing the amount of trash I use on a daily basis, I decided to try an experiment. There's a lot of trash we take for granted in things we consume - like fast food sandwiches. When they make your lunch at said sandwich chain, they always add about five napkins and throw the wrapped sandwich in a plastic bag. As I'm going to walk about ten feet, then unwrap the sandwich and eat it, a plastic bag has always seemed like overkill. Even if I was going to take it somewhere, I have my trusty furoshiki to carry it. I have a reusable napkin. So, I wondered, is is possible to avoid all the packaging that comes with such fast food stops?

I'm not terribly assertive with strangers, especially when asking them do to me a favor, so I started small: All I did was ask them to not put my sandwich in a bag. I got a lot of weird looks and had to repeat my request a few times to different people, but they didn't give me a bag.

Emboldened, when I went to get a soda at another place a few weeks later, I asked if I could fill my water bottle from their soda machine instead of getting a paper cup. Same weird looks, same answer: sure, if you want. Apparently, according to food regulations, you can't ask restaurants to take anything into their kitchen that's not industrially washed, but fast food seems to have no problems with cutting down on packaging if you ask for it. 

Guess what? You can get away with asking for greener options. These EnvironMentalists did a similar experiment to mine - except they measured the trash saved. What a difference you can do!

The hard and fast tips:

1) Ask politely. Courtesy is always the best way to ask for something different. If they say no, thank them anyway.
2) Know your refillable container volumes. That way you can argue that it's about the same volume as their drink size, or justify it if they ask.
3) Bring your own cutlery and cloth napkins to minimize waste on your side, too.
4)Take no for an answer. If they're not allowed, it's not allowed. Don't push too hard, but try again some other time.

Good luck!

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