Sometimes being green requires advance planning and an awareness of opportunities to green a “not green” situation. One such instance occurred over the weekend, and I was uncharacteristically unprepared.
We traveled to Chicago to attend some of the husband’s University of Chicago reunion events. My standard M.O. when approaching situations where food or beverages may be served on/in disposables is to bring my own non-disposable option. However, I dropped the ball on that when packing for the weekend, which is how we came to be at the “alumni picnic lunch” on Saturday faced with a sea of soon-to-be trash. Since serving food directly from the buffet tables into my mouth would, for some reason, not have been acceptable behavior, I acquiesced to social mores and used the disposable plates and utensils. At least we had our stainless steel water bottle with us and avoided the dreaded plastic cup.
Next up: Saturday night, for the $40 per person alumni dinner (well, young alumni only paid $20 per person, but the point is that a lot of people there paid a good chunk of change for the meal). The price tag for this event caused me to assume that CERTAINLY they would serve this meal on real dishes to be eaten with real silverware with beverages in real glasses. I was SO certain, in fact, that I did not even bring the water bottle. Well, you know what happens when you assume. We were faced with yet another meal of disposables, including the plastic cups this time. Besides being bad for the environment, it was just plain tacky to use disposables in this situation.
I am looking forward to the “Please tell us what you thought of alumni weekend” feedback form. If we do not get one of those, I will hunt down some contact information so I can tell them anyway.
For the sake of fairness, I will add that they were not using just any disposables. The plates were some form of heavy paperboard that most likely made from recycled materials. The plastic ware (both cups and utensils) were made from corn and were, theoretically, compostable. (My spell check does not think compostable is a word, but I beg to differ.) This is a nice idea, and might appease some environmental objectors, but the problem is that most of these “compostable” disposables end up in landfills right along with the rest of our garbage, in which conditions are not right for composting.
So your best bet is using completely non-disposable alternatives and being prepared. For lightness and ease of transport, I prefer plastic plates (heavy duty, made for many uses), metal utensils, and a plastic bike water bottle or stainless steel bottle. I keep a set in my office for work potlucks or other food-at-work opportunities and we have a set for two that we bring to picnics, potlucks, etc. I met someone who always keeps a set in her car so she will not be caught off guard. A little preparation and planning can go a long way.