• Gillian Cormier

Breaking Down our Takeout Food

Imagine a world that prioritized the environment. Companies that produced themselves would have to know where their garbage was going, how to properly dispose of it and even adjust their finances accordingly to account for their waste created. They themselves would be totally and fully be responsible for the full life cycle of their products! Imagine how different businesses would be if it were the responsibility of the producer/business to know and be responsible for the entire life cycle of their products—to ensure that it is disposed of and recycled properly, with the environment in mind. Do you think that they would rethink the material they were making, to ensure that it decomposes easier? I think so. They would have to know the full cycle, and work with others collaboratively to incorporate circular systems. Unfortunately that is not the case for the majority of our products in the world (there is however a wonderful certification called cradle to cradle and you can learn about it here).


I believe that the zero waste movement has taken off to rebel against this unhealthy and unsustainable system. We see and experience a waste-abundant world, and know that it is harmful to our environment. We all want to do something about it. However, I do just want to specify, living a zero waste life is work. It is often inaccessible, requires initial investments, and takes time, effort and research. I salute and congratulate all of those zero-waste-livers out there that follow this lifestyle and are working to make it easier for everyone. However currently, we can’t all live zero-waste. As beautiful and dreamy this way of life is, again, not easily accessible. I believe we can all slowly move toward a low-waste lifestyle over time. But it is harder for us to do that overnight, or even within a year. Good things take both time and effort.


It may sound like I am putting a lot of responsibility and pressure on the consumer (you). We need system change as well. With that being said, we need to show our systems that we want change. We need to show our systems that we have the intelligence, power and drive to make a positive change in the world; or, in this context, in our local communities. As Greta Thunberg says:

Yes, we need a system change rather than individual change. But you cannot have one without the other. If you look through history, all the big changes in society have been started by people at the grassroots level. People like you and me

Let’s face it, in a fast paced society like we have here in Canada, we are suckers for convenience. What I mean by convenience is simplicity. Whatever takes less time and effort seems to attract the everyday consumer, the people who want more time for their family, who want more time to laugh at their favourite shows, more time to play with their dogs, more time to catch up with friends, more time to relax. When our lives are simplified, we feel like we are able to give more time to the things that really matter to us. I know it sounds a little cheesy or silly, but really, thinking of the effort it takes to even just know how to recycle properly takes time, presence and attention. Here is my perception on why, even with all of these constraints, people recycle:

  • People know why recycling is important. We all have general knowledge that the products that we recycled can be reused and reconstructed into new material!

  • Everyone recycles. We put out the recycling at the end of the driveway weekly. We see our neighbours recycling and it is normal to do so. Along with government regulations, it has become a part of our culture.

  • Now that most of us have the general knowledge of recycling, most of us know how to recycle.


When we know why something is important, when it is a part of our culture and when we know how to go about it, we are more likely to implement that as a part of our everyday lives.


You may be wondering where I am going with all this, and I would be wondering the same if I’m honest. I want to dive in on one specific waste problem that I need your help with—Takeout Food Waste. Even before I studied Environmental and Sustainability Studies, I knew that styrofoam was a problem. I also knew that plastic was a problem. But yet, I was still handed out takeout food in styrofoam packaging with plastic cutlery. Not everywhere, but surprisingly often. Every single time that I ordered food, I felt guilty for contributing this waste. But I knew that it was normal. No one else around me seemed to complain much about it, so for the most part I kept my mouth shut from making a complaint, in efforts to be the positive person in the room and to just enjoy the food that I was eating. As my knowledge has grown since then, my feelings have grown much stronger.


To be completely honest, the sole idea of getting takeout brings upon feelings of anxiety. “Do I want to order something with the uncertainty of what it is going to be packaged in? Do I want to contribute to a problem that I am well aware of? Am I willing to go out of my way to ask what they use to package their food? Am I annoying or excessive? Do I want to put a small local business in an awkward position by calling them out on their unsustainable practices? I know and understand styrofoam and plastics are cheaper, but common they suck :( I just want to be nice and enjoy food!” That is the internal debate I have. Every. Single. Time. I'm tired of it. I want to see better.


So what are we going to do about it? I truly want to know how people in our local area feel about the packaging of their takeout food. I want to show businesses that we as consumers want to see better. I want our community to be celebrated and recognized for the good that we do. I want to prove that we would be willing to pay a small price more if that means that we can eat our takeout food in better packaging, that will have a better and more positive impact on the environment. Packaging that will compost. And yes, I said compost, not biodegradable. There is a difference. Check out this short video here to learn why.


Food packaging can be quite the debate. There is still an impact on the environment making compostable packaging, however compostable packaging will break down, and the levels of toxicity are lower. In other words, the packaging is more natural, made out of simple ingredients, and will decompose within a short period of time. Not decades or centuries but within months. The less styrofoam, plastic and other toxic packages we use, the less we waste. Therefore, we are putting less toxicity in our landfills. Less toxicity, more simplicity!

During this pandemic, takeout food has become much more popular. We all want to support local restaurants, and see them do well. We want to enjoy well made food from local chefs, bakers and makers. We in Canada—and especially the maritimes, have that to be proud of. We love our neighbours, we love our communities, and we want to see people doing well. We love all things local. But what we do on a local level contributes to a global level, and I believe we have the power to make positive and healthy decisions for our environment.


I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading and supporting my writing. I have attached this short survey here to get some feedback on how you feel about food packaging. After a couple weeks time, we—The Lupine Team, will be working on reaching out to local restaurants to share our results, and get to work on starting a sustainable movement with our restaurants. We love eating local, we love our local restaurants, and we also love our environment. Let’s make it all work, together.


Lots of love,

G


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